Few would have doubted New York City's David Villa when he last week pronounced Seattle Sounders FC "above the rest" in Major League Soccer.
The Rave Green were not only top of the Western Conference, but they also led the overall Supporters' Shield standings and had just claimed their fourth US Open Cup title.
However, while the Sounders have the capacity to produce the most scintillating soccer in the United States, their struggles in tight encounters may suggest they lack a key ingredient of a championship-winning side - the ability to "win ugly".
Having clinched their first piece of silverware of the year at the Philadelphia Union's PPL Park, back-to-back defeats have impressed doubt into the minds of some commentators, and the manner of these reverses have been even more concerning.
Seattle have been overturned by a single goal on five occasions in league action this season, but 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 losses have been suffered too, and they can now be added to by the New York Red Bulls' and FC Dallas' respective 4-1 and 3-1 successes.
Rather than being outfought, they're increasingly being outplayed, and run the risk of losing a Shield that looked within their grasp just weeks ago - hardly the ideal way to prepare for the much-coveted MLS Cup.
Supporters in the Emerald City would have little difficulty convincing a neutral that they can boast the best squad in the division, but the Rave Green have inexplicably allowed the LA Galaxy back into this title chase, with Real Salt Lake, Dallas and DC United hot on their heels.
A key problem remains that Chad Marshall is almost on his own in providing protection to Stefan Frei's goal, with DeAndre Yedlin rampaging down the right and his teammates failing to perform to the required level.
Obviously, a leaky defence needs addressing, but all too often this year Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey - two of the most talented forwards in the MLS - have simply been peripheral in matches that needed their considerable influence.
Though complacency may be a factor, it certainly cannot be an excuse. As well as possessing an immensely skilled roster, the Sounders have a great number of experienced internationals.
Yedlin, Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso may not have dozens of medals to shout about, but they are armed the big-game nous that any team would hope to brag about.
Seattle's fortunes are still very much in their own hands, but now is the time for these stars to prove their worth and bring maiden MLS honours to CenturyLink Field.
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