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Winning Matters - Or why this draw could be the end

Seattle is teetering now on the brink. As of this writing both DC and Salt Lake are winning as away teams and earning points that will change the outlook of the playoffs. Sure, this technically wasn't a must win, but there are now only 6 points available at home.

This was as important a match in the league as this young franchise has played, and maybe will play. At this point it looks like Seattle will be in the running for the final two Wild Card spots during late October facing KC on the Road and Dallas at Home.

In the first half the Reds DOMINATED Seattle. They dominated on all three keys from my pre-match post. Toronto's defensive intensity in the middle third disrupted the generally poor passing by Seattle in that area, their width included Brennan and Wynne and they didn't let it turn into a keeper battle. They kept the pressure on Keller instead.

The second half was different though, and I'm slightly confused as to why it turned out that way. Here's two Sigi quotes for some perspective.

On developing team identity… "We’re an expansion team, so there are still growing pains. We’re still finding our identity when crisis hits. Today we didn’t get off to a good start so it becomes who steps up and grabs the reins of the team of horses and says ‘this is the way we are going to go.’ There wasn’t anything tin the first half that I was impressed with, with the exception of a few saves by Keller. It’s important that we sort it out. When you have one foot in a hole and one on a banana peel who’s the one who’s going to bring the rope?"

So he saw the problems in the first half and gave the team an opportunity to right their own ship. They didn't, and so a substitution was made.

On substitutions… "I felt we needed to get a little more energy, more play in there. I didn’t think our balance was good at the time."

Exit Fredy Montero. Enter Peter Vagenas. BUT to a different role than we usually see. He played as a deep midfielder, more a defender and a linker from the back to the traditional mids, where Osvaldo Alonso stepped up as a box-to-box guy. Brad Evans went out to the right, and Freddy Ljungberg went to the top.

It worked. It worked well even. Vagenas didn't suck. More importantly for the sputtering offense Brad Evans had his best game as primarily a right sided player and Osvaldo Alonso entered the attack on a regular basis. Seattle then proceded to continue pushing the ball forward, but just could not convert.

The "energy" switch was the final one. Seb Le Toux came on for Zakuani. It has become routine, and tiresome. Zakuani had sparked the offense. He played a solid match, better defensively than usual, even picking up the ball in the box a few times. I likely would have gone Seba for Jaqua at that point, but when a coach gets the Vagenas for Montero move so brilliantly, who am I to question?

The signs as to what the team needs to do to return to its winning ways are there, oddly the quotes most pertinent for that are from Freddie Ljungberg, who may be a Swede by way of England, but he's already got this playoff thing figured out;

On today’s match . . . "They tried to do well defensively. We could be a bit more composed. I think we got a bit scared that they were hunting us down. If we keep the ball a bit better, I think we will be fine."

On Sounders FC season . . . "I think up there in Toronto and in Houston are the two best games we have played. Today was not one of our best games. That’s for sure. When we were in Houston, which I think is probably the league’s best team, we played really well. If you look at that weekend, we played much better. Today was bad. Like I said before, a lot of the players are not used to, it’s a new franchise, maybe not used to the pressure that comes from the playoffs."

On Ljungberg’s mentality . . . "We played so well in Houston. I was looking forward to today. I am a little bit frustrated. We created some chances in the end that we could’ve won the game. So, that is frustrating. The only thing I could put my finger on is that we looked nervous. We didn’t play, we didn’t pass the ball very well."

Emphasis my own

Ljungberg gets it. This is crunch time. This isn't time to tack like an expansion team, this is time to act like the team that set the league on fire in March and April.

Seattle is on the brink.
Next week that means the brink of winning its first US Open Cup.
The rest of the season it means on the brink of missing the MLS Cup Playoffs.

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