Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls will start with a championship celebration. But that’s only going to be part of the Seattle Sounders’ focus. “We have to win against New York. It’s going to be a difficult game,” Christian Roldan told media after Thursday’s practice session.
While some teams use high pressure as an occasional tactic, it is the Red Bull ethos across their soccer clubs around the world. Over at Once a Metro, they call it RalfBall. It doesn’t matter who their sporting director is. “They pressure a lot, so we have to be careful,” Roldan explains.
RBNY no longer have mainstay Dax McCarty as one of their deep midfielders. That duty was earned by Sean Davis (and maybe, eventually, 18-year-old Tyler Adams). Davis leads the teams in tackles and interceptions as a third-year pro. Roldan knows what it’s like to be a younger player who earns the shot.
“There’s a lot of pressure, especially from the older guys,” he said. “They traded Dax McCarty because they saw a lot of potential in Sean Davis. They expect a lot from him. He’s there for a reason. For me, it happened to myself as well. Just grind it out, play your game and be as simple as you want it to be.”
Osvaldo Alonso and Roldan will have to play with awareness of the high press as well as where Bradley Wright-Phillips is as soon as there is a turnover.
“We can’t let the ball ... have a slip up I guess, or have a mix-up from the back,” Roldan said. “We’ve been punished quite a bit in the first two games like that. This is another team like that, that counters, that presses, that gets you on the break. We have to be mindful and aware of Sacha [Kljestan] and [Daniel] Royer. Those two guys I think have had two pretty solid games. It’s always just looking over your shoulder and trying to cut out the passing lane, for me and Ozzie. And try to just not let them get the ball.”
If Seattle can break through that press, bypassing Royer, Kljestan, and the duo of Felipe Martins and Davis, they should have numbers. They can do that through the quick feet and eyes of Alonso and Roldan, or a single long pass. It will not be easy, but it will be a key to earning the first home win of 2017.