As I sit here looking at the stats from Friday's match between DC United and NYRB, I can't help but notice something.
The Neagle. You may remember this guy(who has apparently gone to the Darkside if he profile picture can speak for him)...
But a quick glance at his player profile reveals, in 2016, this much maligned Lamar, is on track to match a career best in assists while chipping in 2 goals. Not bad production early in the season, for a player on a salary in the 165k range.
His assist in Friday's game was quite honestly, excellent.
Meanwhile, our answer to the wing production he currently provides in DC, seems to be a combination of Valdez who we pay 1.2 million, and is generally better at playing the holding forward position, Kovar(admittedly cheap @ 60k), and the rising Jordan Morris(225k), who while having some success, seems again, a much better fit as a central forward. There is also the recent addition of Herc Gomez, again more of a forward.
The combined stats of these players amounts to 4 goals, 1 assist. Unfortunately, the entirety of these stats can be attributed to Morris.
On a positive note, I think Kovar had his best game of the season against SJ last weekend(still waiting for his 1st league assist). Also, getting Morris on the field every match has been good for his development.
But, going back to my original point, it's hard to argue the Sounders wouldn't have a better record with more consistent assist production.
About a 1/3 of the way in to the season, DC seems to be getting assists from a source the Sounders couldn't rely on.
We need that productivity from the wing if we are going to continue our current strategies. In my opinion, the service from Morris, Kovar, Herc, Valdez, and even Mears, has been consistently subpar. Generally they seem to lump inaccurate balls towards the box, as opposed to picking out the few Sounders that actually venture towards goal.
It appears to comes down to coaching and/or player performance. In my opinion, the coaching staff needs to either adjust to the production the players are providing, or adjust what they are asking from the players based on the available skillsets. Some optimism has been provided with the prevalence of Morris playing up top. This was punctuated last week when he was selected as 1st choice central forward, despite the team claiming Valdez was completely healthy and available for selection.
Crossing has been ineffective for this team currently, with diagonal, and over the top through-balls seeming to be what Morris capitalizes on most effectively. Dempsey thrives on low, quick service(Let's be honest, that header early on in the season was surprising).
There is still time for improvement in our service, but at this point in the season, the source seems unclear. Can Kovar build on his 1 match of momentum? Could Friberg, Ivanschitz, and Alonso flare out more often, exploiting their higher quality long balls to better effect in the final 3rd...or perhaps the Sounders are willing to resign themselves to relying on set-piece opportunities?
It is good to see the SSFC winning, but it feels like we need to imprint a stronger play-style if we want to achieve consistent production. I enjoyed parts of last weekend, but I found myself feeling like we left that game with a lucky attitude, as opposed to one of dominance at home in Century Link. I yearn for dominion at home, especially in a league that seems heavily weighted against road success. We will need it, if we want to accomplish major achievements in 2016 and beyond.