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Originally published July 3, 2012 at 7:39 PM | Page modified July 4, 2012 at 9:10 AM

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Sounders eye panic button, but don't push it — yet

In search of their first league win in two months, Sounders players say team spirit remains strong heading into Wednesday's road game against Real Salt Lake.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Wednesday

Seattle @ Salt Lake,

7 p.m., Ch. 5

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TUKWILA — How is the team's confidence? How are things in the locker room?

They're common questions for a struggling team and just a couple the Sounders have faced this week after a frustrating tie Saturday extended their franchise-worst winless streak to eight games.

For now, coaches and players say team spirit is strong heading into a 7 p.m. road game Wednesday against Real Salt Lake.

"I think we're still confident, because we know that we can play better," said midfielder Brad Evans. "We know that we're a better team. ... From the players' standpoint, nobody has hit that panic button at all. Some (pressure has) come from the front office — it has to when you have a skid like that or a winless streak of eight games — but we're going to win games. Once that happens, I think we'll find ourselves in a good position."

Patience from fans, however, is starting to wear thin, and one issue that has come into question is leadership. Kasey Keller, who served as a strong team captain from 2009 to 2011, retired last season, and in his absence the Sounders said that role would be assumed by committee.

Coach Sigi Schmid said that has worked in the locker room, but not on the field.

"In those key moments and in those decisive moments in games, who steps up to lead?" the coach asked aloud.

Not enough have.

But if anyone has, it's been Eddie Johnson.

The 28-year-old forward, acquired in a preseason trade, has scored four goals in the past four games and seven overall, which puts him on pace to break the Sounders' season scoring record of 12. As he rounds into form, Johnson has looked every part the goal-scorer that played on the U.S. men's national team from 2004 to 2010 and caught the eye of English Premier League team Fulham, which he joined in 2008.

Coaches and teammates were particularly impressed with Johnson's work rate Saturday in New England.

"As a new player, I've had to adjust," said Johnson, who scored twice against the Revolution. "I've had to step my game up. I've had to get in the gym, get stronger.

"This is a league that requires strikers to work hard. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't work, you're not going to be successful in this league, and that's something I do realize."

Johnson's work hasn't translated to wins, however, as the Sounders are 0-2-2 in the last four games in which the forward has scored.

Another quick turnaround Wednesday — against an RSL team that started Seattle's winless streak — provides another chance to turn the corner, Schmid said.

"Right now, we're still standing at the corner," the coach said. "We've gotten to the corner. We've peeked around the other side and know what it looks like. Now we've got to see what we can do from there."

NOTES

• Goalkeeper Andrew Weber will be out two to four weeks due to a groin strain suffered Saturday. Bryan Meredith will assume the role as starter, and he'll be backed up by Josh Ford, who was activated off the disabled list Tuesday.

• Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso will serve a one-game suspension Wednesday due to yellow-card accumulation.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @joshuamayers

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