After many losses, I've been mildly encouraged after watching the highlights and realizing that it might not have been as bad as I remembered. But not this time. Fair or not, this highlight package paints a rather painful picture, one that includes literally zero offensive highlights for the Seattle Sounders in their 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union. It does show a couple great saves by Stefan Frei and reminds us that he nearly stopped the game's only goal, but the only moment the package shows with the Sounders possessing the ball in the offensive half is when Marco Pappa couldn't do anything before the clock ran out.
Anyway, here's what everyone said and some stats that aren't quite so dire.
Seattle Sounders FC 0 - Philadelphia Union 1
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Venue: PPL Park
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Assistants: Anthony Vasoli, James Conlee
Fourth Official: Daniel Fitzgerald
Weather: Sunny and 84 degrees
PHI - C.J. Sapong (Sheanon Williams) 69'
SEA - Dylan Remick (caution) 30'
SEA - Zach Scott (caution) 49'
LINEUPS & STATS
Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Oniel Fisher, Jimmy Ockford, Zach Scott - captain, Dylan Remick (Chad Marshall 81'); Cristian Roldan, Micheal Azira, Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa, Aaron Kovar (Thomàs 75'); Lamar Neagle (Darwin Jones 70')
Substitutes not used: Troy Perkins, Tyrone Mears, Andy Rose, Victor Mansaray
Total shots: 9 (Pappa, 3)
Shots on goal: 2 (Pappa/Thomàs, 1)
Fouls: 12 (3 players, 2)
Offside: 1 (Jones, 1)
Corner-kicks: 1 (Pappa, 1)
Saves: 4 (Frei, 4)
Philadelphia Union - Brian Sylvestre; Sheanon Williams, Maurice Edu - captain, Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Andrew Wenger (Eric Ayuk Mbu 61'), Vincent Nogueira, Brian Carroll, Cristian Maidana (Fred 78'), Zach Pfeffer (Raymond Gaddis 90+1'); C.J. Sapong
Substitutes not used: John McCarty, Ethan White, Dzenan Catic, Antoine Hoppenot
Total shots: 12 (Sapong, 3)
Shots on goal: 5 (5 players, 1)
Fouls: 4 (Nogueira, 2)
Corner-kicks: 6 (Maidana, 6)
Saves: 2 (Sylvestre, 2)
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, Head coach
I thought we did alright, I thought we played a lot of young players, in essence. I don't know how many guys got their first MLS start tonight. There's a number of guys, I don't know, four guys, who probably if you added all four guys up, they have 200 minutes in the league. A lot of youth out there so we wanted to play well defensively. Stefan Frei kept us in the game with the penalty kick save. I thought we did alright defensively. We were too loose on the goal, obviously, and then we had some chances at the other end but the final passes, the final play, makes it difficult so with all the players that were missing, the difficult part we also don't have a chance to train. If we could, if we had the same amount of injuries and everything else where we could train with this group for a week, then may things would be a little different. But we're playing without a lot of important veteran players and of the same token, we didn't get any chance to train with those players either.
On if injuries and the short downtime played a part in choosing the lineup
No, I mean we've had guys out for a long time. Obafemi Martins is out for a while, Clint Dempsey gets suspended, Chad Barrett has been out for a while with the hamstring injury, Osvaldo Alonso has been out for a while, Leonardo Gonzalez is out right now as well so when you add all that up it's a significant group of players.
On if any of the players getting their first start stood out
I thought they all did alright, I thought Oneil Fisher played well at outside back when we moved him over to the left when we went three in the back. I thought Cristian Roldan continues to play well for us also so those guys have been alright. Jimmy Ockford had his first start, we weren't sure if he could play 90 minutes because he's been out for a month. He played his first 60 minutes back last week so he hasn't really been in that group and I thought he did alright.
On balancing the growing pains with the desire to go for the Supporters shield
If you put a young player out on the field next to a veteran player, it's a lot easier for the young player. Lamar Neagle has been a dangerous player for us when he is on the field with a Dempsey or a Martins but now when he has to lead the front line and there's not those other guys to take pressure off of him it's a little bit more difficult for him, does he have that quality? And for sure if you put a young player out with a veteran player it makes it easier for the young player. When you puts young players next to each other, you know there is growing pains and there are going to be mistakes of youth and of inexperience. We talked about those a little but after the game, in terms of ‘Okay, these are things that we have to learn' and again, if we had the ability to train for a week then things change a little bit as well.
On bringing on Chad Marshall at forward
We just, you know, which he did a few times, we hoped that he would be able to flick balls on, cause some danger. We also wanted to get some set pieces like right at the end of the game, Marco Pappa just banged the ball off the guy and get a corner kick. we would rather have that then have the game end with him trying to screen the ball. Those are all little errors. Chad flicked on a few balls for us, he was a target, but that's not how we normally play. So again, not being able to train with any of that makes it difficult for the team. Its so against out normal style that the guys really don't know how to play that way.
On if they've ever used him in that position before
Oh, I don't know. Probably at Columbus we pushed him up at the end of the game a few times.
On what he saw on the goal
We gave too much space on the cross. That deep on the field, you have to get tighter to the crosser of the ball and then obviously, I don't know if it was Jimmy Ockford or Zach Scott, someone lost their marker in the box and I thought our line was too deep, you know, you cant be that deep at that stage.
On Stefan Frei
I thought Stefan has played well. He made the PK save but he also made another save that kept us in the game as well. He's been a rock for us back there.
On how the attacking game plan changed with all of the absences
Well we only have one forward so it changes your attacking line. You have to play one forward and we're playing with six midfielders, or you know, five midfielders in essence so we're asking Marco Pappa to play a different role and play underneath a striker. Does he get high enough, he's not always comfortable enough in that role. Neagle's played every minute of every game for us in this run because we haven't had any other forwards so, in fairness to Neagle, he's dead on his feet right now. We don't have Barrett, we don't have Martins, we don't have Dempsey obviously and that a lot of quality to be missing.
Stefan Frei, Goalkeeper
Thoughts on his performance
Yeah, I mean, we're in the game. We had a chance at the end, I think, to get a point out of it. Obviously its tough, you know, we've been struggling with some injuries so, also getting our fitness back, making sure we're healthy. It's been tough stretches but that being said I think we came out strong and competed for 90 minutes which is a great sign. I think it was a great learning experience for us, especially some of the younger guys getting to start, which is great thing in the long run that is going to go a long way for us. You kind of just have to take those positives out and move on.
On if playing with young guys makes it tough to communicate
It's okay. We train together on a daily basis so we all know what is expected of us. Its just some things you can't recreate in practice, you know, when things get dicey out there on the field, your instinct sometimes takes over so you need to have some experience so today I think that was great, to get some experience for those guys. Like I said though, I think we did well. We were in it for 90 minutes, had a chance to get that goal back at the end, and we're fighting for 90 minutes. A lot of people could use the excuse that we've been traveling, we've had these injuries, we have guys who are playing 90 minute after 90 minute and all these excuses but I think we put in a good shift today and I'm proud of the guys.
On what he thought of the two players getting the first start in the backline
I think they did great. They had some guys who are tough opponents and I think we handled them quite well. They didn't have too many chances, I think we, even at the end when we kind of changed formation and opened up n the back a little bit, I think we prevented the counter quite well. They did well. I'm happy for them to get the start and also to get that experience.
On if he was expecting the foul call on the disallowed goal
On what he saw on the PK save
We go over PKs all the time. Tom Dutra kind of scouts what the tendencies are and what not. Then it's just seeing if you have a feeling of what is going to happen and then just try to hold as long as you can and push and I was fortunate enough to make the save but, unfortunately it didn't matter in the end.
Aaron Kovar, Midfielder
Obviously it's just a bigger stage. A good opportunity tonight but unfortunate result. I thought we really worked hard and kind of battled but obviously, this is where you want to be playing and Philadelphia is a really good team. Great stadium, great fans to be playing in front of but just and unfortunate result.
On what Schmid was looking for from him
I think he wanted me to be active near the box, try to get some good services in. I had a good one to Gonzalo Pineda early on but yeah, just kind of be active, be goal dangerous and we had a couple good looks, just unfortunate that they didn't find the back of the net.
On all the absences and if he thinks he will get more playing time because of them
Yeah, I hope so. I just have to try to take every opportunity possible and keep working hard and good things tend to happen.
On what he can take away from this result
Yeah I mean it was a good experience for me. IT was just learning how small the margins are, especially on the road. I mean we were so close to playing to zero in the back and it s just an unlucky result.
On if he feels pressure to fix the mistakes quickly
I mean obviously we have some key absences in the team but I think everyone is confident that everyone in this locker room deserves to be here. It's just more of an effort thing really more than a pressure thing.
Jimmy Ockford, Defender
On getting his first start in front of a ton of family and friends
It was amazing and the support was unreal here. I mean, I'm so happy that I could come back and get my first start here and their support was tremendous. It's unbelievable, it was awesome.
On if he could've asked for a better location for his first start
No, no I could not. I mean, it was cool because the draft was here and they got to see that here and then my first start, first appearance was here too, so it couldn't have been better.
On what Schmid was looking for from him at centerback
Just be confident, consistent, and just stay calm the whole time and be patient. Just be solid back there.
On what how the goal developed
Well I saw I was split between two guys so I was kind of torn between the first giythat scored the goal and the guy behind me so I mean, they made a great run, it as just unfortunate that he got to it before us.
On what he can use from this game
Definitely getting the first game out of the way was good and I definitely felt a lot more comfortable as the game went on. It's good that I got it out of the way and I'm looking forward to stepping on the field at CenturyLink.
Union head coach Jim Curtin
Important bounce back from what was an awful performance in LA. I think the guys put a lot into the game, were we perfect on the night, absolutely not, but the guys stuck with it you know, Sheanon puts a good ball in and C J makes a big plan at a time where we needed one. It looked like, um, they had a lot of young guys on the field and the biggest thing when another team is playing young players is you have to kind of early on play a speed that they're not used to, I don't think we did that and it gave them confidence.
They have some really good young players and it's a team that has a culture of winning, ok so they have winners, Obafemi and Clint aren't here but the whole group that they have is used to winning so it's going to be tough to break them down because they expect to win every time they step on the field, you know something we're striving to build here. I thought we closed the game out poorly in the last ten minutes, decisions of when to go to the corner and try and kill a little bit or time verses going for the glory of a second goal.
Percentage wise I don't think we made a lot of smart plays at the end of the game, again I'll take responsibility for that but there still is moments on the field where guys need to know the role, I can only scream it so loud sometimes to run to the corner but again, happy for the guys to bounce back. Tired legs they put a lot into it and uh you know, smiling faces. While it wasn't a perfect game, nobody remembers at the end of the year what the three points looked like in the end of June so again, a big three points for us, a much needed three points and climbed up a little bit in the points.
On CJ's four straight goals/playing
Yeah, I mean again he's doing a lot of the things we brought him here to do. He had the little setback; I think he learned a lot from that. His ability in his athleticism is... you can tell center backs can't stand playing against him, he's a handful, he's a guy that is just tough to deal with, you can see that he can jump off two feet, he can jump off in ways that most people can't and elevate and then kind of hang and decide and he does a great job of holding the bar up for us, a lot of the little things that don't show up in the stats sheet. Letting us breathe as a team and when we finally do get the ball up to him instead of a quick turn over now straight back down their throats, he'll have a way of spinning out and making a little pass backwards to an outside back that I think a lot of people don't realize how much that helps the team.
Again, obviously great to score goals, I love that he's a striker, he's scoring goals but a lot of the little things and the work he does, to see him running in the 90th minute there to close guys down and fight and get a piece of guys was exceptional. Really happy for him, he's been through a lot this year and I think he is on pace to have a very good year in terms of goal op that I think he'll probably, if he maintains his form break his past record in that regard.
On playing CJ being sustainable without getting the runs from wingers
Right now health wise we don't have a ton of guys to go to that are natural wide guys so you say tonight, I tried to switch Andrew to the right, put Chaco out left to start, thought our pressure wasn't great it was a little disjointed. Newest roles, there was spots that the guys have all played but you know wind up starting the second half back to the original way we did it last week with Pfeffer on the right, Chaco underneath where he is more comfortable and Andrew out on the left and we have the occasional glimmer of a good instance where we get to the end line and it's a good cross but they're 20 minutes apart, you know what I mean, you want more consistency from out attacking guys and from out whole team to be honest.
We've been a very inconsistent team. A lot of stretches where you go; "wow, this team can play" and a lot of stretches where you go; "I don't know what going on out there", again it's the getting some more consistency, its late in the year now injuries have played a role but every team is injured. Look at Seattle they're an injured team as well but getting the service with the right runs has been a challenge for sure.
On the importance of a win after Saturday's match
We talked it out, the result in LA and if you look at the last six games now that we've played we've actually performed well outside of that one so I'm hoping that that was a one off, obviously it's a shorthanded Seattle team but they're professionals and it's tough to get three points in this league no matter what it's very, very difficult and to their credit they did a good job all night and we didn't conceive a shot on goal till pretty late which I was happy with, again that's what it should look like in our home building but we're trying to get on a little bit of a rate, get some confidence and I think wins in any way that you can get them are important and if it's an ugly 1-0 like tonight we'll take it and we'll move on.
On where the team would be if CJ wasn't able to come back early/at the time when Fernando was hurt
I think if you go back it starts at what was maybe our best win and maybe best performance of the year in New York, when he comes off the bench there and gives us a holy cow moment where he just takes over the game, scores a goal but is just a handful and it sounds cheesy but he does have a different look in his eye, when I put him in that game, he's usually a pretty laid back smiley kind of happy-go-lucky guy but there was and a desire that was uh, you took note is what I would say and I think he's carried that now in every game. To put his face on the line, go back to the first game of the year he breaks his face I mean he's literally a guy that will put his body on the line for the team. Happy for him but again I think that that process changed him and without him right now we would be in trouble, without him you know Conor being injured is a factor. We just don't have a lot of depth there, Fernando with all the injuries he's had its been a struggle and CJ has stepped up and given us big goals which is huge.
On the impact of traveling. How to handle Montreal and DC
It's brutal; I wish we had a lot of healthy bodies. The one spot where we have healthy bodies that have played MLS games and contributed is outside backs. We have had, you've seen a little bit of a rotation between Ray, Fabi and Shea, three guys that I think are very capable of kind of very seamlessly going into any moment of the game and stepping up. Because of injuries we don't have a lot of guys with a lot of experience maybe on the bench that have been in those battles so it's not as easy to substitute, just because there's multiple injuries at specific positions so it's a challenge but the one thing I'll add is that the rest of all these teams, you know Montreal is playing Toronto right now in what's they're biggest rivalry game or whatever you want to call it of the year and now they're on the same rest as us and you look ahead.
Seattle obviously with tonight they have a game in Portland so you saw the definitely had some guys out and then when you look to DC, you look ahead at these schedules and it's crazy because DC we were supposed to play on Wednesday in the Open Cup, if you look two days later they travel to Seattle to play the Sounders so again, these variables for me are the biggest ones and if someone could come up with an algorithm of the teams that plays teams when guys are maybe on international duty and suspension it dictates a lot of points for the year.
I can remember maybe a couple years ago we got a lot of breaks where a lot of top players are either suspended, it's a little bit lucky and quirky but if you do look at the games that are the next games so again, DC playing us on a Tuesday having to go to Seattle which game Benny handles or maybe treats to rest guys I don't know. I'm hoping it's against us, you hope you get those little breaks that maybe put the strain, maybe makes it a little bit more manageable because yes, tonight would be a lot harder if Osvaldo Alonso, Clint and Obafemi are running around out there and Chad Marshall so we got a break for sure but we took advantage of it and we got three points and that kind of all you can do. You can only play the team that's here and if they still have good players.
On CJ form affecting Fernando's status with the team
No, it doesn't affect much. You need multiple forwards in this league. It's a spot that we've been thin at because Conor had that injury after he gave us two good games so I would say you need to stable of good forwards with Sebastian being out too he's kind of a guy that you could throw up there and I could get away with letting him get a few minutes up there but to not have him has been an issue too but you look across the league and you need multiple strikers to get you through the 34 games so it doesn't affect anything in the negotiations with Fernando, CJ's form so you need multiple strikes and CJ gives you the versatility to play on either side, the right or the left if we do play with three up there.
On expecting players to return from injury
I hope so. It's going to be close with a couple of guys, Seb is a quick healer. Conor is close he's got kind of the final push but it would be nice to have those guys even if it was for 15 or 20 minutes because even if you think of you know I'm not going to pick on Ayuk but I put him in a game where it's tough, he's an 18/19 year old kid and it's a hard moment and he's never been in these situations of how to close out a 1-0 game whereas Fred who is up there in years but has the wisdom to take a foul, to slow things down, to be slow on a restart, to keep the ball when you should keep it, to put it in the corner. All of those things add up so to have a Conor or a Seba for the last 15 minutes to help close is a huge option to have.
Defender Sheanon Williams
On what a shutout meant for the backline
Yeah one of the key points before the game was to keep a shutout. Obviously it was disappointing to give up 5 goals in a game. It's not good enough from us, so we wanted to rectify that and I think we did a good job of it tonight.
On his assist to CJ Sapong
The amount of headballs that CJ wins is somewhat incredible. He's a monster so you just loft it up and let him go get it.
On the team's preparations for Saturday
Yeah we'll turn it around tomorrow and be back in getting ready for Saturday. Nothing's going to come easy to us after we put ourselves in a position that we need to get out of so we don't have the luxury of taking breaks and taking games off. Every game from here to the end is as important as the next one.
On Seattle fielding a weak lineup
It didn't excite me since we needed three points and that's what we got. If they want to put that out then go for it.
On his added comfort in playing on the right side
Well I'm right footed. I mean that's as comfortable as it gets I guess. I'll do whatever this team needs me to do to help win games.
Midfielder Brian Carroll
On his leadership in preparing the team after the defeat to LA
It's good that we had a game so quickly so we could move on from it. Some things like that just happen and there's no explanation. You move on and you try to win the next one which we did. Obviously it wasn't perfect but it's a win and we'll move on and try to get a win on Saturday.
On how his body's holding up with an increased minutes load
I feel good. I like the heat and I like the humidity. I like playing a lot of games in quick succession, and I know that our guys can rise to the challenge and whoever's name is called will do the job against Montreal.
On how this run of games feels to him after his early season struggles
It feels really good. It feels good to enjoy my time on the field and it's even better when the team gets a win.
On how far he's come since his DUI
Honestly it's been one where I've been aware of every moment and appreciated every moment. Honestly I have no regrets. Things happen in life that put reflectionary moments in front of you. It's about how you respond to the adversity and right now I'm enjoying life off the field and enjoying it on the field as well.
On the run of form he's on
I can't really remember if I had quite a stretch in Kansas City, but what I really the most is enjoying it and having fun on the field. So for me that's all I can ask for.
On whether being the only healthy forward added pressure
Not really. I think on this team everyone has the ability to provide an impact which is why they're on the roster. When the guys get injured, we don't really think about it until you guys bring it up honestly but for me I know I'm going to be counted on and get those minutes and I just want to be out there helping my team.
On his energy and health with a heavy minutes load
I feel really good. When you're tapping into an energy that's just an all-appreciative and in the moment type of energy it's very different. I was probably fitter in the beginning of the season but I don't think I could have gone this stretch of minutes without feeling heavy in the legs. I'm just riding the wave right now.
On the synergy between him and Sheanon Williams on his goal
Actually I had a headset on and he kind of buzzed me and told me to make that run. No man that's playing together enough and finally getting the timing right. I think we've been looking for it all season and it finally clicked.