Things haven't gone according to plan this season for the Seattle Sounders. The club, which has never missed the MLS Cup playoffs since joining the league in 2009, sits in last place in the Western Conference with just one win in five matches (1-3-1). It ranks near the bottom of the league in goals scored (four, tied for second-fewest), shots attempted (59, fifth-fewest) and shots on goal (19, third-fewest).
Heading into this season, the Sounders were riding a long stretch of success going back to my time with the club (2009-11). And while the team has evolved since then in terms of lineup and playing style, it has consistently finished near the top of the standings. But having yet again fallen short of MLS Cup last year after another promising season -- and with the rival Portland Timbers making an improbable run to the 2015 title -- this early-season dip has folks around the Emerald City wondering if the playoff streak might be in jeopardy.
Many fans and media members are pointing to the team's lack of scoring opportunities -- and deservedly so -- for the bulk of its struggles, but there are other challenges that have contributed, including major roster turnover, youngsters learning the ropes, a new formation and the dynamics of the league's salary structure. There's plenty of time to bounce back -- just look at the Timbers last year -- but there are definitely issues to sort out.
Here's a look at where and why the Sounders have dropped off this season and what the club needs to do to turn its season around: