Not a bad way to enjoy a Saturday huh? 4-0, on goals in every way imaginable except for self inflicted. Front to back, the team seemed to have the game locked down, and Real being short on quality, could do little but concede.
The afternoon was also one of plentiful bounty in the form of haircuts and tacos. Not advised to be done at the same time. You will not enjoy the tacos properly (and with added ingredients), nor will your stylist enjoy you turning your head to eat the taco. The resulting haircut may also be of questionable design.
Really, there isn't much to sum up. RSL was toothless. We were overwhelming. One sided games are very hard to breakdown as if you lose one, seemingly nothing went your way, and when you win, everything just clicked. Still, there are things to be gleamed overall.
Moving the Posts In: Jalil Anibaba
I hadn't watched much of Chicago in the past, it's a kind of out of sight, out of mind (much like how the rest of the country has historically treated Seattle teams).
What I had gathered when we traded to get Jalil was that he had been starting regularly as an out of position RB who was naturally a CB and he was young. That sounded promising.
I don't know what his form was like the last few years, but at this point, I don't see him challenging or breaking the 11 except for injury or call-ups as we're experiencing now. On the ball, he is worse than questionable and his passing is erratic. He's more of a 2009 Zach Scott. That can be seen as a promising thing. Zach Scott has become one of the most improved players I've seen on the Sounders.
To his credit, Anibaba does seem to know his shortcomings and plays a pretty conservative game. His positioning is good, defense is adequate, and he is strong in the air. He doesn't push forward often and seems to pick and choose his times relatively well. The best description would be that he plays within himself and it works. Our back line has been solid due to the return of Leo in form, a strong ZC covering for Traore, Air Marshall controlling his airspace and Anibaba holding his position.
Here's to hoping that he can continue to improve and become a better than adequate MLS CB, but I don't think this is that year.
Moving the Posts Out: Neagle the Winger
I've been critical of Nealge in the past. As a winger, he doesn't quite have the vision of the field or the crossing ability that is usually the hallmark of a typical winger (like Mauro, who had spoiled us for the last few years).
I think I've finally figured out what's working for him. While all of the above is still true, the fact of the matter is that Neagle is really a part time winger, part time forward. Too many times have I seen him drift inside or hang out up high. Usually another forward will fill in at his position and he will hang out for a few minutes until the run of play stops to return. I'm starting to wonder if this is by design. Just as he will switch wings at times, Nealge will shift into a forward position. At it's best, this creates confusion and allows him a few dangerous moments that we all know he is capable of. The PK and the lay off to Barrett were a result of playing up high.
It's good to see that we can morph into some weird 442/433 to allow him to do this, but he is smart enough to know to track back regularly and stay wide to combine or cross to keep the defense honest. Here's to hoping this "amoeba" formation continues to flourish.
In Range: Midfield Chemistry
Nealge earns the PK in the first half. Pineda puts it away. Pappa curls in a beautiful free kick. Nealge lays the ball off to an open Barrett.
Aside from the stoppage time Oba goal, the midfield had dominated and created the opportunities to earn this win.
2011 was a landmark year for the Sounders midfield. 33 goals from 7 midfielders was one of the greatest things I'd seen in MLS (granted, I'd only watched since 2009) or have seen from a midfield group since.
While I don't see the 2014 midfield matching those scoring numbers, I do believe that this team has the potential to be a better overall midfield with the added defensive influence of Pineda. Alonso has been our rock in the middle, but now has a little more room to move forward creatively. Pappa and Nealge put in the effort most of the time to track back and win the ball. This team really has the toughness that 2011 lacked and the edge to create for themselves or for the clinical forwards. If we can stay healthy, I think this midfield gives us the chance to take any team on in the league. Not to look too far forward, but playoffs don't worry me as much as they have in the past.
From the Half Way Line: Cascadia Rivalries
We may not be in the drivers seat (yet) for the Cascadia Cup, but it looks like we're going to be in for an interesting year in the PNW. Portland is on track to miss the playoffs after winning the West which would be an implosion of epic proportions. Vancouver is probably the most dangerous and dynamic as they've ever been since joining the league but still contain opposing offenses as well as a wet paper bag, conceding 2 to us and 3 to the Logs.
We've drawn twice away in this weird, unbalanced home/away year, so long as we can take care of business at home we have a better than decent shot at the cup. Without this unbalanced schedule, I think there is no question we take the cup.
The best part will be watching it all unfold - will Vancouver fire another coach? Which Scot do they sign this season? Will the Timbers actually miss the playoffs after winning the west the year prior? Which Argentine will they sign this year? Is Caleb Porter on the hot seat?
For once, Seattle doesn't have quite the circus running around; I think it's fair to say that the new found Sigi and his attacking style are more than welcome. Dempsey is no longer trying to get integrated or questioned for the national team due to the MLS move, and Oba is finally rested and seemingly settled in Seattle. We a devoid of a seemingly selfish and negative locker room distraction. The team seems to really want to fight for each other. It's a good feeling. It's good to be a Sounder.