Seattle Sounders celebration - vs. Philadelphia Union - April 16, 2016
USA Today Sports

Seattle Sounders remain "work in progress," but will improve with time

SEATTLE -- It’s safe to say things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the Seattle Sounders thus far in 2016.

Heading into their Saturday afternoon home fixture with Columbus Crew SC (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE), Seattle are 2-4-1 and just two points clear of the Western Conference basement. Perhaps more troublingly, the Sounders have scored just seven goals in their seven matches – second-fewest in all of MLS.

The variances that often accompany a small early-season sample size would seem to be the most obvious rationalization. But Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey says that enough time has elapsed that the struggles can’t necessarily be written off as such.

“Seven games is enough to get some meaningful feedback. It’s a fifth of the season, almost a quarter of the season,” Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “You can’t dismiss it.”

But while Lagerwey isn’t thrilled with the early results his team has put together, he also says they shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.

“We knew we’d be a work in progress,” he said. “When you’re talking about losing 15 goals at the beginning of the season and switching formations and going with younger players – those are a lot of the reasons why it’s going to take some time.”

The ’15 goals’ Lagerwey is referring to would be the loss of star forward Obafemi Martins, who departed Seattle for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua of the Chinese Super League just weeks before the start of the season.

Without their dynamic striker and two-time team MVP, Seattle’s attack has struggled to find a substitute for Martins and the magical, pick-up style chemistry he had established with fellow forward Clint Dempsey. The void left by his absence also added another hurdle to Seattle’s ongoing adjustment to their newly-implemented 4-3-3 formation that was supposed to feature Martins as a centerpiece.

“It’s an adjustment for sure because we’ve played with Oba the last couple of years,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said at training at Starfire Sports Complex on Thursday. “Really, there wasn’t a lot of time to work on him not being here. We really haven’t replaced him at this stage. I think as guys become more comfortable, eventually we’ll find that production.”

For now, Lagerwey and the Sounders are preaching patience before any sort of widespread panic takes place amongst Seattle’s famously demanding fanbase.

“We’re going to be better in July than we are in March and we’re going to be better in September than we are in July,” Lagerwey said. “[Our fans] want us to succeed, they want us to win a title. I think if they believe in what we’re doing, then they’ll support us. That’s certainly been my experience in the 16 months I’ve been here so far.”