It’s a weekend of meaningless international friendlies in MLS, and the Sounders are off until a big “Monday Night Football” showdown with the LA Galaxy, so it seems like a good time for a midseason progress report.
We’re a touch over halfway through the season, and the Sounders sit atop the Western Conference with 38 points. The Supporters’ Shield race is tighter, as Seattle is tied with Sporting KC, though with three games in hand until Monday.
It’s hard to be disappointed with a 12-2-4 record, especially during a World Cup season that saw the team lose Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin (and, to a lesser degree, Brad Evans) for a significant chunk of the schedule.
Join me as I look back and cringe at my season preview. Was I anywhere near close with my predictions? Let’s pull a few quotes and assess.
“Marco Pappa (M): Exactly what the Sounders needed from their No. 2 allocation spot.”
Assessment: Hell yes. After a glitchy couple of games, Pappa has settled in as a creative force that drives the team as much as Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. He’s been a bit of a revelation.
“Chad Marshall (D): The Sounders got the (very) tall, stabilizing force on the back line they sorely needed.”
Assessment: Hell yes again. Marshall is having a Defender of the Year season. I didn’t think watching a guy head the ball would be so enjoyable, but the dude works some magic with that noggin of his.
“Whether Sigi chooses to start Frei or Hahnemann is almost too close to call.”
Assessment: Honestly, it was still kind of close until Frei went on a run of solid play after the horrid Vancouver match, in which he brain-farted (technical soccer term) a ball into the midfield for an assist. At least there’s a reasonable margin for error with Marshall in front of him.
“It would not be surprising to see Dylan Remick overtake Leo Gonzalez at some point.”
Assessment: That “some point” is next season. Leo’s been a bit injured this year, but so has Remick, and when both are healthy, the veteran gets the nod, and justifiably so.
“It’s impossible to judge Dempsey’s current quality at the moment. But he’s still Clint Dempsey. He’s still one of the very best players in MLS.”
Assessment: Clint Dempsey is awesome. He scored a ton of goals to start the MLS season. He left for the World Cup and continued to be awesome despite a broken nose. And now he’s back with the Sounders, where he, not surprisingly, continues to be awesome. Now we can all look back at the hand-wringing over the Fulham loan and laugh.
“The Sounders have a lot of forwards. The starters are pretty clear, though: It’s Oba and Kenny Cooper. “
Assessment: Um, not really. Coop’s been a bit of a non-factor thus far, routinely being left out of the 11 and eclipsed by the play of Lamar Neagle and even Chad Barrett, who’s been a sneaky-good acquisition.
“Golden Boot: Obafemi Martins will be in the running.”
Assessment: Totally incorrect … because Oba’s been much more than a simple scorer. Yeah, he’s got eight goals, which is great, but he also has six assists. Along with Pappa, Oba’s been as much a creator as he is a goal-scorer.
It’s been amazing to witness – when he came on in the second half against Portland, the entire dynamic of the game shifted. As much as Dempsey, Oba controls the fate of the Sounders. If he can stay healthy and continue his dynamic partnership with Deuce, well, the run to the Shield and MLS Cup is going to be a whole lotta fun.
“The Trialist: Kevin Parsemain will make the club and score an absurd goal of the week.”
Assessment: Season-ending injuries suck. Hope the team sticks with him and gives him another shot.
“Didier Drogba: Will be a Sounder! No, wait. I will not predict that. I still believe he will come to MLS, and it could be to the Sounders, and that would be incredible.”
Assessment: Hahahahahahahahahaha … sorry.
“Revenge: Will be had. The Sounders will advance farther in the playoffs than the Portland Timbers.”
Assessment: This may not come to pass … because the Timbers could miss the playoffs entirely! Let’s pause a moment to consider that scenario. Ah. So satisfying.
It’s interesting to consider where the Sounders were before this season began. It was an offseason filled with doubt – about roster turnover, about coach Sigi Schmid, about, well, everything really.
Funny what a difference 18 games can make. The Sounders look deep enough to make a run to the Open Cup final, the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup. They’ve got one of the most entertaining duos in the league in Dempsey and Martins. The team is clicking and seemingly getting along free of distractions.
All that remains is to play the second half of the season.
So allow me to offer two predictions, which are in no way jinxes of any sort:
1. DeAndre Yedlin will ink a deal to leave at the end of the season and I will be sad.
2. But the Sounders will win it all – the Shield and two cups – and we’ll all be happy.