The other night Sounders fans were treated to a series of stellar performances. Again the stands were raucous, the crowd was an active participant. Match Day Two though saw a few things tactically that were new from Sounders FC.
First we saw Steve Zakuani start on the left wing, not wide left, because he really was primarily an attacker. I'm going to break him down in a little bit. Second we learned that though Osvaldo Alonso is being called a defensive midfielder, he's really a classic box-to-box guy who plays the most defensively of this six pronged attack. The success of Hurtado in marking his man has let Alonso come forward more often than any D-mid in this league except for Beckerman.
The activity of Alonso and Hurtado controlling Javier Morales really helped Sounders FC win the ball while Real Salt Lake played its possession without attacking game. The difference between the Rave Green Club and Salt Lake was that while Salt Lake would knock the ball around the middle third waiting for things to go right, Seattle players would immediately and swiftly turn to the attack.
So while RSL saw balls skipping past their intended long distance targets Seattle players used short passess and flair to move the attack forward. Sounders' moves led to more worthwhile shots early in the match. It wasn't until about the 50th minute or so when RSL looked effective on offense, but already down by one and forced into an attack.
That's when Kasey Keller stood on his head and earned the Player of the Week honors for the league. Keller stood on his head and not just saved the threatening shots, but he saved the game. Seattle is up 2-0-0 for 6 points due to their two Player of the Week winners, and a lot of teamwork. But Saturday night was an example as to why an EPL keeper can earn what Keller does. He changes the very dynamic of the game. His presence will lead to at least 1 more win this year. Remember 6 extra points is all it takes to go from last to last qualifier for the playoffs. Six points. Is that worth the cap hit?
Lastly, on a tactical/formation note Sigi played a 3-1-1-3-2 as Hurtado stepped up into a place where he could disturb Morales and neither fullback came forward much, though Riley did come forward for another cross within the box. We also saw Sigi mix things up through his substitutions moving players around the pitch in order to get Freddie on the pitch, and to have a more defensive roster on the field to preserve the lead. Doug mentioned the idea that Evans was off on his own while Fredy and Freddie displayed their flair, but I think we need a few more matches in order to reserve judgement. Nate Sturgis may not be a regular starter, but he will likely get 20+ appearances due to his ability to play so many roles effectively.
I'm not going to break down Montero's goal. It was a thing of beauty, and Doug already got what I thought was key with Ljungberg's strong influence defensively. In fact it intrigued me that RSL had both Fredy/Freddie marked, and tried to play a man in the zone between the two. That is going to leave a lot of space for Le Toux, Evans, Jaqua and whoever else is on the pitch. Passing out of that double mark will be key. Oh, and Fredy Montero is up for Goal of the Week again.
If the embed still doesn't work, please watch on that link. You will see Steve Zakuani work the left wing using only his right foot. There are six touches in there as he uses both sides of his foot, but never the left. Half way through the move you can see Beltran get turned around due to the over anticipation of a left footed cross, and then a rushed response to the tap right that could have set up Steve-o for his own shot on goal (after two previously blocked), but instead Professor Zakuani gives up the personal glory and feeds his mate. Watch the highlight again and pay attention to Steve giving a headfake to the left that gets Beltran to bite and his center-of-gravity forced into the over commit. That footwork and flair shows exactly why Zakuani was coveted by Sounders FC, and the potential for all three attacking mids to dazzle with their feet at times.
BUT, I don't expect Steve to start in Toronto. It is the most hostile crowd in the league, a rougher place for a rookie, and someone has to sit for Freddie to play 60+ minutes. If I were coaching I would go with Evans at Left Mid, Freddie and then Seba at right. Steven and Sanna can provide offensive spark if necessary, or just high energy if Sounders FC already has the lead.