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Tactics: Marco Pappa and Sounders down a bad, unbalanced NYCFC

The Seattle Sounders dominated the game early in the second half as they earned a 3-1 win over NYCFC at Yankee Stadium

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the sloppier matches to date this season, the Seattle Sounders went into the confines of Yankee Stadium and squared off with expansion side New York City FC, earning a 3-1 win. From the opening whistle it was clear this was going to be a game without tactical identity for Jason Kreis' side (and they didn't disappoint) while the Sounders took their chances and buried them.

The Sounders didn't deviate from their default posture tactically while on the flipside NYCFC did a thing. While that thing mostly involved being bad, but they generated a few dangerous chances when they were able to break free of the Sounders aggressive defensive posture.

Initial Setup

New York's default posture from the outset involved pushing Mehdi Ballouchy into the middle from the leftside while Pablo Alvarez played off the shoulder of Patrick Mullins as a false 10.  This left the entirety of the NYCFC's playmaking duties to the feet of Mix Diskerud and Ned Grabavoy. It also left acres of space in midfield.

That space was utilized by the Seattle Sounders as Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda pressed high up the pitch putting pressure on Diskerud and Grabavoy's double pivot. That aggressive posture came with a corresponding push of Chad Marshall into midfield to mark Pablo Alvarez when he dropped deep to facilitate linkup play with Khiry Shelton. It was an effective strategy in generating loose balls in the midfield and disrupting NYCFC in transition play. It also came with inherent risk as when it didn't work it left the Sounders defense scrambling leaving Brad Evans to clean up quite a few messes in the back. When that occurred, Jed Brovsky attacked from deep as the left fullback as they pushed to open space at the top of the box for Alvarez and Mix.

For the Sounders part on offense, they aggressively pushed play up the field, but were content to exploit the fact that the entire NYCFC offensive corps had zero intent on pressing or playing defense, especially Mehdi Ballouchy. This gave the Sounders an outlet for much of the first 75 minutes that allowed them to retain and recycle possession. That didn't change much when David Villa entered the match for Ballouchy either.

Marco Pappa overloads the midfield

With NYCFC willing to cede the midfield to the Sounders, Sigi Schmid came out aiming for the jugular in the second half as Marco Pappa dropped into central midfield in conjunction with Alonso and Pineda. With a 4-man midfield against Mix and Grabavoy the Sounders dominated the game content to pass with happy abandon. Dylan Remick asserted himself more on the left offensively to push and pull on the NYCFC defensive shape.

While NYCFC was able to equalize on the counterattack, even the introduction of David Villa was not enough to counter the Sounders control of the midfield. As such the Spanish international spent the first 10 minutes feeling out the game as the Sounders struck twice in that time span as they carved through the NYCFC midfield en route to a 3-1 lead.

Kreis re-balances his team

After scoring their third in beautiful fashion following an 18-pass sequence from the Sounders, Sigi Schmid took Marco Pappa off and added on Lamar Neagle. Kreis immediately responded adding in RJ Allen to push play from the rightback spot while Kwadwo Poku signaled a structural midfield realignment to a 4-3-3. The Sounders sat deeper, content with their 2 goal lead and letting NYCFC shoot from well outside the box. When they won the ball back they used Martins, Neagle, and Remick on the left to attack quickly into the space vacated by RJ Allen, generating a plethora of dangerous chances.


Overall, It was a comprehensive performance from the Seattle Sounders against a severely unbalanced NYCFC side. This is a team that is still in the process of acquiring players and as this game showed it has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. The Sounders are lucky they got to steal three points this early in the season from what amounts to half a team.

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