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Keys to 2nd Leg at Houston Dynamo

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 Being wary of repeating oneself, I still have to think about how this team in Rave Green plays.  When are they at their best, and when do they struggle?  The defining moments of this season likely indicate what the needs are, and the previous four matches now against Houston can show us a few trends in how Kinnear and Schmid see the opposition.

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via library.galciv2.com

And maybe this whole season gets us back to where we were when we saw Seattle as a possible Supporters Shield winner.  Back when Sigi's Game was coined, and we saw a team that played a rapid ball-at-feet counter anchored by Kasey Keller which enabled the backline to take a few risks.

How can Seattle do this against the more experienced Dynamo on their pitch?

Precision Passing - Attacking Defense - Mental Composure

Precision Passing

Freddie Ljungberg has been on this all week.  He talks about the more open nature of this match due to the win or go home nature here

I think we need to play a bit better than we did at home. I think it’s going to be a bit more of an open game, I hope. They are probably going to go for it a little bit more and hopefully open it up for us a little bit. But especially our passing game needs to be better so that we can get out of tight situations. It’s going to be a small pitch.

But he really is talking about a we, not a "the other guys."  The whole team needs to get better at its passing.  The open nature should help, but when Houston marks tight, and they do so quite well, Seattle needs to string some passes together and so having that set of players on the pitch that know each other is vital.  Early in the season Freddie had trouble adjusting, but now he feels that he's learned.

I think there is always a learning period of learning each other. There is of course a learning period. For me, I think that Europe goes a lot quicker and maybe there were certain situations earlier when they haven’t looked up yet and I wanted the ball a little bit early. Sometimes maybe when I wanted to play the ball early on I hit it in there when they were not in position yet. But now it feels like we are more in tune and it works well.

To feel confident in victory see how many passes Sounders can string together without a turnover.  Watch the ball move from Hurtado to Alonso to Riley to Evans to Zakuani to Gonzalez to Ljungberg to Montero and know that the Sounders will be winning.  If they get that movement back, they will win.  Because that is the game that we loved early, and only started seeing again in October.  That kind of game puts the opposition on their heals, and can lead to a flood of Rave Green in offense.

Attacking Defense

Adrian Hanauer said that he was going to build a team that played attacking soccer.  We kept hearing about this mythical beast.  At the end of the year the offense was merely average though stacked with talent, but still we all feel as if this is an attacking team that just can't finish.

But what makes it more intriguing is that so many of the best attacks are really started at the back from a strong defensive stop or a great save.  Then as the ball moves forward the wingbacks do as well, and now we are seeing Osvaldo Alonso from his defensive midfielder role, or even Patrick Ianni from the centerback, enter in the final third and the offense.  When three of the defensive five are in the final third it means that there is always at least one man open.

Certainly that 35 yards or so will wind up crowded, but an open man is an open man.  This gets back to the passing, but the fact is that if Leo, Riley, Alonso and Ianni are in the attack the Sounders are more likely to score.  The team can afford the risk because they have a better keeper than the rest of the league, and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is not just a fast and agile defender, he is intelligent enough to foul to stop the counter.

Mental Composure

Said fouls though for the entire team must not be the retaliatory kind.  Seattle is NOT a physical team, but they do get chippy, and they have lost their composure.  They can not give the referee any opportunity to change the game, so they must foul first and smartly.

They can not return to their immature nature of fouling second and harder earning Cautions and Ejections.  If they do, they likely lose.  Keller can stop the PKs sure, but I'd rather have this match come down to run-of-play, the rapid counter, or a nice old fashioned Ljungberg corner service to Jaqua.

The best news concerning their composure is that Seattle has played well in their most important matches.  Red Bull to open the season, at Toronto for the first road win, at DC United to win the Open Cup, at Columbus and Kansas City to seal their trip to the Playoffs.  Be it in the Open Cup's knockout nature or the four most important matches of the regular season Seattle has stepped up and delivered.

Quite simply now it is win, or go home.

Sunday - Noon - KING5 in Seattle market, FSN throughout their region (OR, AK, ID, WA, some MT)

Previous matches v Houston

Leg One review by me, by Carlos
Leg One preview
Preview of last match at Houston
Open Cup SemiFinal preview and quick thoughts on result
Hosting Houston preview and review

I'm not going to do a linkfest to my old writings for every match, but this one is different.  It is one of two rivals in the young MLS Sounders' history, and it is my first on the network.