Though there's one motor gone
We can still carry on
Comin' in on a wing and a prayer
That's not a Bon Jovi reference, but a WW II song. Ok, really its a mixed metaphor for both. In this case Sounders FC is doing some things very well, but in other areas they struggle.
That's where we get to the winning of the phrase - On a wing and a prayer
In poor condition, but just managing to get the job done.
The tie streak is at five league matches. The Rave Green have fallen from Second in the league/conference to 4th in league and 3rd in conference. The offense is sputtering. In their first six they had a Goals For Average of 1.6 and 0.5 Goals Against Average. In their last five they are are at 1.2 For and 1.2 Against.
Sigi and the Sounders tried a few things different in this match to correct those recent deficiencies and again bumped into the refereeing situations.
Saturday night the primary differences were Ljungberg to the Right Mid, Brad Evans at the Attacking Mid with the injury replacements of Tyson Wahl and Peter Vagenas.
Tyson Wahl in my mind continued to show that he is a solid if unspectacular Left Back for a flat four, but we again saw the opposition's Right Mid come in against the LB and serve the ball up quite well. The fingers don't just point to Wahl, but also to Jhon Hurtado on Moreno. My warnings were issued prior to the match that Ekpo would get his, I was wrong. It was Pat Noonan that took advantage of the situation on the Left. Ekpo though did plenty in the second half, besides that faked injury and injustice. Left Back continues to be a problem, particularly when Sounders are playing without their best Defensive Mid to cover wide as necessary.
But on that beautiful evening, Alonso was not playing. Instead Sigi slotted Vagenas into the Defensive Mid role, bypassing Brad Evans (who readers here think is the 2nd best DM on the squad). While Vagenas was entirely adequate offensively, and in pure DM roles, he did not display the range to cover wide, and the Crew put the ball on those wings in the attack. He also teamed up with Evans too often in putting the ball up the center of the pitch, rather than out wide where the magic could happen.
Freddie Ljungberg too often had his hands waving like a Sim calling for the ball out on the Right Wing. Steve Zakuani was forced to watch the action while Vagenas, Evans, Montero hooked up in the center and turned it over. The skill and the speed lived on the wings. Ljungberg showed flashes of EPL brilliance against the Crew embarrassing their defensive line on occasion. Zakuani, even double teamed, showed that it is quite possible that his name means "Fleet of foot, skilled in mind, just plain better than you." Now the angelic winger likely won't take well to that praise, but when he touches the ball the crowd expects at least two men to get beat, if not more.
I really liked the two Wenger trained products on the wings, they displayed dynamism in space and were consistent threats. They created the rare opportunities and even when the threats on the Crew keeper came from the center they more often were when one of the wingers dove into the center after ditching their defender like a younger brother trying to tag along on the trip to 7-11. When Alonso comes back it will be exciting to see Sigi go with Zakuani-Evans-Ljungberg. Because Alonso shows the vision of a box-to-box man when he's with possession. The offense will be better with Osvaldo healthy.
But this blame the referees thing has to stop. Every team has to deal with it in the league, and there are at least three teams dealing better than the Sounders. By the measure of Fouls Suffered Sounders FC are getting 12.8 a match, more than any other team, and it is obviously the strategy for the league to hit the Rave Green hard and often. So rather than making statements like
"If you don't think that they're doing their job, of course you're going to tell them. For me that's quite natural. Maybe it's not natural here (in USA). I think maybe it was more being annoyed that we're getting red cards, at least when I spoke to him (the referee)....In soccer it's sometimes very important to tell the ref so they know when they did wrong."
Punish them by getting that Penalty Kick in the net.
Rather than have your coach say
So if we're distracted by the referee, that's going to take away from that, because it's not as automatic for us on the field as it is for a Houston, that has a core of seven players that have played 120 matches together. So it makes a big difference.
instead convert those set pieces. Convert that league leading Foul Suffered number even 5% of the time and the team as 6 more goals to its name (they've only got 1 directly from the set). Sure, maybe 5% is high. How 'bout just 2% then? That would be two more goals (again without the one success). Two more doesn't seem like much, does it?
A random distribution of those two goals would mean that at one of them happens during the five straight draws. That would be two more points on the table and a 2nd in Conference/3rd overall. What if they both happened during separate matches during the streak (say last night and at Chicago?) That would be a 2nd/2nd situation and a league leading GD of +8.
Sounders FC will be fouled. It will happen early and often. Rather than looking to the referee, or elbowing the opponent (Marshall, Montero) instead punish the opposing keeper. Punish the net. Quickly restart and take advantage of the other side being distracted by the poor officiating. It is now apparent that the only way the league can stop the Freddyain is by fouling them. Montero draws 3 a match for 27 and Ljungberg draws 2.75 a match for 22, both are in the top 7 in the league.
That's the counter. The league will stop fouling, when it stops working.
Lastly, congrats to Fredy Montero for about as fine a game as can be had by a Forward that neither scores nor assists. He was focused, quickly restarted after his fouls, rolled much less often. Combine his last two games next month and he can get that June Player of the Month. Unless Steve Zakuani, Freddie Ljungberg, Nate Jaqua, or Kasey Keller beat him to it.
Draws are fine - on the road, but its time to get some wins.