Sounders’ veterans struggling to keep discipline in check

Oct 13, 2016, 1:28 PM | Updated: 2:40 pm

The Sounders will play Sunday without Osvaldo Alonso, their third match in a row with a player susp...

The Sounders will play Sunday without Osvaldo Alonso, their third match in a row with a player suspended. (AP)


Despite having the majority of possession and taking 15 shots, the Sounders were unable to convert their chances against Houston on Wednesday, keeping them just out of reach of a cemented spot in the playoffs. What also didn’t help is that Osvaldo Alonso lost his temper and got himself sent off, making Sunday’s match in Dallas the Sounders’ third in a row with a player suspended. With that and Brad Evans’ red card in Vancouver, Seattle’s veterans aren’t providing the leadership and example that they should be, especially at such a crucial point in the season.

After the win in Vancouver, interim head coach Brian Schmetzer expressed disappointment but not malice towards Evans, especially because his actions were probably misconstrued by the referee. Schmetzer also mentioned that he talked with Nicolas Lodeiro, who missed out on that Vancouver match because of yellow-card accumulation. He stressed that keeping emotions in check is key for the Sounders’ push for the playoffs, but Alonso appears to have briefly forgotten this.

I get it – it was a big game for the Sounders after the incredibly hard work they’ve put in to get where they are. Alonso, not usually the captain of the squad, let his emotions get the best of him after Houston’s Will Bruin put in a particularly nasty tackle on him. He has also been possibly the team’s best, most consistent player all season. He has elevated Cristian Roldan’s game so much that national teams are fighting over the youngster’s international future. Sure, Lodeiro changed the season on the attacking side, but it could have been much more difficult had Alonso not had the team’s back in central midfield.

But when you have two of the most senior players on the squad getting sent off for violent conduct – not violent tackles, but violent conduct outside of the run of play – so much of the momentum is lost. Again, Alonso and Evans have been excellent and composed all season, but they’ve let their team down when it’s starting to matter the most.

What’s unique about this team, and a good sign for the future, is that the young players have stepped up when the veterans haven’t. Jordan Morris has more than lived up to the hype and taken on the scoring burden when Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez weren’t. Roldan has transformed into an Alonso successor before our eyes. Joevin Jones, Tony Alfaro and Aaron Kovar have all shouldered varying amounts of responsibility this season.

The Sounders head to Dallas on Sunday for a match that is pretty darn big for both teams. FC Dallas needs the maximum number of points as it pushes for the Supporters’ Shield, and the Sounders need a result to finally clinch their spot in the playoffs. They won’t have Alonso for the match, and they could be without two other first-choice midfielders. This means that the young players, both starters and backups, are going to have step up yet again.

Hopefully for the Sounders, the players that take the field this weekend choose to follow the examples that Evans and Alonso set earlier this season rather than in the last few weeks. Emotions will be especially high against Dallas and Salt Lake, both of which have especially decorated histories with the Sounders in recent years. But Schmetzer absolutely must inspire his men to take ownership of their actions, the team, and the result, just as he has tried to do since the day he took over.

If they finally pull off the playoff run, Schmetzer may just cement himself into the head-coach job permanently.

Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.

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