Over the next two days we'll take a look at how the season has gone for the Seattle Sounders, first through a wider lens and then one more specific to Sunday's game. Today, Dave Clark of SB Nation's Seattle blog, Sounder at Heart, provides some perspective on the addition of big name players, games in hand and whether or not the Sounders need to win this season to justify some of their moves.
How much of an adjustment is needed to fully incorporate Clint Dempsey into the team? Does it require a particular change in set up or in emphasis among the other big name players?
We have no idea. One of the oddities of the Dempsey signing is that the first two games he was used as a forward despite all indications from Sigi being that long term he would likely be in the midfield. There are some legitimate reasons for this. Dempsey first came on for Obafemi Martins after an injury and so the Eddie Johnson/Dempsey pairing played out that match at Toronto. Then Johnson had to sit out due to card accumulation while Martins was still injured.
So the first time that the three-headed strike machine will take the pitch is against Portland. Sounders fans, Timbers fans and the entire nation will get to see how Sigi gets them working together. It will probably mean that Dempsey is more of a creator while the other two stay high, but that's only a logical guess.
Put like that it is hard to argue. Seattle got older in its top fifteen players in the last off-season (not just by adding a year to everyone). Yes, they have one of the better young players in the league at right back in DeAndre Yedlin, but that does not make up for clearly past peak players like Joseph and Traore, as well as late-peak guys like Martins and Dempsey. Of course all of those are players who at their peak are well beyond MLS skill level guys. What will matter this year is how far they've fallen (Martins and Traore look fine, Joseph is rarely healthy). If Sounders FC has a second year and third year in this "window" it will be because they transition to new talent in some places rather than count on the aging guys to be great forever.
For most of the season, the Sounders have had multiple games in hand against every other Western Conference team. Has the relatively low position on the table created more negative feelings about this season than might reflect the teams's on-field performances?
Absolutely. With expectations that are as high as ever, as significant portion of the fan base sees every single loss as a disaster. With a table that looks so out of whack due to games in hand, people are even more likely to lose it. The perception of failure is easily fueled when the standings are listed by pure points. It also won't be corrected until late September. Until then, ever loss will result in a level of panic that has little basis in reality.