With the World Cup starting less than 12 hours after kickoff, most of America's soccer enthusiasts will be focusing on things like the United States v. England or South Africa v. Mexico. We in Seattle, though, have the final match of league play to enjoy, as the Seattle Sounders face last year's Open Cup runners-up DC United.
I'd like to say that this is the same old United, but they aren't. No longer will the Sounders be able to count on Josh Wicks helping the opposite team out. No longer will Emilio and Fred be loafing around the pitch. Instead this is a new United that has found some great young players and anchored by Jaime Moreno. Which really means that they are finding new ways to lose, or draw. They still aren't winning.
What does Seattle need to do to pick up a win at Qwest Field rather than last year's draw?
Contain the Young Wingers - Chris Pontius (not the MTV guy) and Andy Najar have speed, technical flair and solid tactical knowledge. They both are playing like veterans, and they will either be stars or out of the league within three years. Yes, I just said that about a 17-year-old. Seattle has been solid in run-of-play defense this season, but these two offer new challenges.
James Riley and Leo Gonzalez must use a containment strategy rather than attempt to stop them in a singular battle. If Riley and Leo are left for long periods with either of those two on the flanks there are likely going to be tactical fouls. This years Sounders are not good in those situations. Containing those wings will be vital to slowing down DC new, young and speedy attack.
Counter Back - Every reader here already knows that other teams bunker and counter against the Sounders at Qwest. It is time for the Sounders to take advantage of the opposing team's youthful speed and counter back. With Seattle's speed on the left wing in Steve Zakuani and great on-ball skills on the right with Freddie Ljungberg Seattle can counter as well.
Seattle's counters should not be direct play, but instead should use the 1-2 passing that has been Sigi's signature when the Sounders are at their best. Rapid transitions from defensive third to offensive third will create pressure and the generally youthful opponent, and play to Seattle's strengths as well.
Ljungberg - If he's on the right, as is almost certain to happen, Seattle can not go long stretches without the ball at his feet. While his off-ball runs are strong, too often he goes unnoticed. But when the ball is at his feet and he has the angle that wingers have by nature he doesn't get doubled, and has the space to create on the dribble.
While last weekend didn't see him tally an assist or goal, it was a strong performance that deserved praise. Another like that will likely wind up in the scoresheet, and show a national audience that not all of the great talents went to that South Africa tourney.
TV is ESPN2 with Glenn Davis. Radio will have Thom Beuning and Pete Fewing
Gamethread will be hosted by Jeremiah. Black&Red United claim that we don't have quality gamethreads, just quantity. I could ask you to prove them wrong, but they don't understand things like sample size... (still love you guys)
I'll be pre-gaming at Elysian Fields starting at 4:30PM in the 1st Ave Room
Sounders and Union will get to see if there is a World Cup bump first hand as they will be on ESPN2 to restart the league after the Group Stage Break.