SEATTLE — There is a “disease” within the Sounders, according to coach Sigi Schmid.
Seattle is off to a franchise-worst 0-3-1 start, and Saturday’s 2-1 road loss to Real Salt Lake led to a closed-door meeting and a public call from Schmid for soul-searching among players and staff.
So what exactly is this team-wide ailment?
“We’re picking and choosing at times when to play,” said Schmid, who suggested personnel changes could be coming. “We have yet to get where 11 guys are involved for 90 minutes.”
“At the end of the day, you have to work,” he added. “You have to run with people on one-twos, you have to follow people, you have to anticipate, you have to close people down, you have to get tight to people, you have to win duels, and if you don’t want to do any of that, then it becomes a difficult game to play.”
Energy. Concentration. Desire.
All were lacking Saturday, especially in an uninspired first half that nearly saw the Sounders blown out. RSL’s 25 shots at Rio Tinto Stadium were tied for the most by a Seattle opponent.
The Sounders, with a conference-low two goals, have never had a worse four-game stretch in MLS.
“We have to take the criticism, we have to take the backlash, we have to be able to be men and accept what’s going to come our way and also know that it’s still salvageable,” said midfielder Steve Zakuani. “That’s our good fortune — that it’s so early in the season.”
The Sounders expressed faith in one another after a postgame heart-to-heart, but urgency is escalating.
“We need to be with our backs to the wall,” said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
Defender Djimi Traore said “what we showed on the pitch was not the Seattle Sounders team. We need to change things. We need to take responsibility … and turn this thing around.”
Added midfielder and captain Mauro Rosales: “Everybody has to know that we need more from each other.”
Three of Seattle’s forwards had injury concerns coming out of Saturday’s loss.
Obafemi Martins has had an undisclosed ailment for several days, but “gutted it out for us,” Schmid said. Martins passed a pregame fitness test but will be closely evaluated before Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Mexico’s Santos Laguna.
Eddie Johnson was subbed out in the second half when a bad toe was stepped on. David Estrada was poked in the eye and was visibly impaired after the game.
• Asked why he chose a full-strength lineup Saturday with an important CCL game today, Schmid said: “Guys should be able to play two games in a week. If they can’t play two games a week then maybe there is something wrong with what we are doing fitness-wise or what they are doing fitness-wise.”
• Schmid called Martins’ first start for the Sounders OK: “He can play better than he did because he wasn’t fully 100 percent. I know he had the good chance … in the first half, and I think a 100 percent Oba buries that.”