The loud thud you heard this past Saturday was the Seattle Seahawks’ football season coming to an unceremonious end. And if it seems familiar, just ask Sounders’ fans.
It was just about a month ago that Seattle’s soccer team, just like the Seahawks, laid an egg in their final game, sending the team into the offseason, scratching their heads and asking, “What happened?”
The Seahawks seemingly had all the pieces in place for a deep postseason run. The defense was finally clicking, the team appeared healthy, and confidence in quarterback Russell Wilson was sky-high.
Their first-round opponents were almost an afterthought. The L.A. Rams were starting a backup quarterback, the Hawks beat them two weeks earlier, and on top of all that they were playing at home. Sounds like an easy victory, right?
The Seahawks discounted one very important piece; the Rams had the number-one ranked defense in all of football. On this day it clearly showed.
The Hawks couldn’t get anything going. The Rams shut down the running game, harassed Wilson all day, and put the clamps on all-pro receiver DK Metcalf. Game over.
The Seahawks looked uninspired and listless; the Rams definitely wanted it more. How does that happen in a playoff game? How does a veteran coach like Pete Carroll get out-coached in such a pivotal game?
So many questions.
But the Hawks can find a little solace in the fact the Sounders’ Major League Soccer season came to a similar, profoundly disappointing end.
To their credit the team did make it to the MLS Cup and faced a good team in the Columbus Crew.
However, just like the Hawks, the Sounders thought they had their game won before it was even played.
All the ingredients were there for a big Sounders’ win: the Crew were missing two of their key players (Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos), the Crew were playing for their first MLS Cup since 2008, and the Sounders were the defending champions, playoff-tested and experienced up and down the roster.
So, what happened?
Same thing as the Seahawks-Rams’ game.
The Crew wanted it more. They dominated the ball, pressed the Sounders hard all over the field, and marked two of the Sounders’ best players in Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro out of the game.
Two first-half goals sealed the Sounders’ fate. Despite some second-half pressure Seattle was never really in this game.
Such a disappointment, the same feeling I had Saturday, watching the Seahawks trudge into the offseason.
So, what’s next for these two teams?
Tuesday the team started its offseason on the right note by extending the contract of general manager John Schneider through 2027. On top of that, they also fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer after just three seasons.
This team needed a shakeup, maybe not a catastrophic one, but some necessary tweaks if this team truly hopes to contend for Super Bowls moving forward. A new OC is a great start. I would imagine Russell Wilson had a say in that big move. I know a local boy who just lost his job that might be interested in that opening. Doug Pederson (former Eagles coach) anyone?
Where do the Hawks go from here? First off, there are several key players whose contracts ended with the season and who will be free agents. Running back Chris Carson, linebacker K.J. Wright, and defensive back Shaquill Griffin are just a few of the 24 unrestricted free agents seeking new contracts. There are some tough decisions to make.
They also must make calls on contract extensions for safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap. Both players came to the team midseason and were a big part of the defensive turnaround.
I think the team will bring back Carson, extend Adams and Dunlap, and let the others test the market with hopes they return.
The key area the team needs to concentrate on fortifying, however, is the offensive line. It is essential for the team to acquire some experienced big men up front, difference makers that can protect Wilson and open some holes for the running game. 35-year old Duane Brown can’t play forever.
Pete Carroll’s first offseason comments focused on the running game and its importance to the team’s success. So, spend some money on your line!
Year after year, the team has tried to get by with a makeshift line that can’t stay healthy or show any kind of consistency through an entire season. Until Carroll and Schneider invest in their line, it will just be rinse and repeat. The Hawks cannot run the ball with any regularity, and Wilson is left to run for his life and make plays on his own. That is not a good recipe for success.
I would also like to see them bring in a third receiver, one who can take some of the pressure off Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. In other words open up the field. But again, it all comes down to giving Wilson time and a pocket to throw from.
I don’t think this team needs a complete overhaul as it has some nice, young pieces that can be building blocks for the future. But the Seahawks cannot stand pat this offseason and pretend this year’s early playoff exit was an anomaly.
Let me repeat; just in case John Schneider reads this (wink). Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line.
There, I made my point.
Much like the Seahawks, the Sounders need a shakeup and a few additions at key positions this offseason.
To begin, this team needs to get younger. Look at the ages of some of its best players: goalie Stefan Frei (34), Lodeiro (31), Raul Ruidiaz (30), Kelvin Leerdam (31), Will Bruin (31) and Joao Paulo (29).
Soccer is a young man’s game. Experience is crucial, but so is conditioning and youthful legs. Relying on these older players to stay healthy and fit for an entire season is wishful thinking and simply absurd. This team needs younger legs at key positions that they can plug in and give some rest to their key pieces.
If you look at the lineup coach Brian Schmetzer rolled out in the MLS Cup final, only six or seven will be the first-team choice next season.
Clearly, the team needs to find another center back to team with Yeimar Andrade and Xavier Arreaga. Shane O’Neill filled in admirably when Arreaga battled Covid, but he is not the answer. He gave away too many easy goals and was out of position on many occasions.
If Leerdam and Brad Smith return, the outside backs are in decent shape. Another year of experience will only help Nouhou and his rash challenges, but he continues to show his potential. Another solid substitute won’t hurt as I don’t see the team bringing back Joevin Jones. He just didn’t show enough for me when he returned to the team. His speed and confidence disappeared in his second go-around with the Sounders.
In the midfield another piece definitely needs to be added. Gustav Svensson is not under contract and is rumored to be leaving for China. He was a rock on defense. He will be missed, but for me he was too similar to Joao Paulo, whom the team appears to be close to re-signing.
As big a crowd favorite as he is, Cristian Roldan shouldn’t be a fulltime player. He is better suited as a part-time starter. His position is far too crucial to be played by a defensive midfielder. This team needs another playmaker to take pressure off Lodeiro. Other teams know if they stop Lodeiro, the Sounders struggle.
Bring in another playmaker, let Paulo or Roldan hold down the defensive midfield, and you’ll see more balls getting to the feet of the dangerous Ruidiaz and Morris.
That brings me to the forward position. I’ve been told by several sources, and he’s made it clear himself, Jordan Morris is headed to Europe soon. It may not be immediately, but if the right team and situation presents itself, it’s time for Morris to head overseas.
As much as it pains me to say, he’s far too talented at this stage of his career to be playing in the MLS. He needs, and deserves, another shot in European soccer. He will be a tough player to replace, and I assume the team knows that. I believe all hands will be on deck within the organization to find the most impactful forward out there.
The Sounders have a long history of finding those kind of players (see Freddy Montero, Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, etc.), so the fans are in good hands. That will be news I will await eagerly.
This particular offseason for both the Seahawks and Sounders will be crucial for the future of both franchises for next season and beyond.
It is my sincere hope neither feels the need to stand pat. Changes need to be made, but if history shows us anything, both these teams will do the right thing.
Boy, does prolonged success spoil us Seattle fans or what?