Even after Sigi Schmid highlighted that the Sounders' clash against the Montreal Impact might feature some changes to their new tactical makeup, it was unsurprising to see how little changed for the Seattle Sounders. While their first half was much of the same-old same-old we've seen the first three games, some small changes paid huge dividends in the second half.
For the first half, the team still relied on an inverted winger on the right -- in this case Aaron Kovar -- and still plied the trade of Nelson Valdez as the main holdup player. They still relied on an interchanging attacking midfield duo of Clint Dempsey and Andreas Ivanschitz. Though the opening exchanges highlighted shifting Ivanschitz into a slightly deeper role moving in from the left, and Dempsey starting higher off Valdez in the majority of plays, their movement and interchange didn't change much of the functional identity of the Sounders in the first half.
Sigi Schmid's substitutions and second half approach crafted another story entirely.
For the past month, Sigi Schmid has relied on the two-way play of Jordan Morris to balance his defensive midfield. With the 21-year-old tucking back into defense on the right, he's given Osvaldo Alonso the freedom to support Joevin Jones more heavily. When Morris came on for Aaron Kovar -- who had occupied that role for much of the first half -- the Sounders' newest homegrown player instead shifted into a higher role playing off the main striker much as Ivanschitz has in the past month.
This corresponded with Ivanschitz occupying that two-way role from left midfield. That change was further solidified when Oalex Anderson came on for Valdez pushing Morris up to alternate with Dempsey as the main striker. With Ivanschitz in that wide left role, the Sounders were able to use Anderson's pace in combination with Roldan's energy to disrupt the Montreal attacks on the right easily while bringing a more stringent defensive presence to bear on Montreal's main forays against Joevin Jones.
That focus also came with a direct move away from a possession-based attack and into a team that showed great dynamism in transition. With Ivanschitz deeper, the play shifted from finding the playmaker toward finding open zones for the Sounders to attack into and that's something both Dempsey and Anderson did quite well. While Morris had a nearly silent game on the ball (he only had nine measured actions), it was refreshing to see him being thoroughly active in opening lanes for the other two.
The Sounders' performance on Saturday was by no means flawless, especially in the first half, but their second half changes showed a team with more dynamism than we've seen in recent weeks. The concern going forward is was this look they showed on Saturday just an artifact of the way they neutralized Hassoun Camara in the second half or indicative of a tactical vogue for this team? Only time can tell.