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Aggressive defensive strategy set up Obafemi Martins' magic

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The Sounders defensive strategy involved shifting a wide midfielder inside to deal with Houston's double pivot and that tactic put them in the position for some magic from Obafemi Martins

Mike Russell/Sounder at Heart

There were a lot of things that coincided to create the Seattle Sounders' only goal in their 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. You could point to the narrow angle snap pass Lamar Neagle makes to start the play. You could point to Dempsey's two-touch spin and then his perfectly weighted pass. You could point to the fact Obafemi Martins spun around Jermaine Taylor like he was using him as a swing dance partner. Despite those three pieces of remarkable individual skill, that play really starts much sooner with the way Sigi Schmid opted to set up his defensive structure against Houston's midfield.

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With Houston deployed in their 4-2-3-1 formation, this left the Sounders with an inherent disadvantage during buildup play. The two banks of four with the two pressers typically leaves an unmarked defensive midfielder in buildup play for oppositions. There are quite a few ways of dealing with this zonal disadvantage from adopting a high line and compressing the space between the midfields -- which the Sounders don't do -- to simply dropping a striker into that area and leaving a lone presser up top -- which the Sounders very rarely do.

In this match Schmid opted for a third option, dropping the wide midfielders into the middle of the pitch in combination with Gonzalo Pineda pressing the Houston double pivot. Depending on the side of the ball either of the duo of Lamar Neagle or Andy Rose would drop into midfield marking one of the double pivot duo (either Sturgis/Clark or Sturgis/Garrido as they interchanged frequently) in combination with Pineda.

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We see an exact moment of this type of defensive pressure in the moments preceeding the Dynamo recovering pressure in the 39th minute. David Horst feeds Kofi Sarkodie who is marked by Neagle. With Neagle positioned to prevent a forward pass into Oscar Garcia, Sarkodie is forced to play it inside as Pineda steps up to pressure Clark. The pressure from Neagle forces a bad pass from Sarkodie and Garrido (who is being marked by Rose) has to prevent a midfield turnover in space to Osvaldo Alonso.

So what happens just a minute later when Tyler Deric rolls the ball out to Jermaine Taylor on the left wing?

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The right position at the right time with the right defensive strategy to allow Obafemi Martins to make magic happen. Thanks Sigi.