- The Seattle Sounders were listless in a 3-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City, while the Colorado Rapids maintained their unbeaten streak in MLS.
This week, we were only two minutes from history. Two minutes from a feat that had not been seen in the previous 9,141 matches of Major League Soccer. Then Joevin Jones spoiled it.
In any other context, the Seattle Sounders defender’s hopeless effort from distance in the 88th minute against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday might not have seemed like anything special. But on that steamy evening at Children’s Mercy Park prevented the Seattle Sounders from becoming the first team in MLS history from going an entire game without registering a single shot–on target or otherwise.
I’ve been watching MLS, at various levels of professionalism, since the league’s inception. I can’t think of another time I’ve seen a team so thoroughly listless in its play as the Sounders were in Sunday’s 3-0 loss. Perhaps no single play sums this up better than Dom Dwyer’s second goal.
Forwards pouncing on bad back passes is nothing new, of course. But even within that sad, ignominious genre, this goal is something special. The weight of Zach Scott’s pass is off, but so is the direction. and so is the energy level of Scott and Tyrone Mears (the supposed recipient) in the immediate aftermath. For that matter, even Dwyer was slow to react! The ball seems to just sit there, baking in the Wyandotte County sunshine, for about three split seconds longer than it ever should in a top-level soccer game, before Dwyer finally said “fine, I’ll get it.”
It may seem like I’m pouncing on an outlier here, and that the entirely of Seattle’s performance couldn’t be fairly judged against that play. I assure you that is not the case. This was a disastrous showing in a season full of them, and at this point Seattle’s biggest dilemma might be figuring who or what to blame for the current debacle.
Could it be the heat? Perhaps. Fieldside temperatures in Kansas City reached 106 degrees. Meanwhile, the Seattle area has only occasionally touched low-80 degree temperatures this summer. But then, hot temperatures in MLS are nothing new, the Sounders have lost plenty of games recently in more forgivable climates, and ultimately these players are professionals for whom effort shouldn’t be negotiable.
U.S. national team strikers Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris played 90 minutes on Sunday but you would barely know it watching the game. The midfield didn’t show much inclination to close people down, and for that matter neither did the defense. In the 62nd minute, SKC’s Connor Hallisey failed to capitalize on this when he first-timed a shot when he had time to take a touch and pick a spot to place his first MLS goal. Normally, no...but this incident took place on the edge of the six-yard box. The Sounders simply quit.
So...could it be the coach? Sigi Schmid is the only boss this team has ever known at the MLS level, and maybe after seven years at the helm his message is finally beginning to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps the problem is higher up the food chain. General manager Garth Lagerwey has assembled a roster that hasn’t done enough to cover the losses of Obafemi Martins up top, or Roman Torres at the back, and a midfield that crumbles anytime Osvaldo Alonso isn’t on the field (as he wasn’t on Sunday).
As with most things in life, the solution to complete disaster isn’t singular. Many things have worked against Seattle’s chances in recent weeks (save for the outlying 5-0 win over a second-string FC Dallas), and many of those same things came to a head on Sunday night. At the very least, Seattle avoided being part of an unpleasant bit of history.
Offensive player of the week: Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact
Didier Drogba got the headlines because of his hat trick, but Piatti fed him two of those goals on a silver platter and scored one himself in the Impact’s 5-1 rout of the Philadelphia Union. When he’s on his game, Piatti is among the cream of the crop of playmakers in MLS, and it’s not just because of his assists. Check out his perfect first touch before assisting on Drogba’s third:
Or the ridiculous blind-side lofted chip right to the feet of the winger, before gathering himself at the top of the box and finishing with aplomb for his goal:
Other players in MLS may get more headlines and land on more highlight reels, but very few conjure more little bits of magic over the course of a game than Piatti does in top form.
Defensive player of the week: Alex Muyl, New York Red Bulls
It may be against the rules to choose a non-defender for this award, and even more against the rules to go with an attacking midfielder. But of the action I saw this weekend, no player impressed me with his defensive workrate as much as Muyl, the 20-year-old homegrown product that will see increased time with the Red Bulls with Lloyd Sam shipped off to D.C. United. Muyl was a dynamo in the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win over NYCFC, executing Jesse Marsch’s high pressure to perfection and making subtle attacking contributions as well. He never allowed NYCFC to get comfortable. I’m excited to see more.