Stejskal: Seattle Sounders need a playmaker, and fast

Andreas Ivanschitz - Seattle Sounders - holding head with back to camera

A couple of months ago, after Seattle’s 0-3-0 start to the season, I wrote a column telling Seattle Sounders fans not to panic.

Their attacking issues were apparent even then, but Seattle had the time and talent to figure it all out. I thought they’d eventually work their way into the playoffs picture, even if it took them a minute to get things straight.

Well, we’re nearly halfway through the regular season, and the Sounders look more in trouble of missing the playoffs than ever.

Saturday’s dispiriting 2-0 home defeat to New York City FC dropped Seattle to 5-9-1 on the year. They’re averaging barely more than a point per game, have the most losses in the entire league, and have scored just 13 times in 15 matches. They've also already equaled the club record for most regular-season home losses in a year, with four.

They’re clearly slumping. After seeming to right the ship with three wins in four matches in April and May, the Sounders have lost five of six in league play, scoring just three times in that span. They’ve been shut out in their last two matches and looked particularly listless in the attack on Saturday. Despite chasing the game in front of a crowd that approached 50,000 at CenturyLink, they put just two shots on target and barely bothered NYCFC 'keeper Josh Saunders in the second half.

They don’t have anything approaching a No. 10 on the roster, and Clint Dempsey doesn’t have Obafemi Martins around to help paper over that lack of creativity. They need to land someone this summer capable of actually generating some offense through the run of play, because the current mix atop their 4-3-3 doesn’t look capable of doing the trick.

Just check out the Opta chalkboard from Saturday’s match. Seattle simply could not build anything through the middle of the attacking third:

Stejskal: Seattle Sounders need a playmaker, and fast - Opta.png

Things should get a little better with Dempsey returning to the fold this week, following his stint with the US at the Copa America Centenario. Sigi Schmid might even be wise to take a page out of Jurgen Klinsmann’s book and shift from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 to get more out of the US international, who could play underneath Jordan Morris in a two-forward set-up in Seattle.

Even if that shift is made and works, Seattle will still need to sign an elite No. 10 if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in their MLS history.

The good news for Sounders fans is that the club is chasing several players who fit that bill. GM Garth Lagerwey has said that he’s aiming to sign two players – one Designated Player and one TAM-level signing – this summer. He reiterated that desire in a phone call with on Monday afternoon.

One of those players might end up being Uruguayan international Boca Juniors midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro. The Sounders have been repeatedly linked with him the over the last month, and have reportedly been in an up-and-down negotiation with Boca.

Those talks took a hit earlier this month, but were revived a bit last week, as Boca president Daniel Angelici told an Argentine radio station on Thursday that the club had received a new, more palatable offer for Lodeiro from an unspecified team.

Lagerwey declined to comment on Lodeiro, but he’d be a significant get for both Seattle and MLS. Only 27, he’s still in the middle of his prime and is a mainstay for Uruguay. Since 2010, he's played for the country at two World Cups, three Copa Americas and a Confederations Cup.

Most importantly, he’s a legitimate creator. He was excellent for Boca in 2016 prior to tearing his meniscus in April, scoring five goals and adding three assists in 16 appearances in Argentine Primera and Copa Libertadores action.

There is a bit of a catch, however. Boca are in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores, and Lodeiro has indicated that he wants to see out the tournament before making a potential move. If he sticks to that plan and signs with Seattle, Lodeiro wouldn’t join the Sounders until July 15 at the absolute earliest and potentially as late as the beginning of August.  

That timeline would obviously be less than ideal, but for Seattle, a late arrival would be manageable. No new No. 10 at all? That would be a massive blow for their 2016 season.