Injuries turn Sounders' hot MLS start into a slump
After a franchise-best 7-1-1 start to the MLS season, the Sounders just had their worst five-game stretch in team history.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Kansas City @ Seattle,
7 p.m., KONG
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The Sounders have never had a worse five-game stretch in an MLS season than the one they just completed.
No wins. Three losses. Two ties.
Only a six-game winless streak in Seattle's inaugural season was longer, but even then the team managed five ties and continued to earn points in the standings.
So what happened to that franchise-best start? Well, technically that's still going with a 7-4-3 record. But make no mistake, the Sounders are in a slump heading into Wednesday's 7 p.m. home game against Sporting Kansas City.
"We have to change our mentality," said coach Sigi Schmid, whose team suffered a 4-1 loss Saturday in Montreal. "I think we got off to such a good start — as everybody said, the best start in franchise history — and what happens then is invariably you pat yourself on the back a little bit. You read The Seattle Times and you read The (News) Tribune and you say, 'Hey, pretty positive,' and you just subconsciously relax a little bit. We've got to get out of that relaxation mode."
In the winless streak, Seattle has allowed the first goal in all five games, and eight goals overall. That comes after allowing a league-low three goals in the first nine games of the season.
Another disturbing development is a lack of production from designated players Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez, the team's starting outside midfielders. They have missed extended time due to injuries this season and have struggled to regain their 2011 form.
Rosales, who earned a big offseason raise, has just one goal and two assists in 10 games. The 31-year-old, whose 13 assists last year set a team record, missed four games with a sprained knee.
Fernandez, the team's second-leading scorer in 2011, hasn't had a goal or assist since the season opener — a drought of 584 minutes. The 26-year-old missed five games with a quadriceps strain.
"For sure, when you look at the numbers and production, it's not as great as it was last year," said Schmid, "but I think part of that is explained just because of their injuries and their not being able to get into a real good rhythm of play. As a result, we've been a little disjointed."
Rosales said he's just starting to feel healthy again and that the issues are team-wide — mainly, an inability to keep possession of the ball.
"But we can't think about the past five games," he said, "just about how we can be better in the rest of the season."
• Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is suspended for Wednesday's game after earning a red card Saturday in Montreal, a controversial decision the Sounders chose not to appeal. Hurtado's absence will be alleviated by the return of defenders Patrick Ianni (back) and Leo Gonzalez (quad) from injury.
• Schmid didn't rule out midfielder Steve Zakuani from being available on the 18-man gameday roster Wednesday. Zakuani has been out for about 14 months after his leg was broken in a game last April. He has shown significant progress the past few weeks.
• Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, the team's two-time MVP, is eligible to play Wednesday after serving a two-game suspension for his dangerous tackle on May 23 against Columbus.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.