The Sounders bounced back from last week's loss in Colorado in a good way, finishing off the Columbus Crew 1-0 in a match that could have easily seen a few more goals from both sides. Solid goalkeeping and poor finishing kept the match tight until the 88th minute, when Jordan Morris scored his third goal of the season.
It's not as if Seattle didn't deserve three points from this match, but I'm sure both sides would admit that a high-scoring draw could have just as easily been in the cards. But Seattle dominated much of the second half, holding onto 58% possession compared to 42% in the first half; the Sounders also put three times as many shots on target than they did in the first half. Here are a few of the main observations to be had from the match:
Both teams were nearly burned by poor finishing
Both sides looked especially poor in front of goal in the first half, with the Sounders putting just two shots on target from six attempts, while the Crew had three from seven. Seattle came at Columbus early, with multiple players getting in shots within the first eight minutes of the match. Sigi Schmid said in his post-match comments that when Herculez Gomez "gets into a position where he thinks he can shoot, he's gonna shoot" rather than cross or pass at times, saying that he doesn't want to question the player's decision making in those circumstances. Gomez had a few good looks at goal and led the team with three shots on goal from four attempts, but all three were pretty much directly at the goalkeeper.
The relative lack of goals in the match was also a bit shocking compared to the number of chances created: 13 for Seattle and 12 for Columbus. Despite those 25 chances, only a handful were dealt with well by the players who received them. Players like Joevin Jones and Gomez got themselves into dangerous positions, but rarely made the best decisions once in those spots. A Gomez free kick bounced around the penalty box as four Sounders had touches within 10 yards of goal, but none of them were on target. On the flip side, when Stefan Frei blindly flubbed a pass into the path of a Federico Higuain, the Columbus midfielder took a snap shot directly back to Frei. Ethan Finlay was also one-on-one with Stefan Frei late in the first half, but puts his shot wide of goal.
Crossing and corners were poor yet again
Even though Andreas Ivanschitz's corner and crossing record hasn't been the best this season, he's come up big a handful of times. Gomez and Aaron Kovar picked up the corner taking duties against Columbus, but neither connected those corners with a teammate. A couple from Gomez looked particularly dangerous, but he still couldn't find a teammate.
Crossing on the other hand, was inexplicably bad as well. Seattle's full-backs constantly got themselves into dangerous positions high up the pitch, but their constant decisions to cross were ill-advised considering the options and how strong Columbus' defense is in the air. Tyrone Mears put in 10 crosses from the right, but only connected with a teammate a single time. Jones had a similar record from the left side, finding a teammate from a cross just once; admittedly, that one was the chance that led to Morris' goal late in the second half.
Erik Friberg changed the game
Sigi Schmid said after the match that he wanted Friberg to play "more underneath" so that Clint Dempsey could play as a center forward, and said that Friberg "interpreted that role really well, he put Joevin Jones in two or three times down the left, a couple really good passes." It was Friberg's defense-splitting pass to Jones that initiated the sequence before the goal, providing a creative outlet that the Sounders had been missing the entire match.
Comparing Friberg to Ivanschitz isn't exactly fair as they're fairly different players, but Friberg's performance against Columbus more than picked up the slack creatively in the Austrian's absence. With Roldan and Alonso playing extremely well in central midfield, it'll be interesting to see if Friberg slots into the role ahead of them when he's fit enough to start.
Jordan Morris saves the day, again
It's safe to say that Jordan Morris has silenced his critics in spectacular fashion in the past few weeks as he earned the Sounders three points against Columbus with his late winner. Morris played well for most of the match, getting into dangerous positions and playing some excellent passes for teammates in the box. His role was constantly changing: at any one moment in the match, you could find him playing as a center forward, right winger, or left winger.
Morris put Aaron Kovar in on goal in the first half, and put a blistering shot just over the bar in the second half. He's more than come into his own this season, and he's managed to figure out how to adapt to both his opposition and his teammates. His passing accuracy was 86%, the highest of all of Seattle's forwards and third best on the entire team after Osvaldo Alonso and Joevin Jones. For Morris, it's always been less about finding a role to make his own and more about learning to play wherever the team needs him, and he's finally starting to figure that out.