Thoughts from Sounderland V9.1 — Unintended Consequences

Chad Marshall’s heroics saved the day for Seattle, but therein lies the problem.

I kept thinking that Marshall was due to score his first Sounders goal, but I could only hope it would be a meaningful one like Saturday’s game winner.  Of course, it was only the icing on the cake of his best performance in a Sounder shirt.

The Sounders were, for whatever reason, discombobulated for much of the first 60 minutes.  The lineup certainly didn’t seem right until Dylan Remick was lost to a mysterious ankle injury and the only true WAM in the regular 18 in Marco Pappa came on, pushing Brad Evans to fill the open spot at left back.  Evans is valuable for his versatility and locker-room presence — but WAM is not his strongest suit and with Lamar Neagle at the other WAM spot there was probably something lacking.

Another reason could certainly be the weather.  The rain can effect play, but this isn’t encouraging news for a team that plays its home matches in Seattle regardless of how sunny and dry our July-September may be in most years.

On the whole, it seemed as though Philly were better doing the simple things — they played the better angles and spaces, they reacted in all the right ways. Yes, Neagle missed a sitter off the crossbar, and MacMath superbly saved Ozzie’s penalty, but I didn’t feel as though the scoreline at half flattered the Union.  I felt at the time like the Sounders should be behind.

I’ve hinted at it before but there might be structural problems in this team.  If we are going to play a 4-2-3-1 — and so long as Ozzie and Pineda are paired at central midfield and Dempsey drops deep as a 2nd striker that’s what it is, folks — we need better WAMs.  What I would give for an Argentine attacking midfielder about now (that’s a thing now, look around the league).

Another hint at potential problems in the lineup is team defending.  Philly matched the Sounders chance for chance on Saturday, but had a horrendous day shooting.  Just 1 of their 16 shots was on target, and the Sounders blocked eight shots — Marshall himself had an astonishing six blocks.  We have asked a lot of Chad Marshall this season, and for the most part he has demonstrated his excellence in part by never really standing out — in that way we [really ought to] appreciate from good center backs. Saturday he stood out, but what does that really mean?  At any rate, on Saturday the match was remarkably open at times, and I wasn’t surprised to see Philly grab the lead just because of the sheer amount of space they had particularly early on.

Bullet Points

• Seattle co-leads MLS so far with seven set piece goals, tied with FC Dallas.  Worth  noting: All three of the Sounders goals scored this season not involving Dempsey and/or Oba have been off of set pieces : two corners and a free kick.

• For the second straight week Gonzalo Pineda lead the team in tackles, with six — one ahead of Ozzie and tied for the game lead with Philly left back Raymon Gaddis

• Do the Sounders have a healthy left back for Wednesday night?  If not, I’m left to wonder if it will be Zach Scott who fills in.  He has played all of two minutes so far this season and I have to think Sigi wants to work him into the lineup at some point.  I’m not sure Sigi starts Evans at left back, but I suppose it’s possible.

• speaking of Chad Marshall, he is currently third in MLS in aerial duels won per match. As one might well imagine, its a center back dominated stat with 8 of the top 10 at that position.  The leader by a significant margin is LA Galaxy forward Rob Friend, which is surprising given that he only has two starts among five total appearances.  In those two starts he has won 12 in 90′ and then another 10 in his 75′ on Saturday in LA’s 1-0 loss to Colorado.  I’m sure that’s more than you ever cared to know about the aerial duels stat.

• Those looking to make an issue of Ozzie stepping up to take the penalty are making something out of nothing.  It was his daughter’s birthday and it wasn’t poorly struck — MacMath guessed right and barely made the save, touching it off the post.  Interesting that no Sounders bothered to follow up the shot to try to convert the rebound.  Luck has a way of evening itself out, and the Union could claim the penalty call was more the result of an unfortunate bounce than anything else.

• The Sounders committed 16 fouls to the Union’s 10, and it was Clint Dempsey who lead the way with five, and got a little aggro in stoppage time with a senseless challenge to go in the book.  Philly’s fouling leader was former USMNT regular Maurice Edu — and as an aside can I say Edu had a notably unimpressive match on Saturday?  At any rate, Demspey is no longer the most fouled player in MLS, 4th on the list behind Darlington Nagbe and Argentine Mauros Rosales and Diaz (you may recognize one of those as a man who once toiled in Rave Green).  Oh yeah, there’s another Argentine, Javier Morales, in 5th, just ahead of… Eddie Johnson? As a whole Sounders are still the most fouled team in MLS.

• I’m guessing Oba doesn’t do backflips on the wet turf, which is smart.  Some bad defending from Philly greased the skids, but a nice header and alert movement from Oba on the play nonetheless.  What was also interesting about the goal is that preceding it was some actual build-up from the Sounders — which had been rare up until that point.  Philly managed to stifle it initially but we got the goal anyways.

• More “right place, right time” for Neagle, whose glorious chance off the crossbar was actually the result of a missed connection from Dempsey to Oba.  Aside from that, Neagle didn’t contribute much.  The Neagle and Remick combo on the left did not have a strong game.

• While Dempsey didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, he had a good match in overall distribution, actually attempting more passes (61) than Pineda (59) or Ozzie (53), and completing those passes at an 80 percent rate — not bad considering most of his passes were in the attacking half.  He and Evans lead the way for the Sounders with three key passes each, although Union LAM Cristian Maidana with four key passes in his 76′ of work.

• It took until the 55th minute for Seattle to win their first corner, then they had six from then until the 84′ game winner.  Corners won seems to be highly indicative of the team’s overall efficacy on Saturday.

Upcoming

Up next is Dallas, coming off a rough outing Sunday in losing a player to a red card 10 minutes in and falling 1-0 to NYRB.  The schedulers certainly did them no favors given them one day less before a midweek road match.  Seeing as how both teams will be in action on Sunday, its anyone’s guess what the starting lineups will look like.  Despite the loss in Frisco taking the top-of-the-table luster away from the game, these are still the two highest-scoring teams in the League, and a win obviously puts Dallas back even on points with Seattle.  Surprisingly, Dallas sit last in shots per game, while Seattle have still allowed the second-most.

The Sounders managed to grind out the three points on Saturday against a team that simply couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities.  Eventually their superior talent won out, but not by much.  Wednesday night they shouldn’t expect to get away with as lackluster a performance for most of the first 60′ of the game.