What’s going on with Seattle sports? Both the Mariners and the Sounders FC started off so good and now look at them. Granted, both are still doing well if you only look at the record, but they have both entered that zone my wife likes to refer to as the “Seattle suck.” It can drag a team down quickly and without warning.
In 2001, the Mariners won 116 games before hitting that whirlpool in the playoffs. At least we haven’t had to wait that long this year. I am only half kidding here. If they continue to struggle offensively, hitting .200 on this home stand as a team, while the pitching has been so good, avoiding looking at Carlos Silva here, this year will continue to be a struggle.
I’m not trying to rain on their parade. They have played well so far and deserve to be at the top of the AL West right now. It’s early and they need to become consistent very quickly. The only thing they’ve been consistent at so far is leading the league in errors.
This current rough patch brought into town by the Detroit Tigers could be just that, a momentary hiccup that will make the team regroup. I hope so; I really do, because I want to enjoy the feeling of a baseball team that is in the race after the all star break again.
The Sounders, on the other hand, have no history to break away from. That has not stopped them from falling off the edge of the cliff.
With hindsight, this downturn was easy to spot. It showed up when Kansas City came to Seattle with an obvious game plan to keep ten and sometimes all eleven players in their side of the field and force Seattle to try and put the ball over the top. Fredy Montero was double and triple teamed which should have opened up some other channels. Normally it would but normally a team does not plan to play on its own side of the field the whole game.
Everything changed when Kasey Keller was red carded and sent off before halftime. Although Ben Dragavon did well in goal, he is not Keller. Kansas City opened up the field, Seattle was able to get some space to attack which did make the game more exciting but also badly fatigued the Sounders players. A late goal by Kansas City dropped the Sounders to their first loss but that was only the first downward step.
A far greater fall was coming the next match in Los Angeles against Chivas USA. Keller was unavailable due to the red card, Chris Eylander started in goal, and Seattle badly missed him. Although starting well, almost scoring in the first ten minutes, the Sounders did not look good. The back line was not as organized or coordinated in defense and it was probably appropriate that the first Chivas goal was actually an own goal on Sounder defender James Riley who gets in the record books as scoring the Sounders first own goal as some sort of conciliation prize.
The Sounders spent too much time sitting back and waiting for Chivas to make the first move. That is not what got them victories in the first three matches. The Sounders attacked the ball from everywhere and by everyone. Part of the problem is that the two Freddies, Ljungberg and Montero, have not played well together yet. They seem uncomfortable with their roles since Ljungberg has come into the starting lineup.
I am an Arsenal fan and Ljungberg has not developed his game since leaving the Arsenal. I felt in his last year there that he had lost a step and was not the attacking force he once was although he still delivered quality ball from the midfield. He needs to stop going into contact and start distributing the ball to the front line more.
Montero, for all his dazzling talent, seems to want the long overhead ball delivered to him too much. He needs to get back more, play more defense up front and do more work period.
Look for the Sounders to focus on getting the roles sorted out this week as they play host to San Jose on Saturday night.
In the other football arena, the Seahawks have the fourth pick in the 2009 draft on Saturday. There has been much too much discussion on taking a QB at that spot. Let me go on record now as saying I don’t want to take Mark Sanchez. I don’t have anything against him as a quarterback and he definitely has the possibility to become a good player in the NFL. Who the team takes depends greatly on who is still available, of course, but there are options no matter who is still on the board.
I feel that Seattle needs to decide exactly what their course is. If they are trying to win right now, they need to take Michael Crabtree. He is one of the few immediate impact players in the draft this year and Seattle’s wide receiver core has not been strength of the team in awhile. They are currently depending on Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, both out last year with injuries, and TJ Houshmandzadeh who will need some time to fit into the Bobby Engram role.
Another player that would fit that description is Aaron Curry, the linebacker out of Wake Forest. He’s a top shelf linebacker who could start right now, especially since Seattle traded Julian Peterson to Detroit.
If the Seahawks are looking to the future, they are much more likely to take one of the top two left tackles, either Eugene Monroe or Jason Smith. Either one of them would fit in right now in most offensive lines but in Seattle they would have the bonus of learning for at least one year from Walter Jones, one of the greatest left tackles to ever play the game.
Quarterback is listed as a need for the Seahawks by a lot of draft experts because of Matt Hasselbeck’s injuries. I expect him to be back at full strength this year. Matt’s backup is still Seneca Wallace, not the greatest quarterback but certainly better than any of the prospects out there right now. That does not mean the team should not be looking at quarterbacks, just that there is no pressure to draft one early. The pool of quarterbacks is very shallow this year. Sanchez would be a decent pick but not worthy of the fourth pick.
The Seahawks need to be aware of the trap the Mariners fell into of loving their own players too much. The Mariners held on to the fan favorites Bret Boone and Dan Wilson, to name a couple, a year too long and it cost them badly. I am pretty confident that Tim Ruskell is already on this though. If he wasn’t, he would not have allowed Bobby Engram to go or traded Julian Peterson.
Smart GMs make those kinds of moves. I have confidence that whomever Ruskell picks, it will be the right person for the direction the team sees itself heading. Only then will the rest of us know which direction that is.