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Struggling Sounders Must Stop Slide To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

SoundersMartinsSign.jpg
Ted S. Warren
/
AP Photo
The Sounders’ Obafemi Martins walks past a display board with his name on it during a match against FC Dallas, Saturday, June 13, 2015, in Seattle. Martins is among the five starters out right now.";

The Seattle Sounders host the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field Saturday night.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel hopes they do better against the last-place team in the Western Conference than they did against the last place team in the Eastern Conference last weekend. He says the Sounders need to end their slide quickly.

Five Starters Out 

The Sounders were touted to go far this season. But they have lost four of their last five games. One big reason: they have five starters who aren't playing right now.

Three Sounders are involved in international play for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup tournament. Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans are playing on the U.S. team and Marco Pappa is playing for Guatemala.

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei and striker Obafemi Martins are injured.

"When you talk about five starters being out of the lineup, it is going to cause a problem," Thiel said.

Issue Of Depth

It's a bigger problem this season, Thiel said, because of the Sounders' lack of depth - something they had in abundance last year when two key players were gone for World Cup play.

"They made some decisions about letting some players go," Thiel said.

"They've got a roster of young guys coming up who I think are going to be fixtures on the Sounders for a number of years, including Cristian Roldan of the University of Washington. The star Husky for a number of years signed with the Sounders and now, at 20, is a starter.

"Whether he should be there right now is probably an open question but he is playing, along with some other young guys. And while that's great for the future, it isn't so great right now in their rookie season.

"So, Sigi Schmid, the head coach, really has to scramble to try to pull together a roster for each game," Thiel said.

"I think the depth problem reached its nadir last Saturday when they lost to the worst team in the East, the Chicago Fire, in a 92nd-minute goal - after the Sounders looked like they were going to walk away with a draw. That was really an agonizing defeat.

"And then they're facing the worst team in the West Saturday - Colorado. They really got to come away with three points here or this will have been a full-fledged debacle."

Crowded At The Top

Thiel noted that it's "almost a six-way tie" at the top of the Western Conference.

"There's a three-way tie right now between the Sounders, the Whitecaps of Vancouver and Dallas. And, just behind are L.A. and Portland and Kansas City is not far behind either. So, it's a real big scramble.

"The Sounders had an edge before this slump and now they've really got to hustle," he said.

Chances To Upgrade

The Sounders have two chances to upgrade their roster right now.

"There is a trade window open as well as an international transfer window," Thiel said. "And the hated rivals, the L.A. Galaxy, have already made a couple of moves in that regard.

"They've signed a English Premier midfielder Steven Gerrard. They also signed a star from the Mexican National Team, Giovani dos Santos.

"Really two premier guys from international play and it upgraded their roster significantly," he said.

Make A Move?

"So, the Sounders may think they're not under pressure to make a trade or add a player. But they really are," Thiel continued.

"They've got to win this weekend and they've really got to pick it up from here on out if they hope to make a dent in the playoffs."

Update: The Sounders on Thursday announced an addition to their midfield. They're bringing back Erik Friberg to the team. He played for the Sounders in 2011 before returning to his native Sweden.

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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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