Gonzalo Pineda

Sounders are focused on increasing their number of goal-scoring opportunities

Only one MLS team has scored more goals than Sounders FC in 2014. However, the offense has struggled of late to find consistent scoring.

After totaling a league-best 32 goals in the first 15 games of the season, Seattle has scored just seven goals in eight matches since. On Wednesday in a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle attempted 24 shots – an encouraging number on the surface, but in the wake of the recent scoring slump, the team is in need of results.

“I just don't think we are getting width at the right times. There are teams that are packing in the middle and then we are forced to play into the middle when maybe we don’t want to,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We just aren’t clean enough in the chances that are created. We’re creating pressure, but we’re not creating clean chances.”

Seattle has seen success throughout the year in playing early balls behind the opposing defense where players like Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle can run onto the passes and create scoring chances. It’s a big reason for Seattle’s first-half scoring bonanza.

However, as teams have taken a more defensive tact against Seattle, those gaps have been harder and harder to find of late. When they are spotted, they end in scoring chances like the one Chad Barrett netted on Wednesday when Martins played a ball in behind San Jose’s center backs to leave Barrett one-on-one with goalkeeper Jon Busch.

“I thought overall finding gaps and playing through those gaps quicker is something we aren’t doing well right now. You saw the good ball played in by Oba, and Barrett finishes,” Schmid said. “That’s what our forwards are in need of.”

READ: By scoring in his third straight match, Barrett reaches 50 career MLS goals

Schmid vowed after the match that finding those types of balls – whether through gaps in the opposition, over the top of the defense or through wide channels – would be a focus in training as Seattle prepares to face the Portland Timbers on Sunday before finally returning to a normal weekly routine.

While there are positives to playing games in rapid succession like the current stretch of five matches in 15 days, it limits the opportunities for corrective measures to be instituted in training sessions.

However, the Sounders remain confident that the offense will return to form in due time.

“In games like that you need a little bit of quality in the final third,” midfielder Andy Rose said. “Most of the time, I think we have the type of players to make that come off.”

That confidence will carry Seattle through this difficult scoring stretch and an optimistic outlook is just what the team needs.

“You've just got to stay positive,” Schmid said. “You've got to stay positive and work for each other. You've got to bring the right attitude to games and practice every day. There's enough quality there for us to get out of it, but we've got to stay positive.”

Kickoff for Sunday’s nationally televised match against the Timbers on ESPN2 is scheduled for 2 pm PT from Providence Park.