It’s tough to know what to make of a 2-2 road draw in which the Seattle Sounders needed a pair of late goals to pull out a point. On one hand, there were some frustrating defensive lapses and the Sounders got burned on the counter, again. On the other, despite those problems the Sounders managed to salvage something from their opening two-game road trip.
The Sounders will head home surely not feeling as though everything is fine, but also not needing to answer any questions about why everything is broken.
Impact, ahem, subs
One of the hallmarks of the Brian Schmetzer era has been second-half performances. This time, the Sounders outscored their opponents 2-1 after halftime and now have a 10-2 advantage in the second halves of games since the start of the 2016 playoffs. It was also the seventh time in the Schmetzer era the Sounders got at least a point after falling behind.
A big part of that is how often Schmetzer’s subs end up having an impact on the result. Saturday’s game was perhaps the best example.
On the surface, subbing Oniel Fisher for Gustav Svensson seemed to be little more than an excuse to get Fisher his first minutes of 2017. But it was the Jamaican international’s aggressive run into the box -- something we weren’t going to see Svensson try — that drew the penalty. Henry Wingo for Harrison Shipp, who had been arguably the Sounders’ best offensive player to that point, also was a bit weird. But it was Wingo whose long pass to Cristian Roldan set up the equalizer. The final sub was easily the most aggressive, as Will Bruin came on for Roman Torres. Of course, Bruin was the one who scored said equalizer.
The Bruin sub deserves some special attention. According to the research done by nimajneb, this was the first time the Sounders had ever subbed a purely attacking player for a center back (at least during the MLS era). Center backs have been asked to move up to forward — most recently last week -- but never before had a Sounders coach actually left himself with just one true center back on the field. It clearly paid off.
It should probably also be said that after going down 2-0, the Sounders were the significantly better team. Over the games final 40-plus minutes, they held a decided 9-3 shots advantage (and that doesn’t even include the arguably mistaken handball that disallowed a third goal).
Speaking of Fisher...
There are reasons to be skeptical of Fisher’s ability to be the Sounders’ everyday right back. And granted, this was only a 31-minute performance in which he was not really tasked with much two-way play. But the 25-year-old surely showed us enough to justify a spot in the starting lineup.
Fisher was a tidy 18-for-21 passing, but more importantly made an aggressive move toward the goal that drew the penalty that got the Sounders on the board. Fisher beat two opponents to get into the box and put Laurent Ciman in a tough spot. If Ciman didn’t foul him, Fisher had two dangerous passing options in the box.
I’m still of the opinion that a fully fit Brad Evans is the Sounders’ best all-around option at right back and don’t think Svensson has been bad, per se, but Fisher’s speed does allow the team to play a bit more how Schmetzer envisions it. He at least deserves a shot to see how it goes.
Shipp’s, er, ship comes in?
The other player whose performance I was impressed by was Shipp, who got his first 72 minutes of the season. Perhaps the best illustration of what Shipp did was that he had as many key passes (three) as he did incompletions from open play (three). While playing as an attacking player on the left side, Shipp completed 93 percent of his passes.
Shipp didn’t have any amazing dribbles or highlight-reel passes but he did continually pop up in dangerous spots and repeatedly made the right pass. His best moment of the match was in the 5th minute, when his diagonal run got him behind the Impact defense and he nearly set up Jordan Morris for the opening goal.
It’s perhaps tempting to suggest that Bruin should be in the starting lineup after he got the matches big goal. But that would probably mean moving Morris to left and removing Shipp. For my money, though, Shipp makes the Sounders far more dynamic and unpredictable. Over the course of the season, I’m convinced that’s going to pay off in better play and more goals than adding another forward to the lineup.
Quote of the week
“It was great. I’m surprisingly tired for about eight minutes, I’m just going to call it goal of the week now.” - Bruin on his goal
Number of the week
100 — Stefan Frei made his 100th Sounders appearance, the eighth player to reach that milestone in the MLS era