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Brad Evans’ addition makes huge difference

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Having the veteran at right back gave Sounders previously missing balance.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Math would clearly say otherwise, but early season games don’t get much more “must-win” than Saturday’s affair with Real Salt Lake.

It’s not so much the difference between 10 and 13 points for Seattle as much as it is simply knowing that they could beat a relatively bad team at home when they had their full lineup.

In a way, the 1-0 win left a bit to be desired. For much of the first half, RSL looked like a team more than happy to take their medicine and walk away with a multi-goal defeat. The Sounders were unable to oblige, thanks mostly to the goalkeeping of Nick Rimando but also due to some genuine wastefulness. The Sounders had multiple chances to blow this game open — none bigger than Clint Dempsey’s penalty — and simply couldn’t find that final touch.

Unlike some previous games, though, there could at least be no doubt about their intent. The Sounders were more than happy to put balls over the top, send in diagonal balls to wings and put low crosses into the box. Combine that with a defense that managed to record just their third shutout of the season and the three points, this is a game the Sounders can at least build on.

Brad is back

Some of his touches were a little rusty and it was hard to argue with Brian Schmetzer’s decision to pull him around the 65th minute, but Brad Evans was a massive upgrade at right back. His runs repeatedly put the RSL defense under pressure and he never seemed to be out of position or caught going forward an inopportune time.

Evans draws a dangerous free kick.
MLSsoccer.com

His impact was felt almost immediately when he chased down a ball on the wing, rounded his defender and earned a free kick just outside the box that also should have resulted in a yellow card. Nicolas Lodeiro’s ensuing free kick was achingly close to beating Nick Rimando. He also had the perfectly weighted long ball that resulted in Morris drawing a penalty.

It was remarkable how much of a difference having Evans made. His knowledge of space and instincts seemed to provide an added sense of calm and confidence across the back line. It was notable that RSL had more shots (6) in the 25 minutes after Evans departed than in the 65 he played (5). Only two of RSL’s shots and none of their key passes came from Evans’ side of the field.

Jordy’s back, too?

Morris’ sophomore campaign has not gone quite as smoothly as anyone would have liked. A big part of that is an ankle injury that dogged him for much of the season. The way he played in the first half of the Sporting Kansas City game was closer to the player we thought we’d see. The way he played against RSL was even better.

Morris didn’t score, but his willingness to run and put pressure on the RSL backline was the Sounders’ most dangerous and effective way to attack. His inside-out runs were particularly dangerous and although he was unable to get any shots from those positions, he was able to find teammates for dangerous looks. At least seven times, the Sounders found Morris behind the defense. Twice, Morris also fed Lodeiro in dangerous spots on these exact types of plays. The penalty he drew also came on a pass over the top as did a shot, a play that easily could have resulted in a penalty. Also, how about that pass from Dempsey?

This pass will make you drool.
MLSsoccer.com

None of that is to suggest Morris was remotely perfect. Lodeiro put in a perfect cross that Morris seemed to be caught between trying to head or lunging at with his feet. He connects on that, the Sounders are leading 2-0. Similarly, Joevin Jones put a ball through the box that Morris appeared to make a conscious decision to dummy when a touch likely results in a goal. More generally, Morris just needs to look for his shot more often.

For now, though, this is a huge step in the right direction. The Sounders need Morris making runs and winning those 50/50 balls, perhaps even more than they need him scoring.

Hella greedy

One of the things Schmetzer instructed Harry Shipp to do before this game was “don’t be nice.” In other words, Schmetzer wanted Shipp to be a bit more aggressive.

The message was apparently received. Shipp admitted he’s been a bit too deferential at times this year, but in this one he was more than happy to take his shots. Shipp ended up taking three — tying his season high — and scored his second goal of the season.

As talented as Dempsey, Lodeiro and Morris may be, this team needs other sources of offense, and Shipp is as good a candidate as anyone.

Quote of the Day

“Where we are in the standings is an unfamiliar territory and for me at least it was a must win. This has got to be a place where it’s a guarantee.” - Evans on the must-win nature of the game.

Stat of the Day

23 — Rimando’s save of Dempsey’s penalty was his 23rd of his MLS career. That’s more than any player in MLS history. In all, just 50 of 80 penalty attempts against him have been successful.