Seattle Sounders midfield problems continue against NY Red Bulls

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SEATTLE, WA - MAY 26: Nouhou Tolo #5 of Seattle Sounders reacts in the first half against the Real Salt Lake during their game at CenturyLink Field on May 26, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Editorial (June 15, 2018) – Seattle Sounders FC have struggled this season in MLS play.

Seattle has produced a record of 3-8-2 for the first half of the season. The Sounders are not in unfamiliar territory when it comes to starting the season slowly. Last year, in the first 13 matches, Seattle compiled a 4-5-4 record.

Seattle Sounders midfield problems continue against NY Red Bulls

That same season, Seattle went on to face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final.

After three straight losses to finish out the month of May, Seattle kicked off June with a 2-1 victory over D.C. United. However, a trip to the east coast doomed Seattle, facing fourth-place New York Red Bulls.

Seattle dropped the match, 2-1.

Who is to Blame?

Seattle has had their fair share of injuries this season. However, many players once listed on that injury list — like Nicolás Lodeiro, Víctor Rodríguez and Osvaldo Alonso — are back in action.

Rodríguez had the best chances against New York on Wednesday, taking four shots. However, none were registered on goal.

All three players that have returned have one thing in common: they’re midfielders. That’s where Seattle’s troubles have stemmed this season. Seattle hasn’t had a lot of goals scored against them. The center back pairing of Kim Kee-Hee and Chad Marshall has been positive for Seattle.

Kim has been playing so well that Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer will have a dilemma on who to start when Román Torres returns from the FIFA World Cup.

However, the midfield has been dull.

After scoring his first goal of the season against D.C. United, Lodeiro was basically invisible against the Red Bulls. Lodeiro did not take a single shot and the three corner kicks he took failed to produce any threat for Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.

Alonso was also absent, not recording a single shot.

However, Harry Shipp has been a positive spark in the midfield. The 26-year-old midfielder scored his first MLS goal of the season in the 87th minute. Shipp also scored Seattle’s late, equalizing, goal in Seattle’s last U.S. Open Cup match against Sacramento Republic FC.

After the match, Schmetzer called Shipp’s goal a “sign, a symbol, that there’s life in the team.”

“The Red Bulls had a ton of chances in the second half,” Schmetzer said. “They could have put the game [away] sooner, but then again that’s soccer. We’ve scored some [goals] at the death here, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s a tough place to play, but we’ll keep fighting.”

Frei kept Seattle in it

With little to no attacking game for Seattle, the five-man defense for Seattle had a busy day, wrapping up Kemar Lawrence, Alex Muyl and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Stefan Frei made 11 saves against the Red Bulls. The count was a career-best for the longtime Seattle Sounder.

After the match, Frei called the Sounders struggled “do or die.”

“Do we want to be in the playoffs or not?” Frei said. “There can’t be anything left to chance. It’s coming down to the wire.”

Despite having goals in the back of his net, Frei hasn’t been bad for Seattle. As mentioned, the problems this season have lied primarily in a dull midfield. The defense isn’t terrible — but could be better.

There still are communication issues. Keep in mind that Kim is still learning English, as he was born in South Korea and is adjusting to the MLS.

However, communication needs to be improved — whether hand motions need to be used or alternate versions of communication.

What’s Next?

Seattle will have a break until their next test.

Tenth-place Seattle will face seventh-place Eastern Conference club, the Chicago Fire. The match will be held at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, with kick off slated for 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET.

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