On June 16, the Seattle Sounders stood alone atop Major League Soccer with a 9-4-2 record — good for 29 points.
That night, they began the defense of their U.S. Open Cup with a home match against Portland.
Seattle not only lost that game, it also lost the services of leading goal-scorers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Neither has played for the Sounders since, and the team has gone 1-5. No MLS team has added fewer points during that stretch.
The Sounders’ only points came in a 1-0 home win against D.C. United, which played a man down for the final 62 minutes.
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The losses have come against San Jose, Philadelphia, Portland, Chicago and Colorado. The most recent loss — 1-0 to Colorado on Saturday at CenturyLink Field — marked the fourth time the Sounders have failed to score over the six-game run without their DP forwards, who before their absences had evenly divided 14 goals.
As Seattle has added just three points to the 29 it had a month ago, other teams have gone rushing past. The Sounders begin this week tied for fifth/sixth in the Western Conference — the final two playoff spots. They are six points clear of seventh-place Real Salt Lake and three points behind FC Dallas, the Western leader and Supporters’ Shield co-leader along with D.C. United.
“Standings are tight,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “That’s just way it is. Right now I’m not going to be overly concerned looking at that. I’m just concerned because we gave away points at home, and you don’t want to give away points at home.”
This week, the Sounders will visit Montreal. They are expected to again be without Dempsey, who is with the United States national team, and Martins, who is recovering from a leg injury suffered late in the Open Cup match.
Schmid said Martins is scheduled to do more team-related work this week and could return in another week or two.
Dempsey will return after the U.S. completes its run in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Team USA will play a semifinal match against Jamaica on Wednesday. The tournament’s consolation match will be played Saturday, and the final is Sunday.
Seattle’s first game after that comes Aug. 1 against the Vancouver Whitecaps at CenturyLink Field.
Dempsey and Martins are not the only Sounders expected to be back by then. Central defender Brad Evans also has been away with the national team. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei could return from a shoulder injury in time to play Montreal.
Other roster restocking already has begun. Midfielder and DP Osvaldo Alonso returned July 3 after missing five games because of injury. Midfielder Marco Pappa played 26 minutes Saturday after returning from the Guatemala national team. Midfielder Erik Friberg played 59 minutes in his first appearance since signing with the club June 29.
While waiting for something closer to his first-choice lineup, Schmid has pushed virtually every available button. Twenty-three players have appeared for the Sounders during the past month. Schmid has used formations with one, two or three forwards.
Against the Rapids, he flanked first-year players Thomas and Cristian Roldan around Lamar Neagle, with no positive results. Schmid expressed frustration over the lack of production from Neagle, who has one goal in the absence of Dempsey and Martins, and veteran Chad Barrett, who has none.
Schmid said he planned to start rookie forward Andy Craven on Saturday until he suffered an injury during training last week.
Schmid said he will continue to seek tactical solutions while hoping the players forced into the lineup will rise to the challenge.
“Somebody’s got to find it along the way,” he said. “We’re going to keep working. … It’s not like we’re getting outplayed, it’s not like we’re getting annihilated in games. We’re in every game, but because we haven’t been able to score, the pressure mounts on the defense and makes it become a little more psychological than it becomes physical.
“So for us right now, we need something to bounce our way, we need maybe something fluky to happen, but we need to take advantage of it when it does, and hopefully that will put us onto a different course.”
MLS points accumulated since June 16:
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
New York City