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US Open Cup Final: Seattle v Chicago - Scouting Report And Tactical Breakdown

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Kasey Keller commands the backline trying to prevent goals and win trophies.
Kasey Keller commands the backline trying to prevent goals and win trophies.

Previewing this match it is clear that the Chicago Fire are a different team than they were during the last meeting. Both teams certainly have injury concerns to key players, but the facet of the game that will be most effected is different. One can consider that there are four portions of any game, in ways these are what determined the old three band nomenclature of formations. There's the attacking third (Offense), the central third (Possession), the defensive third (Defense) and set-pieces. If we work on these assumptions we can break the game into tactical segments and see which team is favored.

The Sounders offense is clearly powered by Fredy Montero and those who move around him. The man that most signifies the success is the break-out performance of Alvaro Fernandez. There are certainly others who get on the scoresheet by design, but Fernandez' goals show how the Sounders use off-ball movement and technical ability to create. Trying to limit the offense will be a Chicago defense that is led by a very young keeper in Sean Johnson and a backline anchored by Cory Gibbs. They are fast, but inexperienced and the aggressive wingers tend to get forward leaving the back open to attack from wide angles.

In the central third Seattle uses a mix of extraordinary defense and rapid flank attacks. But the Fire tend to sit at least two midfielders back with an intent to absorb pressure and spark their attacks through the center or left. Seattle is the more likely team to skip the midfield. With Logan Pause and Pavel Pardo sitting back this should free more space for Osvaldo Alonso to join Mauro Rosales (if healthy) transitioning from possession into assault on the goal.

Klopas attack is based on speed with little to no air attack. They will use mid-range through balls by Sebastian Grazzini to get behind a defense with the speed of Dominic Oduro. Seattle's defense is a bit prone to an overaggressive offisde trap and is a bit slow laterally due to slightly older Jeff Parke. Rescuing the Sounders is the man in the net who continues to have a strong season. Kasey Keller is capable of making up for his team's mistakes more often than not.

Neither team is an air threat in dead ball situations. Chicago has had its best success taking quick shots, flooding the box and hoping for the lucky ball. They are particularly weak on corners. Sigi Schmid's side tends to the in-swinging ball and knocks it either back or across for a well-placed shot. They give up goals through mental errors when an opponent is left open, not by getting beat through athleticism or skill.

 

SOUNDERS

Key Players

Favors?

Key Players

FIRE

Offense

Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez

SEA

Sean Johnson, Cory Gibbs

Defense

Possession

Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales

SEA

Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause

Possession

Defense

Kasey Keller, Jeff Parke

CHI

Dominc Oduro, Sebastian Grazzini

Offense

Set-pieces

Strong service, multiple passes

SEA

great rebounds, weak in air

Set-pieces

On paper Seattle is favored (minus .5 goals on the spread), but it is still a one-off Final. Chicago need only be better for 90 minutes to win. They have the talent to compete and seem likely to get a goal, but the Sounders seem likely to get more. The Sounders offense is built on the very things which the Fire are vulnerable.