This was not the performance the Seattle Sounders needed. It was sloppy, boring and not the kind of thing they'll look at fondly. But it was EXACTLY the kind of result they needed. Exactly.
The 1-0 win over a Montreal Impact team that was missing Didier Drogba, but still very talented, gives the Sounders their first three points of the 2016 season. It relieves a ton of pressure that was starting to build. It gives them what is now simply their third worst start in eight MLS seasons. It gives them something to positive to talk about.
Here's what we learned:
Clint Dempsey is really good on set pieces
File this under "duh" if you must, but this was basically a replay of the first Club America game. If not for a very impressive finger-tip save from Evan Bush, Dempsey would have converted a nearly 30-yard free kick and his header at the back post from an Andreas Ivanschitz corner kick was a carbon copy of the one he scored earlier this year.
Is that enough?
No. Dempsey needs to be more than a set-piece specialist. He's the Sounders' most talented player and the guy who should be leading the attack in every facet. There were moments where he looked better, but he still generated precious few chances from open play, generating just a single relatively weak shot. He also had just one key pass, a ball he sprayed wide that eventually led to a shot.
Unlike his first three games, Dempsey started in the middle -- ostensibly as an attacking midfielder in what was billed as a 4-3-3 but played more like a 4-2-3-1. His action chart shows him as more active, but he still never got inside the danger zone. That's where he needs to figure out how to be.
The attack still has problems
There were plenty of vaguely dangerous situations the Sounders got their attackers into, but Bush was never really forced to do much. The Sounders' best chance from open play came very early when Dylan Remick put in a cross that ricocheted to Nelson Valdez for a tantalizing chance, but the shot was blocked by an unknowing Aaron Kovar.
The Sounders only had one other shot from inside that penalty area that came from open play -- an Oalex Anderson attempt that we'll talk about later. That's not good enough. This is not a team that can afford to generate a couple good scoring chances a game and know they'll finish enough to get points.
How are they going to do that?
I wish I knew. But moving Dempsey into the middle -- either as a forward or as a midfielder -- makes some degree of sense. No, he wasn't great in this game but getting him lots of touches is as good of an idea as any.
Oalex Anderson was the best, and worst Sounder
One play encapsulates Oalex Anderson almost perfectly. This video doesn't entirely do it justice, as he bursts into space to win a ball he never had a right to win even before he makes his first move, but it gets the point across.
There's so much that Anderson does right on this play. Winning the ball, splitting the defender, just running into that space and forcing defenders to commit. But it is absolutely unconscionable that he doesn't lay it off. There are three GREAT options. The best is to try to put Jordan Morris in for a tap-in, but even if he doesn't think he can weight that perfectly he has Dempsey screaming for the ball (and wide open) in the middle and even Tyrone Mears all alone on the right. HE DOESN'T EVEN GET A SHOT OFF!!!!
It's painful to watch and it came reasonably close to costing the Sounders three points. What's really crazy is that he had a similar chance a few minutes later, an open look at the top of the box with Morris open at the far post and he shoots instead of passing.
Sigi Schmid was supposedly laying into Anderson afterward and it's no wonder. He simply can't blow chances like that in the way he did.
But ... we also need to acknowledge that he had several brilliant moments and probably had the most positive play on a per-minute basis. He's a ton of fun to watch and clearly very talented. He also needs to be able to harness that talent in a way that makes the team better, not just build up his And1 resume.