Sounders reassess tactics, personnel during goal drought

The Seattle Sounders' Lamar Neagle goes down hard after tangling with DC United's Chris Korb on July 3, 2015, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The Sounders have scored just two goals in their past five MLS matches.
The Seattle Sounders' Lamar Neagle goes down hard after tangling with DC United's Chris Korb on July 3, 2015, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The Sounders have scored just two goals in their past five MLS matches. The Seattle Times

Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid often says the loss of a starter is an opportunity for a reserve to show that he deserves more playing time.

Over the past five games, the Sounders’ attacking players haven’t made a compelling case.

Seattle has played five straight Major League Soccer matches without starting forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. And over those 450 minutes, they have scored two goals.

Their top offensive producer has been Tyrone Mears, a 32-year-old defender who scored one of the goals and assisted the other, which was scored by Lamar Neagle of Federal Way.

The stretch has brought four losses, three by shutout.

“The goal production hasn’t been there,” Schmid said. “So again: Are we not putting them in the right situations? So that’s something. That first arrow points at me. ... The second one is (the players) have to deal with their own performance and not producing. Right now our leading goal scorer is Tyrone Mears while we’ve had the injuries. So we need other people to step up. Does that mean making some changes? Changing things around? Putting some people on the bench? Giving some other guys a go? Maybe that’s what needs to happen.”

Dempsey missed the first three matches due to disciplinary suspension and the last two while at the CONCACAF Gold Cup with the United States national team. Martins remains out after suffering a leg injury June 16 in the U.S. Open Cup loss to Portland.

Both are All-Stars and designated players, combining for more than $9 million in compensation. However, they also have combined for 14 of the club’s 25 goals and 10 of its 24 assists.

In their absence, the Sounders have tried various combinations up top: Neagle as the lone striker, Barrett as the lone striker, and Neagle and Barrett side by side in the traditional 4-4-2.

“Barrett’s more suited for being the lone forward up top,” Schmid said. “Neagle is more suited for playing one of two up top, or coming a little more from the wing. He’s a player who’s better facing goal or running off somebody, stretching the defense. Barrett can play with his back to goal if need be, but can also stretch the defense.”

That’s the way Schmid started them Saturday at Chicago: Barrett alone up top with Neagle as an outside midfielder. But the result was a 1-0 loss. That leaves Schmid rethinking all options leading to the Saturday home match against Colorado, when Dempsey and Martins once again will be unavailable.

“We all have to look at it,” Schmid said. “Did we train too hard? Did we not do the right things in training? I got to look at that because, ultimately, I’m the guy responsible.”

Schmid was asked what specific areas of the attack disappointed him against the Fire.

“We didn’t keep possession of the ball,” he said. “We didn’t work hard enough up front.”

MLS All-Stars

Dempsey and Martins were named Monday to the MLS All-Star Game Fan XI for the second consecutive season. Players voted onto the Fan XI are not guaranteed a spot on the game-day roster when the MLS Stars will meet Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League on July 29 in Commerce City, Colorado. That 22-man roster will be announced Saturday. Other players selected for the Fan XI are goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Salt Lake); defenders Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Matt Besler (Kansas City), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston); midfielders Kaka (Orlando), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Benny Feilhaber (Kansas City), Graham Zusi (Kansas City), and forward David Villa (New York City).


Schmid said No. 1 goalkeeper Stefan Frei “is definitely a possibility for this weekend” after missing the Chicago match with a shoulder injury. … Newly acquired midfielder Erik Friberg trained with the team Monday at Starfire Sports Complex. He is eligible to play Saturday, but Schmid didn’t yet commit to that. “Fitness-wise he told me where he feels at right now,” Schmid said. “So he just needs more touches. Just feels that he needs to get around the ball a little more. Today’s training involved a lot of touches. We’ll see how he does tomorrow, and we’ll make a decision as we move forward this week.”

SATURDAY: Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders, 7 p.m., Ch. 13, 97.3-FM