The Seattle Sounders have always found themselves among Major League Soccer's elite; year after year they are in contention for the Supporters' Shield, and have made the playoffs every year since their inclusion in MLS in 2009. However, for all their success, Seattle has never won the MLS Cup. Now, a year after their Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers, won it for the first time, Seattle is seeking domestic league triumph.
In previous years, Seattle has been known to strike fear into opposing team's defences with their quick counter-attacks. Led by the two-headed monster of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, Seattle was able to beat team's using quick interplay; either Martins was making a run behind the defense to be met with a ball from Dempsey, or vice-versa.
However, with Martins' departure to play in China, Seattle has big shoes to fill. Jordan Morris, the United States international and richest Homegrown Player in MLS, was brought in with high expectations. Nelson Valdez, the club's only Designated Player other than Dempsey, now plays a more influential role in the attack. Midfielders Andreas Ivanschitz and Erik Friberg were expected to provide more support in the attacking third.
Unfortunately for the Sounders, none of these hopes were quite as realistic as they may have imagined. Replacing Martins' production is proving more difficult than anticipated, especially with the abundance of talent that still remains on the roster. Nonetheless, the Sounders have scored only twice in three games played, neither goal earning an assist. Last week, the club signed formed US international Herculez Gomez in hopes that the veteran might spark their attack, which remains to be seen.
Seattle's difficult start to the season can also be partly attributed to injuries. So far in this early season, Brad Evans and Roman Torres, arguably Seattle's best two center defenders, are out with injury. Morris as well has missed time due to a knock he picked up in a game against Real Salt Lake. Seattle is yet to field its strongest 11 on the field at once, which has made it difficult for them to create any sort of chemistry.
In order for the Impact to obtain a result in Seattle, one of the toughest places to play on the road in MLS, it will be key to take advantage of their weakened central defense. Dominic Oduro will be able to find space behind their last line of defense, and it will be essential for the Impact to find him either with long balls, or more intricate build-up as we have become more accustomed to in the early stages of the season.
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