Seattle has lost three of its last four games, its second significant slump of the year, leaving plenty of work to be done in the next few months to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time.
That road starts Saturday with a 1 p.m. game against the Colorado Rapids, the first of three in a row at CenturyLink Field.
“Starting the second half, and starting off with these three games at home, we can kind of have a clean slate,” said forward/midfielder Lamar Neagle, a Federal Way native.
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Defender DeAndre Yedlin, a fellow local product, also called the homestand a good way to get back on track: “The thing that I learned pretty fast here is when you have a bad streak, you’ve got to stay positive and keep pushing through it.”
But the schedule and a dose of optimism might be the only things working for the Sounders at the moment.
Ten players are expected to be out against Colorado; forward Eddie Johnson will be out due to international duty and another nine, including three goalkeepers, are injured: Michael Gspurning (forearm), Djimi Traore (hamstring), Shalrie Joseph (calf), Steve Zakuani (sports hernia), Andy Rose (hamstring), Marcus Hahnemann (hamstring), Alex Caskey (ankle), Josh Ford (knee) and Philip Lund (foot).
Coach Sigi Schmid has called this the worst run of injuries the Sounders have ever faced and described a 7-7-3 record as a fair reflection of an inconsistent first half of the season.
Amid obstacles, he urged, the team still has to find ways to win.
“I feel sad for the fans,” Schmid said, “because we haven’t really been able to put the group together for a sustained period of time and see how they can respond and how they can jell together. The thing I’ll promise the fans is we’re going to come out and we’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re going to fight and battle like mad Saturday afternoon, because they deserve it.”
Seattle began the season with a five-game winless streak, the worst start in franchise history, but this drop in form is different to Schmid. While concentration and effort were the problems earlier in the year, the recent skid has been mostly about personnel, according to Schmid.
The Sounders are down to a fourth-choice goalkeeper and have had a different starting lineup each game this year.
“I’m confident that once we get that group out there consistently that we’ll get the results,” Schmid said.
That won’t be for another several weeks, at least, and there are still things to be won Saturday — even a few milestones. A victory would give the Sounders their first five-game home winning streak and also an MLS-record eighth straight win over the same opponent.
“We know we’re a good team,” Neagle said, “and we know we’re going to go through ups and downs in the year. A couple losses and everybody starts to panic, but we know as players, as a group, we have to stay confident and believe in ourselves.”
• The Sounders are encouraging fans to show up early with new security measures that include screening fans with handheld metal detectors upon entry. The “wanding” led to major delays before the last home game, July 3 against D.C. United, but general manager Adrian Hanauer noted there is a plan in place that includes more manpower.
“It’s an added step in the process of getting in the building,” he said, “and there’s just no way to make that go exactly like it did before, but if we can keep the delays to an absolute minimum, then we feel like we’ve solved the issue.”
• Midfielder Brad Evans, who suffered a rib injury last game, is listed as questionable but will be available at least off the bench, Schmid said.