Otto Greule Jr
Seattle can be both good at defending set-pieces and it can be their weakness. Counter-intuitive? Yes, but also seemingly true.
During the match against the LA Galaxy, color commentator mentioned that he believed that the Seattle Sounders were weak at set-piece defense. I took to twitter and pointed out that Seattle was better at not giving up goals via that method than the Galaxy. Twellman tweeted a response during halftime and relayed the conversation when they returned to the match. He said the lack of defense in that area is not about the statistics, but about what he and trusted voices around the game see.
Both myself and Twellman can be right. The pure data of goals conceded by the Seattle Sounders puts them tied for 4th in MLS, only conceding two more than leading Houston Dynamo. The Sounders gave up seven goals on corners, direct and indirect kicks. They were also a strong team relative to the league in scoring off the dead ball. Their nine goals scored that way are good to tie them for 7th. Their goal differential of +2 is also seventh.
There's a related note here as well. Teams good at scoring off the set-piece are also in the playoffs. Only three negative set-piece teams are in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
But Seattle is also quite good at defending open play crosses and has a huge positive goal differential in open play. Even the best teams have weak, just maybe this is Seattle's.
After Tuesday's practice Zach Scott spoke about defending set-pieces. He equates it with the second season.
"Set-plays are all mentallity," Scott said. "You can draw up a number of ways to get guys open. In the end it's who wants it more. Pretty much that's also what the Playoffs are all about, who wants it more. It doesn't matter how you do during the season. When you go into the Playoffs it's a completely new run at it. It's going into set-plays and the playoffs in general. Who wants it more. How are we going to win the matchup against the guy you are facing."
That mentality issue may be what Twellman and his sources were seeing. The rare set-piece goals against were not amazing, but instead cases of lost marks. Seattle was not beat by individual greatness, but through their own errors. That can be cause for worry, it can also be put forward that it is not a case of being outclassed.
Sigi during Tuesday's post practice presser mentioned that in the Playoffs a single moment can make the difference.
"Sometimes an error will decide a game. Sometimes it's a set-piece that will decide a game," Schmid said. "The game itself is always itself for me. Each team, within the 90 minutes, has moments when they dominate the game. You've got to score when you dominate the game and keep them from scoring when they dominate the game."
One of those moments could be corner target Scott who finally scored in MLS play this year. His header against the Rapids won the match and led to him being increasingly targeted in threatening situations.
"I'm not a very tall guy, being only 5'11" I tend to match up against smaller guys as well. It's just timing and mentality. No matter who I go up against I'm going to want it more than them." Scott states, "I was fortunate to nick a couple in this year and I hope that continues."
Set-pieces may be more of weakness for Real Salt Lake than Seattle, but in the short season experience and mental strength may mean more. Scott noted that Seattle, RSL and Houston have cores that are together in their fourth seasons. All have experience. Scott is confident in his team's mentality.
"We expect the best from them and they're going to get the best from us."