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Missing Osvaldo Alonso isn’t the disaster it used to be

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Sounders have gone 2-0-1 without their captain.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Colorado Rapids
Gustav is not impressed with Stefan Frei’s insistence that Chicago-style pizza “isn’t even pizza.”
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations are a funny thing. It wasn’t so long ago that getting a point from a road game against the LA Galaxy was one of those things you accepted, no questions asked. Prior to last season, the Seattle Sounders had only beaten the Galaxy on the road once— back in 2009 — and only earned three ties.

Yet, the overarching feeling following Saturday’s 0-0 tie with the Galaxy seemed to be one of disappointment. Although it’s not hard to understand why — the Sounders had won their last two games at Home Depot Center and the Galaxy, shockingly, had only won once there so far this year — it’s still worth keeping history in mind.

Say what you will about how the Sounders played in that game, the reality is they got their road point and ran their unbeaten streak to six games. That ties the longest unbeaten run they went on at any point during last year’s miraculous sprint to the finish.

They now find themselves just five points out of the top spot in the West and two points clear of seventh place. All things considered, this feels like a pretty good place to be right now.

Life without Ozzie

The Sounders have now played three full matches and 343 consecutive minutes without any contributions from Osvaldo Alonso. As recently as last year, that usually meant the bottom was about to fall out. From 2009-2016, the Sounders averaged just .92 points per match in 39 matches without Alonso. By contrast, they averaged. 1.78 in the games he did play during that same time.

This year, though, they’ve weathered Alonso’s absence far more ably. During this current 343-minute run without Alonso, they’ve outscored their opponents 9-4 and are currently riding a 220-minute shutout streak. For the year, they are 2-1-1 in matches Alonso hasn’t played, a PPG of 1.75. Small sample-sizes and all, but that’s actually .42 more PPG than in the 18 matches he did play (which includes the win over the Colorado Rapids when he only played about 15 minutes).

In these last three matches without Alonso, they’ve gone 2-0-1. It’s not only the first three-game unbeaten run they’ve ever had without Alonso, it’s the first time they had so much as gone two straight unbeaten without El Corazon.

It shouldn’t take too long to figure out the big difference between this year and previous ones: Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan. Svensson is probably the bigger difference, being as he literally wasn’t here in previous seasons. He’s been absolutely spectacular, not coming close to replacing the volume of plays or the mileage Alonso covers, but being very efficient and positionally sound. In the recent 3-0 win over San Jose, he probably should have had a couple assists, too.

Roldan comes a little closer to being a like-for-like replacement of Alonso, and quietly had another amazing performance.

The Sounders are still, almost certainly, at their best when Alonso is healthy. But for probably the first time in their history, there’s zero reason to feel as though they need to rush him back.

So much for the dominant left

For the most part, the success the Sounders have had from the flanks has been on the left. That’s mostly because of Joevin Jones’ attacking prowess as a left back. He is among the league leaders with nine assists, and could well break the record for assists by a player listed as a defender (13, set in 2000 by Diego Gutierrez).

Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of that against the Galaxy. Jones wasn’t quite as dynamic as he’s been in recent weeks when he’s been moved up to left mid, logging just two key passes, only one of which looked remotely dangerous. But the bigger problem, from an attacking perspective, was Nouhou. He barely got forward, attempting just two passes in the attacking third, one of which was backward. It was such a problem that head coach Brian Schmetzer basically called him out during the halftime chat with sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks.

I don’t think anyone would suggest that Nouhou was bad — far from it. He was a big part of why Romain Alessandrini was kept largely in check, but he may have been a little too focused on that part of his game. While the Sounders don’t need their fullbacks to be out and out attackers, they do need them to be active in the offensive third.

If this is what qualifies as a bad game for Nouhou, though, the Sounders are in great shape.

While we’re on the subject, I loved this moment from the game, which had the added benefit of Nouhou talking trash to Alessandrini in their native tongue.

Moar of this, Jordan

Jordan Morris has not scored in MLS play since April, a streak that has now reached 10 games. After he finished tied for the most goals in the Gold Cup, including the championship winner, we openly hoped he’d return to the Sounders a more confident player.

Although we didn’t quite get that version of Morris, he did look a bit more confident and was willing to take shots that I’m not sure he was always willing the take over the past few months. He ended up taking two shots — which, believe it or not, is as many as he’s taken in any of his past nine MLS matches — in just 24 minutes and aggressively got himself into the penalty area.

It was a step in the right direction. Not enough of one to confidently say we’ll finish out the year with the version of Morris that was one of the league’s top attacking threats, but progress nonetheless.

Quote of the day

“I gave him a nice sweaty hug and soaked his polo, so that was good.” - Chad Marshall on his interaction with Sigi Schmid following the match.

Stat of the day

17 — The Sounders squeezed off 17 shots in this game, the third straight time they’ve taken at least 15. They had failed to take that many shots in any of the seven previous games.