Right now, the Seattle Sounders are an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by mystery.
Seriously, though. They’re loaded with talent. They’re led by a coach who’s won two MLS Cups. And they’re gunning for a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup.
But despite all that, few people can say what the Sounders will bring against the Revolution on Saturday. The reason? A seven game winless streak (0-4-3) - which followed a season-opening nine-game stretch in which they lost only once.
Making matters more complicated: Last weekend, they lost 2-1 to lowly-Portland. Two days later they beat San Jose – the best team in MLS – 1-0 in an Open Cup quarterfinal game.
Unpredictable? Yeah, you could say that. But soccer, by its very nature, is hard to forecast. Two words: Cal FC. That is all.
Wait, actually, there’s more. Given the mysteries and myths surrounding Seattle, we could probably rename this week’s edition “137 questions: Revolution vs. Sounders.” Legit. Well, maybe not. So we’ll stick with the tried-and-true five.
1. What formation will Jay Heaps employ? This is a most interesting question. Allow me to set the scene. Jay Heaps has three healthy central midfielders. Two of them played astoundingly well last week. The other happens to be the club captain, and a midfield stalwart. Meanwhile, the second-striker’s spot has been a merry-go-round involving Blake Brettschneider, Diego Fagundez and Jose Moreno. You know where this is going: The time may be right for Heaps to unleash a five-man midfield as a proactive, rather than reactive, measure.
2. Will Saer Sene snap his scoring drought? If there’s one thing that’s failed the Sounders in recent weeks, it’s their defense. Jeff Parke and Marc Burch haven’t fortified the rear as well as they did earlier this season. Behind them, rookie keeper Bryan Meredith hasn’t padlocked the net as well as starter Michael Gspurning, who is recovering from a right hip strain. With all these factors, all signs point to Sene getting plenty of chances to find his elusive eighth goal of the season on Saturday.
3. Can A.J. Soares rebound from last week’s brutal game in Toronto? It was a first half that the second-year center back didn’t envision against the worst team in the league. Within the course of 38 minutes, Danny Koevermans and Ashtone Morgan left Soares out to dry on a pair of crosses that led to paydirt. Even through Soares’ hasn’t been perfect this season, one thing is for sure: He doesn’t often struggle in back-to-back games. In light of that, expect Soares to step it up on Saturday, especially with Sammy Ochoa and Eddie Johnson in the area.
4. Who will need to step up for the Revolution? Matt Reis – and almost by default. OK, so it may be true that the Sounders have struggled as of late. And it may also be true that Fredy Montero isn’t available due to red card suspension. But, the Sounders attack, for all intents and purposes, is still capable of hurting a team – big time. Eddie Johnson has proven he can still punch the ol’ onion bag while Heaps mentioned Sammy Ochoa as a serious threat earlier this week. And even though Mauro Rosales hasn’t assumed the his All-Star form this season, all it takes is a moment of brilliance for him to snap out of it. The backline will be busy. But Reis will likely be busier organizing them and making crucial saves when necessary.
5. Can the Revolution continue their success against the West at home? The Revolution have yet to lose to an inter-conference contest at home this season (3-0-0), and they’ll be looking to extend that run with Seattle in town. And the hosts may have the slumping Sounders right where they want them. With Rosales mired in a season-long funk and Montero absent, Johnson and Ochoa will be relied upon heavily to get the job done. But with opposing defenses quickly figuring Johnson’s style and Ochoa largely raw and unproven, there’s no reason to believe the Revolution can’t make it four-for-four.