No one’s job is on the line. But the open Designated Player roster spot for a potential big-name reinforcement looms larger by the loss for 0-3-0 Seattle.
Outwardly, the Sounders are unperturbed about their 0-3 start. Their overall performances have been satisfactory, they’ll tell you — not entirely without merit — only for a series of bad bounces to leave them stranded at the bottom of the MLS standings.
“At a certain point and time, you get worried,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said this week. “And I realize we have no points. But I’m not worried.”
Inwardly, however, Saturday night’s match against the Montreal Impact at CenturyLink Field could have significant consequences on the direction of the club.
No one’s job is on the line, even if coach Sigi Schmid summoned the phantom of heads-may-roll following the recent Vancouver loss. A fourth consecutive defeat could still be overcome with a quick turnaround in Houston next weekend.
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But at some point, that goose egg at the front of Seattle’s record has to tick upward, or hard questions will be asked. The open Designated Player roster spot for a potential big-name reinforcement looms larger by the loss.
General manager Garth Lagerwey preached patience in the aftermath of Obafemi Martins’ departure to China, stressing that the club would take its time in vetting potential paths forward.
Waiting until the summer to add another DP would cut the salary-cap hit in half and allow the current roster to settle before taking a hard look at immediate needs. It also would allow a squad still bearing the scars of last year’s midseason nosedive to prove to itself that lengthy lulls are anomalies rather than the rule.
But a third home loss in less than a month could force the front office’s hand.
Slow starts aren’t fatal in a league with a 34-game regular season and a 12-of-20 team postseason bracket. The 2014 Galaxy won just two of its first eight games yet pushed the Sounders to the wire in the Supporters’ Shield race before knocking Seattle out of the playoffs en route to winning the MLS Cup.
Yet the Sounders lost just four games at home all last season, same as the campaign before that. This year’s team has controlled plenty of possession but looked punchless in front of the goal, managing just a single score from open play. Defensive mistakes have been untimely and something of a trend.
Connections are misfiring, and for all the preseason investment in the new 4-3-3 formation, don’t be surprised if Seattle trots out a different look Saturday night.
“You always look at different options, and you always look at tweaking your team,” Schmid said this week. “When you are without a win at this stage, ‘How can I maybe jump-start this?’ ”
Seattle’s respective national-team call-ups — Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, Joevin Jones, Oalex Anderson — returned mostly unscathed, though Jones picked up a knee bruise while playing for Trinidad & Tobago.
For all the extenuating circumstances around the three losses, from Oniel Fisher’s red card on opening night to Vancouver’s pair of penalty kicks, the Sounders enter Week 4 refreshed from an off week. Montreal is a dangerous opponent, and Ignacio Piatti is one of the league’s trickiest playmakers.
Asked whether more was made out of a slow start than a July dip in form, Schmid responded with characteristic candor.
“Yeah, because you’ve got zero,” Schmid said. “You’ve got a big goose egg next to your name. If you start off and you’re 5-2-2 and then you go 0-3, it’s not a big thing.”