Who You’ll Watch
After a two-game home stand that saw the Sounders take a maximum of six points out of six, they will now head to Carson, CA to take on the LA Galaxy. This is the second of three regular season meetings and will be the final one played in Carson.
In the first meeting back on April 23, the Sounders defeated LA 3-0 with all three goals coming in the first half.
LA currently sits in ninth place of the Western Conference (22 points in 20 games played; 1.1 ppg) while the Sounders sit in fifth place of the Western Conference (30 points in 21 games played; 1.43 ppg). LA lost both games they played last week, 1-0 at home against Vancouver and 4-3 away against New England. Seattle won 4-3 against D.C. United and 3-0 against San Jose.
Form: L-L-L-L-L; seven goals scored, 15 conceded
Top Scorer: Romain Alessandrini, eight goals
Top Assist Leader: Alessandrini, eight assists
Form: D-D-W-W-W; 13 goals scored, seven conceded
Top Scorer: Will Bruin and Clint Dempsey, seven goals
Top Assist Leader: Joevin Jones, nine assists
Absences: Injury, international duty, suspension
Robbie Rogers (ankle injury, out for season), Sebastian Lletget (foot surgery) and Baggio Husidic (fractured fibula) are all out for this game per MLS’ injury report. Gyasi Zardes was with the US Men’s National Team but there is no telling if he will be available for this game after just recently returning. Jack McBean has been suspended one game by the Disciplinary Committee for serious foul play. Both Jelle van Damme and Bradley Diallo are one yellow card away from a mandatory one game suspension due to yellow card accumulation.
Osvaldo Alonso (left MCL sprain) is listed as out and Henry Wingo (right ankle sprain) is is listed as questionable. Jordan Morris and Dempsey were both with the USMNT, Oniel Fisher was with Jamaica. Morris and Fisher started and went 90’, while Clint played the final 35’.
What to Watch
To be honest, I’m not sure how much to advocate their total destruction, as it likely ensures the dismissal of Curt Onalfo, and that opens them up to getting better. It’s really enjoyable to watch them struggle, and it’ll be a sad day when they finally move on. In late-breaking news, Onalfo is out and Sigi is in. With just a couple days to go to the match this probably doesn’t change a whole lot for LA. They’ll likely be a bit more organized, and Schmid knows the players well, having attended most of their matches this year, but it’s a very short time to put in much of a system change even with talented players.
Brian Rowe has regained the starting keeper spot over Clement Diop of late; somehow, he has a worse save percentage than Diop does, but he does have a better goals-against average (1.78 vs 2.10). Their largest defensive issue, by far, is their inability to turn potential turnovers into actual turnovers. They lead the league in straight clearances, giving opponents chance after chance to reset and try again (24.1/g; Seattle is best in the league at 16.2/g). Aside from these, they are decidedly middling in their performance, sitting around mid-league in most defensive statistics. To top it off, their top CB does his best Roman Torres as a CAD (center attacking defender, for those not in the know) on a regular basis, leaving everyone else out to dry. A well-organized and quick-moving offense can take advantage of a mixture of limited talent and low speed in their defense.
Many of their issues, and their periods of success, have stemmed from midfield cohesion. Joao Pedro is a solid defensive midfielder, but his partners haven’t always held up their end of the bargain. Jermaine Jones stays too far forward to assist on defense, but serves only to impede dos Santos’ space and service. Rafael Garcia has been a good match, but he is a poor contributor to the transition game. Onalfo, for his part, has done next to nothing to adjust for these limitations (or if he’s tried, no one has listened to him). This has resulted in one of the highest percentages of long balls attempted as a function of total passes (just under 20%; their compatriots in this neighborhood are Colorado, Montreal, and DC United to locate them in your head).
Offensively, the team remains heavily weighted to the right in its attack from its hybrid 4-2-3-1/4-4-2. Zardes shifts towards the right to combine with Alessandrini, while CAM/withdrawn forward Giovani dos Santos, in theory, uses the space left behind. It hasn’t resulted in the offensive success or the cohesion of the Donovan-Keane years, not by a long shot. In fact, LA’s offense has largely consisted of individual moments of brilliance from Alessandrini and dos Santos. Emmanuel Boateng has interesting skills, but also struggles to contribute and combine outside the middle third of the field.
With McBean confirmed out we’re almost certain to see a lineup nearly identical to the one the Sounders steamrolled at the end of April. It’s a lineup and layout that plays wide without cover for the added space. With the newly discovered team speed and directness, there should be ample opportunity to take advantage of these openings and attack goal. This has all of the makings of a fun one as long as Seattle takes care of a couple key things.
Balance the back, and smother Alessandrini - Put a blanket over him and sit on it. Don’t let him free until the referee blows full time. He’s fully capable of soloing his way to a good chance or snapping off a great long shot on goal. He is by far the most important player for LA to get involved and on the board to see success.
With Morris and Dempsey contributing heavily to the USMNT on Wednesday it seems likely Nouhou gets another start at left back. As exciting as he is, his defense is often suspect and The Lettuce won’t miss opportunities to take advantage of it like DC United did.
It’s also key to not over-focus and leave dos Santos too open - his movement will require attention from both Leerdam and Torres and could suck the right side of the defense in too far if they’re not careful. So far he’s done precious little to facilitate others’ goals, but he happily puts them in himself. Keeping central defensive balance will be critical, and the two forwards set will call for a more narrow CB setup than typical.
Use the space Jermaine Jones is supposed to be in - It doesn’t seem entirely a coincidence that LA’s recent slide just happens to coincide with the reintroduction of Jones to the lineup. Their proclivity for long balls should allow Roldan to function more as a standard box-to-box midfielder with a defensive lean than the other way around. The added central attack should be incisive against a poorly spaced Galaxy team.
Schmid is almost certainly going to have a better idea of how to protect and fill that space, but he’s not a miracle worker. There should be plenty of opportunities to exploit LA, particularly in the transition phase as they try to recover.
Seattle: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam; Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan; Jones, Nicolas Lodeiro, Brad Evans; Bruin
LA Galaxy: Rowe; Ashley Cole, Daniel Steres, van Damme, Nathan Smith; Boateng, Jones, Joao Pedro, Alessandrini; dos Santos, Zardes
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, July 29 7:00 PM
Venue: StubHub Center
Television: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)