It's been a long week of assessment. Lots of little things went wrong. Free kicks were not dangerous (that's Part 4 by the way). The wrong players were kicking long balls. Wide play was ineffective. The CAM space was effective in switching but not in penetrating the danger zone. Still despite all the things that went wrong in the ugly loss to the San Jose Earthquakes it was a tightly contested match. There's just one problem. Seattle Sounders FC's goal is not to tightly contest matches with teams below them in the standings. Every single point is needed to make that push for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Partially due to injury and partially by choice the team was responding to San Jose's strengths rather than using their own.
"Against a team that plays more of a kick ball style they skip the midfield almost every time I wasn't helping too much on defense," Marc Burch said to Sounder at Heart this week. "It was more our centerbacks battling it out. In other games against teams that possess more, that work harder and keep the ball on the ground having an outside back playing left midfield is good option.'
That first line about kick ball is important. Seattle is normally one of the least long ball teams but in that match were very long bally. They aren't a league leader in fouls (in fact 8th least), but they responded by giving out more than they took. San Jose is normally foul heavy, leading the league with most cards for fouls. Sounders FC do lead the league in reds, but get the 4th least yellows.
As a team both strategically and tactically they tried to beat San Jose at San Jose's game. Rather than proactively defining themselves they responded. The temporary suspension of identity lead to issues with players having to behave in ways that they are not best suited.
This idea of matching up to strengths rather than assertion of self is not rampant on the year, but two of the one goal losses are clearly cases of reaction (both San Jose games). Sigi and the club have a system. It may be time that whether within an injury crisis or not to stick with it. Like for like replacements means that the players not being replaced fit into the puzzle better than they would having to change their own roles while working alongside temporary starters with lower skill levels.
That attacking powerhouse we've grown to know and love is still there, within the broken pieces and a roster that may have holes. The downhill slope of attack is available. The routes may be different than they were in '09-'12. But the proactive, aggressive posture of superiority can still be declared on match day.
The enemy's goal needs to be down again.