When CS Herediano beat the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night it was not because they dominated play. It was because the team in Electricity acted more like a car battery that was low on charge and couldn't push the starter over. There were only a handful of opportunities for either side and the Costa Rican team's keeper had a brilliant save or two that took a game from a possible draw to a 1-nil win. Previously on the night CF Monterrey pushed by CSD Comunicaciones 3-1 and the battle for Group D supremacy is up in the air.
While the lineup for Seattle was unconventional, it was one mainly built due to injury. Seattle had several attacking players out for injury, who were delayed in recovery or who had accumulated cards. Twenty-seven goals and twenty-six assists in all competitions were out for these reasons. Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez were the most known, but Mike Fucito, Brad Evans and Erik Friberg also could not go tonight. 27 goals and 26 assists. Sigi Schmid decided to go with three big men and bucket to get the victory, but it wasn't a lineup too different than one that won the game in Mexico.
What was different were the tactics that they used to try and beat Herediano. While the decision could have been made to start Fredy Montero instead of Pat Noonan, that was the only change that could have spurred the offense. But it wouldn't necessarily have shifted the poor choice of long ball tactics that went towards two paired forwards. One who doesn't win headers at the rate he once did, and the other who doesn't shoot when open in the box. Lamar Neagle was forced into early defensive work and it quickly became apparent why he never became the right back the team tried to develop in 2009.
Neagle sitting on that yellow limited his aggression in the attacking space. An aggression that was needed in the rare appropriate long balls down his flank. Instead those punts with prayers were up the middle into a scrum with Jaqua and Noonan in tight. There was no one in a CM/CAM space on a run. Both wide players were too far out for a knockdown ball. Too often those long balls didn't even go where position could be established. They were instead started from the centerbacks rather than stronger passers like Leo Gonzalez and Zach Scott.
The bucket with two defensive midfielders succeeded defensively. But they were left with too few easy passes and tried to force too much outside of their accurate ranges. Play became rushed without quick options. Seattle for so long has used many layers and strong short passing to move the ball quickly down the pitch. Tonight they skipped a layer, or two, or sometimes three.
Easy answers would be to blame a referee. Easy answers would be wrong. Slightly more thought could look at the lineup, but it wasn't horrid in the circumstances. Who occupied which spaces and how was more disappointing than who got the start. Still, it was apparent that even one entry of Osvaldo Alonso or Fredy Montero would have shifted things in the Sounders favor. Sigi waited too long, but after the shift Seattle was better.
The brightest spot on the night was probably Sammy Ochoa who we finally saw in a competitive match. His light was a little too late as well. Given the opportunity to essentially, but not literally, qualify for the knockout rounds this weakened lineup instead behaved as if facing a much weaker team than showed up in SoDo tonight. Herediano was better, but only marginally.
Seattle will have to wait until Round 5 of Group D to try and qualify. A round down in Guatemala that will be more difficult but will have 66% of that missing offense back. Things are not dire, but surely frustrating.