Solid plan. Poor result.
Starting together for the first time this year, all three players were rendered ineffective as the Seattle Sounders lost to Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday. The Sounders managed just two shots in the game – tying a franchise low – and the trio combined for just one, which came after Neagle and Johnson had been subbed off.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters following Monday’s training, a comment aimed more at the general offensive performance than at the three attackers. “We have to be able to sustain pressure. We have to be able maintain possession in the attacking third of the field. We have to have people play and move off the ball at that stage and there’s got to be quality of passing.
"So that was a part of it for us. I think the quality was good in the first two thirds of the field but for some reason the last third of the field it was more hit and miss.”
There were at least a few extenuating circumstances that help explain the poor performance. Neagle, it turns out, suffered a hip-flexor injury about 10 minutes into the game on a challenge from Ned Grabavoy. Although he finished out the half and even started the second, he was eventually pulled in favor of Mario Martínez in the 57th minute.
Further complicating the situation was that Neagle started at left midfielder for the first time this season and Johnson had only been back for a couple days after rejoining the Sounders from several weeks of national team duty.
“It’s a little difficult,” Neagle said about the adjustment from forward to midfielder. “The whole game we were struggling to make passes and you know when it’s like that, it’s just going to be one of those days. You’re hoping that you can get one through and one of your guys can create something special. It’s unfortunate for us that we didn’t get one.”
Despite the struggles, Schmid said he had no intention to abandon plans to have the trio playing together. They have scored 12 of Seattle's 18 goals in MLS play.
“It can work,” Neagle said. “It’s a matter of time. It’s just like the beginning of the season where we were all trying to get used to each other.
“It’s crazy that this far into the season we’re still trying to figure out what’s going to happen or how to get everyone onto the field at the same time. I think we’re going to be fine. Once we get everyone onto the field at the same time, I’ll be excited to see what we can do.”