The Sounders' new tactical configuration has been fraught with inconsistency this season. This was a team that dominated the LA Galaxy in preseason followed by two solid performances against Club America, after which they've decided to do a faceplant, losing their first three MLS matches. Most of those issues come down the reshuffled offensive configuration.
It's an attack that looks disjointed, makes duplicate runs, and is still trying to figure itself out spatially -- while teams figure out new ways to stifle its creativity each week. Against RSL it was two masterful man-marking jobs, while their loss to Vancouver showed an inability to attack with incisive passing and unlock a structured low block. There's nothing for the Sounders to preach here other than patience.
Clint Dempsey -- besides needing to wake up from whatever nap he's taking right now -- needs to figure out how Andreas Ivanschitz is going to push out of midfield or wide and when to drift underneath Nelson Valdez. Ivanschitz needs to show more dynamism in moving out of the central attacking zone and connecting with the deep-lying midfield. This will serve to both aid transition forward and open space for Dempsey to find the ball. Sigi Schmid has made it very clear over the last three weeks that he wants Dempsey operating nearer to goal, meaning Ivanschitz has to drop if this current setup is going to work.
For all those struggles in crafting attacks, though, the Sounders' other offensive weapons are starting to find their groove. When Valdez and Jordan Morris operate purely as a target striker and winger, the Sounders' offense looks stagnant. With Dempsey and Ivanschitz plying their complicated dance farther back, Valdez and Morris need to be making runs into space. And when the Sounders weren't trying to hammer their heads against a Vancouver low block that looked more like a brick wall, they were creating dangerous runs.
While Morris makes runs into the space vacated by pressing fullbacks, Valdez has been free to body up on center backs or craft runs into the the opposite side that Morris occupies. This serves to either: a) open space for Dempsey or Morris to make a run on goal in behind, or b) vacate space on either wing for the fullbacks to advance and cross with Valdez as an aerial threat. Valdez's and Morris' runs were good against Vancouver when the Sounders were tied and Vancouver wasn't incentivized to keep their defense extremely compact. The pace of Darwin Jones and Oalex Anderson add another element to that configuration -- though they also subtracts a lot of other elements, too. The addition of Herculez Gomez adds a veteran influence that attacks well in these same areas in many of these same ways.
The targets are starting to figure out which runs to make and how to attack the empty spaces in opposing defenses. The Sounders just need their creative duo to hammer out their issues farther back.