After Saturdays game, Sounders fans probably want two hours of their life back.
After Saturday's game, Sounders fans probably want two hours of their life back. Anatoliy Lukich /

I feel the need to apologize for Saturday’s Sounders match, which ended in a 0-0 draw with FC Dallas.

Let’s be clear: It’s not the fact of a tie that was the problem, nor even the lack of scoring. Yes, 0-0 draws take a bad rap, but contrary to the opinion of people who don’t give a damn about soccer, a nil-nil scoreline does not necessarily mean that a match was boring. A stunning goalkeeping performance or a well-orchestrated midfield battle with high stakes could both lead to really fun scoreless matches. This summer’s Brazil/Mexico World Cup match is a perfect example of the former. Sometimes the ball doesn’t hit the back of the net. That’s okay.

Saturday’s match, however, was not okay.

Not only did the scoreline end 0-0, but the final tally of shots on goal was also 0-0. To repeat that last bit: No one managed a goddamn shot on goal! This was the sort of garbage 0-0 draw that makes me want to travel back in time and warn myself not to watch. All this despite FC Dallas going down to 10 men with a red card early in the first half. And still… the Sounders didn’t manage a shot on goal! They were playing 11 on 10 for almost 75 minutes and failed to take a shot that hit the target!

There’s a stat called xG that calculates based on where shots are taken from what the projected final score of a match would be. Here’s a map of the shots from this match:

This one ended .2-.7, meaning that the Sounders didn’t even manage what would have been a goal’s worth of shots despite having an extra player for three quarters of the match. Of course, this stat assumes that the Sounders would maybe hit the target from the locations they shot from. They did not. This was goddamn miserable.

Now, the good news is that this match does not actually bode poorly for the Sounders' MLS title chances this season. That’s because Seattle was down its five best players for the match. Top five! All gone! Clint Dempsey and Marco Pappa were called up to their respective national teams for international matches (where Dempsey picked up a minor injury). Obafemi Martins picked up a knock of his own in a friendly against Tijuana, but should be back next week. Chad Marshall is battling a number of minor injuries, but is not expected to be out long. And Osvaldo Alonso is well on his way back from preseason groin surgery. All five of these guys will be back, and soon.

There are two structural problems with MLS that this match did highlight with its awfulness. The first is MLS’s willingness to schedule matches while FIFA-sanctioned national team matches are happening. Major European leagues all shut down when national teams are playing (right now, the matches are a mix of friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers) so as not to punish teams with large numbers of players competing at the international level. MLS teams don’t usually have more than a small handful of players getting called up, but they do have some, and by ignoring them MLS punishes teams who have the strongest collections of talent. It's weird, and it's a problem that should get fixed.

The bigger issue highlighted by Seattle’s poor effort on Saturday is the top-heavy nature of MLS rosters. Because of the structure of the league’s salary cap, the typical MLS team has a couple stars who are making so much more than what their replacement is making. Take this match: Clint Dempsey makes $6.5 million a year. His replacement in this match, Chad Barrett, makes $85,000 a year… or 1/75th the salary of the man he is replacing. This is a massive imbalance, way bigger than you would see in pretty much any other soccer league or any major sport, barring a totally untested rookie replacing a superstar NFL quarterback or MLB slugger due to injury.

This imbalance typically works in the Sounders' favor; having the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins means the Sounders play beautiful attacking football more often than any other team in MLS. But when they’re out, the drop-off is severe. And that leads to bigger questions. Is MLS properly developing young talent? Are our locally developed players getting paid enough? Are MLS interests aligned with those of American soccer? And what the hell are the interests of American soccer? To have a strong domestic league or to have a strong national team? Both? Neither?

These are all questions that need to be considered as MLS continues to expand. But the biggest question of all is how do I get my two hours back from watching the Sounders match on Saturday? So if you’ll excuse me, Doc Brown and I are headed into the lab. We'll see you in the alternate present.