Ah, the stretch run. Many pundits and fans tend to focus on the final few games as if they are more important than any other. Time skews our perception of the game, but honestly, in the Sounders case those first five matches matter just as much as the last five. Without those nine points, these upcoming ten (why not hope high) could be meaningless.
ALL Matches Matter.
Except for these little tricks of tie-breakers and what not. I don't care how a team gets to its final point totals. I have seen no indication that recent team performance is a stronger indicator of victory than the totality of team performance. But, this match, against CD Chivas USA (the Goats) is actually more important, if only because if Seattle ties with Chivas and one other team the first tie-breaker will be points earned per match in head to head competition. And there's a fair chance that a three way tie does occur at the end of the season.
So how will the Sounders finally beat Chivas USA? How will they claim a spot in the Playoffs?
Shoot more often - Ignore the past matches against Chivas - Force the flow
Shoot more often
Specifically to put those shots on goal. Sounders are 9th in Shots taken, but are last in % shots on goal. To make this worse the Rave Green are further from league average at the bottom than the leader is from the middle. Seattle just needs to place those shots on goal, challenge the keeper. The do not need to finish more (team is 3rd in turning shots on Goal into Goals), just take more shots.
In fact if Sounders had the league average rate for shot on goal % maintaining their rates of shots and % on Goal to Goal they would have four more goals. Four Goals through this point of the season would put there GD at +11 and first by that measure. Distribution of those four goals would determine record, but I'm certain that there would be at least one more win. They would go from the 9th best offense to 6th. Of note is that Chivas' offense is the 13th best offensive club.
The only way to challenge Zach Thorton is to actually challenge him. The wide shots have to cease. Force the slightly overweight keeper to work.
Chivas has had some significant turnover. The past doesn't matter much. They don't have Eskandarian or Harris as they were traded. They won't have Talley due to accumulation. They added Jesus. Ok, Jesus Padilla. That's three players with significant time in the past matches that won't play and one that Seattle has never seen that they will.
Bornstein will likely shift to the interior on defense with either Jorge Flores or Ante Jazic at the Right Back. If I'm in charge I go with the younger faster Flores to deal with Sounders speed. Either way, it means that the backline is in ways 50% changed.
Sigi will have to go with the recent tape, and not judge Chivas by their early season performance. Player personnel have turned over too much. This isn't an issue of "form" it is an issue of who is available to be played.
Lastly, the addition of Jesus Padilla from the real Chivas will offer a challenge. Sure he isn't DP quality, but what he is is a converted Mexican League forward who now plays as the Right Mid. He won't be a huge help defensively, and on the same side oddly as Seattle's weakest attacking player on defense. Leo Gonzalez and Trujilio will have their work cut out for them. The Sounders left side will be an up and down battle with cherry picking and long balls.
Force the flow
Sounders though can't get caught in the long ball game. They don't play it very well. At their best they are a team with the ball at their feet attacking the opponent's defense. This has been true since the beginning of the season, and no matter which players take the pitch.
I'm expecting to see the 4-1-3-2, but I'm hoping that the DM will be Vagenas. I'm still surprised at my conversion, but with his strength in defense it enable Alonso to defend forward and attack. Osvaldo is a strong player on the attack, and is better at reading the defense. He could then distribute to the wings with the two Arsenal products or up to Montero/Jaqua.
Yes, it is counter-intuitive to say that Vagenas would enable more of midfield flow game than a punting attack, but his conservative passing style utilizes the midfield rather than by-passes it. This strategy also has Le Toux and Evans on the bench. Substitutions that add either speed or tactical awareness to the lineup.
The University of Washington hosts the Trojans of Southern California in a sellout, and yet Qwest is still a modified sell-out of 32,000. Most MLS teams don't draw when pitted against college, or even high school, and yet here that isn't the case. Some day, some business student is going to write a Masters on what First&Goal did here with Sounders FC and how they tapped our innate love of sport in Seattle. Yes, LOVE of sport as this weekend will have 150,000 people watch games on Saturday.
A win would push Seattle over the 90% mark at making the playoffs. It would put them at a pace for 45 points as an expansion side.
FC Dallas signed an academy player today. MLS continues to adapt.
The TOA (break-off USL-1 owners) are meeting with/have met with MLS leadership this week. The future may see an MiLB, or basically an MLS Reserve/Farm side that would exist in not-quite MLS markets, but places that have better chances of being future expansion cites than the USL-2 markets. Yep, I'm speculating.
Lastly, the Statistics page has been updated.