MLS Spotlight: Sigi Schmid and the Seattle Sounders are Screwed

Head Coach Sigi Schmid's blunders have the Seattle Sounders on the verge of MLS Cup elimination.

BY CHRISTIAN ARAOS
Staff Writer

Sigi Schmid, head coach of the Seattle Sounders, has one of the best resumes a professional soccer coach in America can have. This is a good thing – because he will need to send it out to potential employers very soon.

Schmid, who was already blessed with a squad capable of winning an MLS double, received the Red Ryder BB Gun of American soccer when general manager Adrian Hanauer splashed $9 million on Clint Dempsey. He then proceeded to shoot himself in the eye. Dempsey has struggled to stay healthy while with the Sounders and only has one goal and seven shots on target through the nine games he’s played. Dempsey is healthy now but it is too little too late.

The reason why the Sounders are screwed is tactical and Schmid is the person to blame. His most recent strategy is the use of a narrow 4-4-2 diamond with Dempsey at the top of the diamond behind Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle. The greatest issue, however, is the central midfield. Adam Moffat is not a wide midfielder. However, Moffat is responsible for providing width on the left wing, especially with Leo Gonzalez, a stay-at-home fullback, at left back.

The right wing is a strong point for the Sounders. DeAndre Yedlin will be healthy for the second leg against the Portland Timbers and it is much needed help as the Sounders are going to need his help in the Sounders buildup. Yedlin’s surging runs down the right wing are made possible by Brad Evans at right midfield. The two support each other well and Evans knows his role in spreading the ball out wide and supporting the attack as evidenced by his follow up goal in the play-in game against the Colorado Rapids. However the tandem’s success presents part of the problem for the Sounders.

One wing knows how to work together and the other does not. This makes the Sounders lopsided in attack and in defense. The latter of which, the Timbers exploited for their opening goal. Right back Jack Jewsbury had free reign to surge down the right wing as Moffat got caught in the middle of the field. He and Gonzalez were unsure of their assignments as Jewsbury went untested down the wing. By the time he he steadied himself near the byline for a cross, Moffat began to step towards Jewsbury while Gonzalez began to cover Diego Chara. That left space at the near post for Ryan Johnson to glance the cross behind Marcus Hahnemann.

The Sounders were lopsided and narrow going forward as three of the five successful crosses they had came from the right side of the field. The only two crosses from the left side were a chipped cross inside the box and a corner. Seattle had an astounding 28 unsuccessful crosses from both sides and Moffat and Gonzalez only attempted four crosses last Saturday. The 31 attempted crosses are relatively encouraging but the Sounders need to play wider. To do this, Schmid needs to ditch the diamond.

The Sounders' missed crosses from last Saturday's First Leg against the Portland Timbers

The Sounders’ missed crosses from last Saturday’s First Leg against the Portland Timbers

With Neagle out due to yellow card accumulation, the Sounders do not need to replace him up top. The most sensible change the Sounders can make is replacing Neagle with Mauro Rosales who should have started in the first place. Rosales can play wide-left and Eddie Johnson does not need a partner up top. The Sounders can attack in a 4-4-1-1 with Dempsey beneath Johnson. Dempsey’s best role for club and country is the second striker and he would be in this role with a striker that he has played with on several occasions.

The duo can present problems for the Timbers central defense and also allow Dempsey to be involved in set pieces. Rosales specializes in delivering set-pieces, Dempsey specializes in scoring off of set pieces. Schmid, for unknown reasons, thought otherwise when he let Dempsey take the set pieces. None of them were successful. A strategy like this is a clear indication that a manager does not know how to maximize the ability of his players.

Schmid’s inability to maximize his players’ abilities is what will be death knell for the Sounders at some point in the postseason – likely this Thursday. When a manager is guilty of this with the type of roster he has, it is a fireable offense. When this has been the case for five years, the writing is on the wall: Sigi Schmid has to go.

  • Chris Cross

    This article is so true. Sigi and Sounders have an army of paid cyber schills; they are sure to be chiming in next, cool aid samples in hand…

  • Chad Johnson

    I’ll bet Rosales doesn’t start. I believe (based on something I read on Twitter – which I know is not reliable, but makes sense in light of his lack of starts) he is carrying a minor undisclosed leg injury. If he does start, he won’t go past 60.

    I do not share your opinion that Johnson does not need a partner up top. I think Portland’s defense can easily stifle him if he’s left out on an island, but that’s just my opinion. Johnson is not Neagle, and he does not stretch the boundaries of the attacking third the way Neagle does.

    Absent Dempsey and Rosales, (and Burch, for that matter, as he was riding the bench most of the game as well) who takes the set-piece kicks for the Sounders? Evans would be the next logical choice, wouldn’t it? So you flip the two of them, and that gives you Dempsey with a sore shoulder battling for headers in the box, trying to receive free kicks from the completely healthy guy, who really isn’t the best at dead-ball kicking. Is that the wisest move?

    Perhaps you’re right, and Dempsey could have hit something in, like the header he almost got in the 83rd. But could Evans, or any one else on the pitch at the time for the Sounders have been able to serve that ball the way Rosales could in the beginning two-thirds of the game?

    I think the Carrasco-Moffat trade, in hindsight, is a big mistake. Tactically, I think maybe he should have started Burch over Gonzales at left back, as he said after the game something to the effect of 80% of guys in MLS wouldn’t play through the pain Gonzales is playing through. Other than that, I’m not seeing a lot of glaring Sigi errors that are going to evict him in the off-season. I’ll wager he has one more year.

    • Sbyes

      Sigi isn’t going anywhere for the next year for sure. Majority owner Joe Roth has flat out said that “Sigi is the winningest coach in MLS. He is not the problem.” To me that’s a sure sign that his job is safe for the time being at least, even if we do not win tomorrow. The Sounders have issues, but I don’t think they are necessarily Sigi or Dempsey. To me the issues have more to do with effort, connecting, and finishing. I see Eddie in particular complain a lot when the ball isn’t played in exactly how he likes it. I would like to see him at least try for those balls even when they are not perfectly placed. On the other hand, considering that service into the forwards is so important, the rest of the team should probably spend as much time as neccessary working on placing that ball right where the forwards need it. I mean if we can study film of all our opponents to get a clue as to what their tendancies are, why can’t we study our forwards so that we can serve the ball to them with pinpoint accuracy. I wonder about that, but I am not worried and we are definitely not screwed.