SANDY, Utah -- How things change in MLS. It felt like it was just yesterday that the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders were being celebrated as the best team in the Western Conference, proving unbeatable over a stretch that would reach 13 matches.
But after Week 29's 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, they now find themselves in the middle of pack in the West, four points out of first place, but only five points above seventh place and missing the playoffs. All of a sudden the Sounders are mired in a five-game winless streak during which they've scored just three goals.
And scoring remains a concern. It's been over a month since they last scored multiple goals in a match (Aug. 20) and although the Sounders were able to match RSL in most of the statistical categories on Saturday night, their failure to finish their chances had them chasing the entirety of the second half.
“We need to finish chances. We had a chance early in the game, but after that we didn’t create enough consistent pressure on them," Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer said. "A lot of times we didn’t play with patience in the attacking half of the field, wearing them down. Better opportunities will come if you keep possession of the ball and move them around."
That patience and consistency were not evident for the Sounders on Saturday. Their scoring opportunities either didn’t lead to real chances, or were snuffed out by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Clint Dempsey even attempted a bit of trickery in second-half stoppage time, taking a free kick without requesting the customary 10 yards from the defensive wall, but he still couldn't beat Rimando (watch the play above).
“We’re just searching for that one guy to come and break us out of the slump,” Schmetzer said.
Seattle currently don’t have a hot hand to rely on and they will be without Jordan Morris for an extended period of time, so figuring something out is getting urgent. They won’t have much time on the practice field with two games this coming week, so they're hoping one creative spark can help the Sounders catch fire again.
“We just have to make sure that one guy scores and the rest is going to come,” Schmetzer said.
That won't be an easy feat in midweek as Seattle host conference-leading Vancouver Whitecaps on Wed., Sept. 27 (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE in US; TSN in Canda), and will need to come away with a win to keep pace with the rest of the West leaders.
“I don’t care how we have to do it, but we have to do it,” said Sounders captain Ozzie Alonso. “We have to win a game.”