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July 8, 2010 at 10:36 PM

Dishing out some midseason grades to Sounders FC

midseason.jpgPhoto credit: Mark J. Terrill / AP

We’re exactly halfway through a 30-game regular season and Sounders FC has a remarkably disappointing 4-8-3 record. This was a team expected to contend for the MLS Cup, but if we were in Europe they would be more worried about relegation.

Here’s my report card, be sure to offer yours in the comments section:

* * *

OFFENSE: Remember when simple finishing was the Sounders’ biggest issue? I think things have turned around in that department — there are only six teams in MLS with more goals than Seattle’s 16 — but the run of play has regressed as the year has gone on. With Nate Jaqua getting healthy and Blaise Nkufo due to join a nice group of dynamic playmakers (Ljungberg, Montero, Zakuani), the second half outlook is looking good. Through 15 games, however, the offense has been sub-par, but not the biggest disappointment on the team. Grade: C-

DEFENSE: The crown jewel of the Sounders’ inaugural season was a lockdown defense that would’ve made Catenaccio proud. Through 15 games in 2010, Seattle has already conceded 23 goals (compared to last year’s 29 GA after 30 games). Sure the loss of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Osvaldo Alonso loom large, and a handful of the goals have been a bit flukey, but no one expected that unit to become one of the worst in the league. Grade: D

MIDFIELD: This position plays a part in both the offense and defense, but is important enough to garner its own rating I feel. The wide midfield play has been above-average I think, especially when Zakuani and Ljungberg were tearing up the wings. The loss of Alonso and Evans hurt in middle, but the dropoff with that second unit has been severe. I think central midfield is the glaring weakness of the team right now. Grade: D

GOALKEEPING: It’s easy to judge this position on the mistakes, and yes Kasey Keller has been Jabulani’d into two substandard goals this season (L.A. and D.C.). That said, there have been several standout moments too: the save on Chance Myers in the K.C. game, the Philly game, the Portland shootout, etc. All things considered, this has been an uneven year between the posts and Keller might be farther down in the GK hierarchy this year compared to last season’s dream campaign, when he was on top. Grade: C+

COACHING: Early on, this team was controlling the run of play, but not getting the results. Then there were the injuries. Now the team is nearing life-support. The injuries have been an excuse for a while, but in my opinion it’s valid to an extent. Having said that, seeing the same lineup the last few weeks has been disappointing. Schmid alluded to potential changes soon, but we can’t judge it until we see it. Grade: C

FRONT OFFICE: Last year’s success had the team standing pat for the most part in the offseason. Hard to condemn that, as most of the players and coaches raved about stability at the beginning of the year. That said, the forward corps was thin coming in and the Jaqua injury exposed that. I don’t think the Noonan move has worked out either. First-round pick David Estrada hasn’t netted many returns, but second-round pick Michael Seamon is starting too. I definitely think the Miguel Montano and Jeff Parke moves were positive. The Nkufo pick is expected to be a home run, but we’ll see. In the end, it’s up and down on paper, but the product on the field and the league standings have the final say. Grade: C

OVERALL: What can you say? It’s been awful so far. Injuries have been brutal. Defensive lapses have been even worse I think. The fight doesn’t look like it’s been there. That chip-on-the-shoulder mentality that allowed a first-year franchise to win a trophy and make the playoffs isn’t there. This team had an edge last year (and got five red cards in the first 15 games to show it), I haven’t seen it so far. Grade: D+


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