The Seattle Sounders are at the midpoint of their season. Despite winning the MLS Cup championship last year, the team is struggling on offense and has more losses than wins.
Can they still make the playoffs? KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked about that with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick.
Thiel said this is what you'd expect from the MLS Cup champions. But he's not surprised, especially given the short break the team had from the playoffs to the start of the new season.
"They've really had a struggle this first half of the year," he said. "They've had five wins, seven losses and five draws, which is pretty much the acme of mediocrity.
"One of the worst outcomes this season was at 'The Clink' Wednesday when Orlando City tied the Sounders 1-1. They got a late header, really, in the last moment of the game to tie 1-1. And that's the difference in MLS between three points for a win and one point for a draw.
"Given the importance of those two points, I think that tie, which really does feel like a defeat, is going to loom important when the playoff seedings are laid out.
"It's really been a disappointing start. There have, certainly, been some injuries, especially along their back line on defense, but it's not unusual.
"I think they've got a lot of things to try to fix, especially including getting offense out of Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, the local product from Mercer Island High and Stanford who's off to a slow start this season."
Need Some 'Tweaking'
"I think they've got a pretty good lineup," Thiel said.
"This is not a bad team that needs, necessarily, a big fix. Especially up front, where they've got Morris and Dempsey and Will Bruin, who has served them well as a newcomer.
"There is an opportunity July 10 when the international transfer window opens. That's when teams can add players from other leagues around the world. And that's something the Sounders did famously in 2013 when they acquired Clint Dempsey from Tottenham.
"But I don't know that adding a designated player or even a journeyman is a big deal for these guys.
"As head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the Wednesday draw with Orlando, 'We just have to do tweaking. Adding players is not really a foremost option. This is not a terrible team.'"
"But they have just this amazing record where in the 17 games [in the first half of the season], they've scored either one or no goals in 14 of those," Thiel continued. "That's just no way to get ahead in the MLS.
"They've really struggled in scoring and it's so odd because they dominate time of possession.
"They really are good at controlling the ball in the midfield and advancing it forward. But they just don't score. It's such a strange thing for such a good team. All Schmetzer said was 'We're gonna tweak.'"
Optimistic For Second Half
So, how does Thiel think the second half of the season will go?
"I should think that talent will prevail over time because I think this is definitely a playoff team," he said.
"But last year they were lousy in the midseason and they fired [head coach] Sigi Schmid.
"I don't think that's in the cards this time but I also don't see any magic formula other than guys playing up to their average MLS abilities.
"If they manage to do that, I see a winning second half and the playoffs."