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Against Vancouver the Sounders turned into a cross heavy team. This may not have been the best tactic for the specific match, but it is one that should be successful Sunday night.
As Aaron brought up in the latest episode of Nos Audietis the Seattle Sounders were cross heavy against the Vancouver Whitecaps. This led to a relatively stagnant offense that failed to score. From the results it was the wrong offense at the time. But, it was a rarity in the month of struggles and it is an offensive tactic which the Sounders have used successfully in 2012. Adding Christian Tiffert should help that.
Of the 31 open play crosses last match, 21 were from the right side of the pitch. This is by design. Tiffert, Mauro Rosales and Adam Johansson are the best three crossers on the team. Two are natural right sided players and the other drifts right quite frequently. It is part of his approach to playing as a midfielder.
"I think you have to use what your strenghts are. I think I have a good cross and sometimes it's better if we are playing against certain defensive teams to go wide and switch with Mauro or swith with Brad," Tiffert said after Wednesday's practice. "You have to be flexible as a midfielder. You can not stay in one position, just stay there and play passes. You have to move. It's always important when you play with four midfielders to play with good organization, to speak to each other and some times we need to switch positions."
Most of his switching is to the right and to take advantage of his crossing ability. Against Portland that crossing ability should help. The Timbers are particularly weak against crosses, giving up 22% of goals against on the cross. Seattle scores 24% of their goals through that path.
In order to get more effective it may be better to do a double or triple switch when Tiffert goes out to cross. So that a ball winner (Evans or Alonso) can be there to pick up a loose second ball. Seattle has done this, there is also more pushing of Alonso forward this year than year's past.
With Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero in the box the cross is going to be a tactic. The rest of September saw it used much less frequently (3.59% of passes) than against Vancouver (6.51% of passes). But thinking back to Tiffert's early success in MLS, he was a much better passer. He and the league were both making adjustments. Then there was the ankle injury. Seattle didn't play Tiffert one match and when he did play he was not as effective.
Christian offers no excuse. "The problem with my ankle for the past four weeks isn't easy because you are not at 100%, but in soccer there are I don't know 10-15 days in your career when you are 100%. Pain belongs to the game. It's not easy, but I try my best for the moment and I feel good."
Remember the Rosales-Johnson connection? There are now more paths to that head. More options for the target (Ochoa as a sub, Montero's header to chesty to goal, or even Evans back post).
A bad road defense facing off against three great crossers and two strong forwards? That's a recipe for goals.