Is Seattle a team to watch, or team to beat?

[MLS: Playoff Push] The Seattle Sounders have been underachievers despite reaching the playoffs every season since they joined MLS in 2009. The signing of Clint Dempsey has revived title talk in Seattle, but first things first will be to translate its games in hand on the teams ahead of it in the Western Conference into points.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS:
Record: 10-7-4
First 10: 4-3-3
Last 10: 6-3-1

THE STORY SO FAR. A three-game winning streak and the snag of Clint Dempsey have revived title talk in Seattle, though the Sounders have yet to reach MLS Cup, much less win it. After failing to win any of their first five league games, the Sounders have cranked out more points than any other team in the same number of matches.

RECENT MOVES. Shalrie Joseph was defrocked of his DP status to open up a slot for Dempsey after the changes of July: Mario Martinez’s loan ended and Sammy Ochoa was waived. (The loan of Fredy Montero and the status of head coach Sigi Schmid are off the front burner.)

STYLE POINTS. Rightly or wrongly, the Sounders have been labeled underachievers despite reaching the playoffs every season since they joined MLS in 2009. They do have an elite cast of players. DP Obafemi Martins leads the team with seven goals, Mauro Rosales has sharpened his game recently after fighting through a few injuries, and keeper Marcus Hahnemann has played the last two games in place of Michael Gspurning. Right back DeAndre Yedlin is one of the league’s most exciting young players, and Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans have established themselves on the U.S. national team.

NEEDS WORK. Dempsey joins a team that needs to pump up the attack; the Sounders have scored only 27 goals. Seattle’s last three wins are all against weaker teams -- Chivas USA, FC Dallas, Toronto FC -- and the last time it beat a team in the playoff tier was a 3-2 defeat of Vancouver June 8.

FINAL ANSWER. The ownership group can be lauded for breaking the bank on Dempsey and sticking with Schmid. Seattle might be the team to beat at the end of the season, but right now, it is absolutely the team to watch.

REMAINING SCHEDULE:
August 17: @Houston
August 25: Portland
August 31: @Columbus
September 4: Chivas USA
September 7: Chicago
September 13: Real Salt Lake
September 21: @LA Galaxy
September 29: New York
October 5: @Colorado
October 9: Vancouver
October 13: @Portland
October 19: @FC Dallas
October 27: LA Galaxy
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