Its match one in the Heritage Cup, and match 10 in League play. Currently the Sounders are exactly average on record, and if the referees haven't blown three calls (two that they admitted) they would be even on Goal Differential. They'd also have another win.
While the team has underperformed, their record looks even worse than their underperformance indicates. Earlier this week I noted that the cause of the defensive woes really just comes down to set-plays but Seattle needs this points. Not just to win a minor trophy, but also to use the lead up to the World Cup to catch the teams that are down men (Galaxy, RSL, Crew, and more). Seattle was not weakened by the USA, New Zealand and others preparing for the biggest tournament on the globe and so must pick up points now. A great run could produce 10 points in four matches, but that would need to start with a win today.
What are the keys to earning that victory?
James Riley - Riley is going to be tasked with shutting down the Bobby Convey. Both here at Sounder at Heart and over at CenterLineSoccer Riley and Convey have gotten attention. The reason is pretty clear. Riley started but did not finish the disater at Buck Shaw, and Convey has re-invented himself this season. The former national teamer is a great feeder of the throughball and can not be allowed space to implement his vision. Ideally this won't rest solely on Riley, as either Alonso or Ianni will be around to help, but with James still getting forward he has to time those runs as well today as he ever has.
The 4-2-1-3 will leave space for a good winger, and Convey is marginal All-Star material at this time. If the 'Quakes can launch effective counters down the left the Sounders will get beat for a goal. He's been that good. Riley can stop that, but he is also the best server of a long ball in the air on offense, and provides width when the Right Wing makes diagonal runs. Proper balance will be difficult.
Set Play Defense - Seattle has been quite weak on this facet this year. This match is another where the opposing side will have the size advantage, but that was true most of last season as well. At least with the likely pairing of Alonso and Ianni as Defensive Midfielders the Sounders add another marking option who can stop a primary target on the set-play.
The other aspect of the pairing is that they should be able to clog the penalty area with an extra body. Rather than a triangle, the Sounders will have a box in the area. This should further limit shooting options and reduce the corners won. That's the first step in giving up less goals, the second is to actually mark the opposition.
Fredy Montero - Has he learned the lesson that Sigi tried to teach him? Are we going to see more than five minutes of brilliant, and instead see inspired play throughout his time on the pitch? Because while the Sounders are capable of scoring a goal without Montero playing well. They aren't capable of scoring two. Montero at a high focus is a player that deserves to be in a better league.
Montero at his current rate of focus is a player who deserves to be in MLS. Greatness is something that he can accomplish, but it will take him making runs, communicating with his teammates, applying high pressure and working well with Mr Ljungberg. Seattle could win without Fredy today, but it will have to be with a complete defensive performance and a single goal. With Fredy they could finally breakout and score in bunches.
TV: KONG with Arlo and later Fox Soccer Channel (delayed at 3PM)
Radio: 97.3 with Arlo
UEFA Champions League results will not be played in stadium. Post match Gorilla FC will be hosting a watch party at Elysian Fields. Here's a preview post at sbnation.com/soccer
Gamethread will be hosted by Jeremiah
You may see me on the big screen in the stadium