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Eastern Conference Championship

At midway point, Seattle Sounders frustrated with record, injuries, but have hope of making playoffs

SEATTLE — A tie at home against a tired opponent was not how the Seattle Sounders hoped to start the second half of the season.

Their 1-1 tie with Colorado Rapids on Saturday left the Sounders in seventh place in the West (both by the traditional standings and by points per match). In order to just pull even with fifth-place FC Dallas, the Sounders would need to claim seven points from the three matches they currently have in hand.

Rather than give a kick-start to what they hoped would be season-turning three-game homestand, Saturday proved another disappointing result heaped onto a season that Seattle GM and part owner Adrian Hanauer called the most frustrating of the team’s five in MLS.

“You get frustrated, you try not to panic, but it’s hard,” he said on the Nos Audietis podcast. “Your instinct is to try to change things, make moves and go to extreme measures. I’ve seen a lot of times where teams will do that and ultimately it’s not a good move. We’re trying to trudge through it.”

The oft-repeated root of that frustration is the ongoing inability to field anything close to a “Best XI” as injuries and international call-ups have combined to keep potential starters out of virtually every game.

Some examples:

  • Patrick Ianni, who was a projected starter when training camp opened, has not appeared a single game after suffering an injury during preseason;
  • Steve Zakuani has been limited to just six games after undergoing a sports-hernia operation and is expected to be out another month;
  • A pair of injuries have forced Osvaldo Alonso to miss six games entirely and caused him to play 30 or fewer minutes in two others;
  • An ongoing calf injury has contributed significantly to Shalrie Joseph making just four starts and playing only 428 minutes;
  • Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Obafemi Martins and DeAndre Yedlin have been forced to miss a combined 20 games through injury or national-team duty. Before his loan ended on June 30, Mario Martínez also missed several games while playing with the Honduran national team.

That laundry list has forced the club to use a different starting lineup in all 18 of its matches. And while those absences have a trickle-down effect, the Sounders have also failed to get the expected production from some of the players who have been available.

The Sounders jettisoned two of their three Designated Players after last season, keeping only Mauro Rosales. Despite staying healthy for much of the season, the Argentinian playmaker has just two goals and three assists in 1,083 minutes.

He has now gone eight appearances without being involved in a goal. During his first two MLS seasons, he had never gone more than three appearances without a goal or an assist. This seems to have had an effect on his playing time, as well.

“I feel OK,” said Rosales, who has played at least 80 minutes just once in the Sounders’ past 11 games. “I'm just trying to get confidence again. When you aren’t feeling confidence you need more minutes and more playing. I'm not getting that. I have to wait and do what I have to do in the minutes I get.”

READ: Yedlin enjoys big day in front of home crowd

In order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, Seattle need only to look back on second-half performances over the previous four seasons. Since 2009, they have averaged about 1.97 points per match during the second half compared to 1.38 during the first half. A similar second-half performance this year would give them about 58 points.

Those second-half surges have often been aided by additions during the summer transfer window — Martínez and Tiffert were signed around this time last year. Hanauer suggested similar moves could be in the offing.

“We’re fiddling with some things, trying to free up some space,” Hanauer said. “We are trying to add one or two players that can contribute significantly. One would be good, two would be outstanding, probably defensively or in the midfield.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.