How hard do we try to fit the Sounders offensive woes into our preconceived narrative? Fans of teams like Barcelona and Brazil see the Rave Green as too direct. Fans of Fucito, Nyassi and other speedsters see a lack of that now. There still isn't a traditional target man, as Eddie Johnson drifts wide and prefers the ball at his feet unless he's banging in a cross. Others want to see more outside shooting. The opinion is out there that Seattle doesn't use enough throughballs.
What if the offense isn't actually significantly broken? The image accompanying this story is of Seattle's shot attempts inside the box against the Columbus Crew. As sidereal recently pointed out Shots in the Box are decently tied to goals scored, the reason for that is because last year 19.51% of shots in the box became goals. The Sounders, even with their potent offense converted an impressive 21.20%. This year that number is down a bit for both the league (17.19%) and the team (13.58%). For the league in the "Opta era" is 18.84%.
Those shots are much more effective than shots from outside the 18 for the league are just over 4%, for Seattle last year it was at 6.40% but has fallen in line with the league average this season. Where the Sounders are particularly pained is in the 18. This is most clearly true for the four games where they failed to score.
Against the Crew the Sounders took 11 shots inside the danger zone. They didn't fall to the blocks syndrome of last year (Montero, Alonso and Fucito being the biggest victims). Instead they failed at a couple simple attempts; most of those failures were with balls at Seattle players' heads. Alvaro Fernandez' miss being the biggest example. Still if a team creates 11 shots inside the 18 one would expect them to score a goal or two, not to mention the ten shots from outside of the box which may get a team one.
But, it's a pattern in the poor goal scoring games. While in none of the others did they generate so many opportunities, the team only gave up two goals in those matches. Against Real Salt Lake those shots were again almost entirely headers, four of five, and none of the attempts were on frame. Maybe Seattle deserved one in that game, but with only a single block and none threatening the keeper probably not. Still they are now to 16 attempts (11 from headers) in the 18 without a goal.
Against the San Jose Earthquakes? Eight attempts, five via the head. Over at D.C. United? Four attempts, all by headers, all off target. A couple of those scoreless games don't deserve goals. Even with Seattle's poor averages (if one is to assume that an average is stable, let's just do that for now) a team like the Sounders can expect to convert more often than they have in those matches. Each came down to missed headers; 20 of the 28 missed shots were via headers. That soccer players aren't as good at scoring via the head as they are with their feet isn't a surprise. But still, the Sounders do score some neat goals via header.
Getting that magic back gets Seattle goals. In their scoreless games the team has left goals on the table. They are creating the opportunities, particularly against the ‘Quakes and the Crew. In fact if you remove those four games the team is right at the league average for converting shots in the box.The mistakes are rather minor, but the chances exist. Enough of those chances exist that ties in both games would have been deserved. Sigi and squad broke the counter; they just didn't complete their patterns. Small improvements acquire the team two to seven more points in those games. The offense isn't a broken headlight; the glass just needs a little buffing.
* Links are to MLSSoccer.com chalkboards. Data is scraped from Opta at MLSSoccer.com.