SEATTLE — Well, this certainly feels a lot better than last week at this time. Funny how four second-half goals can do that for your state of mind.
A week after looking lost and frankly like they were still in preseason, the Seattle Sounders came roaring to life in front of their home fans and with considerably more firepower at their disposal. It wasn’t just the inclusion of Clint Dempsey and Gustav Svensson into the starting lineup, it was knowing that someone like Magnus Wolff Eikrem was poised to come off the bench.
And once the Wolff was set loose to start the second half, one could be excused for suddenly feeling a dramatic burst of confidence. This was, after all, the first time most of us have seen Wolff play for any extended period of time, being that most of his preseason appearances were restricted to matches that were played behind closed doors.
Wolff showed the kind of flair and ability that makes you excited every time he touched the ball and, in fact, he had an important touch in the buildup to all four goals. His vision was impeccable, his positional awareness spot on and he even showed off a cool finishing touch. I’m sure opposing defenses will eventually figure out ways to slow him down, but stopping an attacking band that will often include him alongside Nico Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey and Victor Rodriguez is not going to be an easy task. With a group like that, having more of a lunchpail guy like Will Bruin up top may actually make a lot of sense.
Here’s what else I was thinking about in the hours after the game:
The Wolff has greensight
The play that will rightfully get the headlines was Wolff’s goal. It was some textbook, Oba-Clint, in-the-drift type of stuff. But the play that I found most intriguing was the pass that set up Lodeiro’s goal.
Look at this glorious stuff. pic.twitter.com/fbYqQ2rltb— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) March 2, 2018
There are people out there on the website Twitter.com saying that Wolff was actually trying to hit Lodeiro streaking down the middle. Don’t buy it. Not only does Lodeiro never really make the run, but that ball is so far away from him that it’s hard for me to imagine him mishitting it THAT bad. Wolff does look a little disappointed, but I assume that’s because he didn’t quite hit Dempsey in stride. I’m 100 percent convinced, though, that Wolff was trying to put Dempsey into that pocket of space, especially considering where Dempsey started his run.
I understand why people are skeptical; there aren’t a lot of players who even think to put the ball there. But given some of the other balls that Wolff was picking out and his generally excellent play, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
What was that formation?
When Eikrem came on, the chatter in the press box was that the Sounders had switched into a diamond, the other formation they had tested out extensively in preseason. To my eye, though, it didn’t really play that way.
On the left side, Harry Shipp was hanging back and letting the big-money guys do their thing, like you’d expect a shuttler to do. But on the other side, Eikrem was attacking relentlessly. Sure enough, his chalkboard shows just a single defensive action in the defensive half and that was on the other side of the field. There’s simply no way he was filling the role of any sort of shuttler. At the same time, Cristian Roldan was the only truly defensive midfielder on the field.
Initially, I thought it was playing more like an ultra-aggressive 4-1-3-2. Whether or not that’s really any different than a diamond is up for debate, but it’s what I was sticking with.
But then Gonzalo Pineda told Niko Moreno that the team never really moved out of a 4-2-3-1 and that the plan was for Lodeiro to ostensibly play alongside Roldan. Sure enough, his touch map suggests that while he was still getting forward plenty, he had a fair amount of defensive responsibilities.
Assuming that’s what was really happening, it’s just another example of how useful Lodeiro can be. There aren’t many players in MLS whose engine allows them to range forward like he does and still cover the defensive midfield at all. After moving to defensive mid, Lodeiro picked up a goal and two assists. This might not be a great tactic against teams willing to play the Sounders straight up, but it continues to work wonderfully against bunkers.
Bring on Chivas
I’m sure there’s a decent chance I’ll end up regretting that, but if there’s a Liga MX team just ripe for the picking it’s C.D. Guadalajara, aka Chivas. Consider: Chivas are hosting arch-rivals America in El Super Clasico on Saturday, are currently mired in 17th place in the 18-team league and need a win badly. Through nine matches, they’ve won just once.
Yes, this is still Chivas. They have plenty of talent. But they are not playing well right now and can’t afford to stack their roster in a way that optimizes a trip to Seattle next Wednesday.
The Sounders, of course, have their own game to play on Sunday, but can more realistically plan for a home game on Wednesday while still putting out a competitive side against LAFC. This is the Sounders’ chance to make a statement, maybe take a multi-goal lead down to Estadio Omnilife where they’ll be fully rested and facing a Chivas team playing its 10th game in just over a month.
The day in one GIF
The play didn’t result in much, but man was it fun watching Henry Wingo absolutely wreck a pair of Santa Tecla defenders just moments after getting onto the field. This kid is going to be fun to watch.
The stat that tells the tale
605 — It’s been 605 competitive minutes since the Sounders last surrendered a goal at CenturyLink Field. Since that time, they’ve outscored their opponents 20-0 and have won all six of the full matches by at least two goals. Schmetzer promised to make CenturyLink Field a fortress and that’s exactly what he’s done.
Quote of the day
“Yeah, we had connecting locker rooms and they were blaring music like they had already advanced. So we kind of took it in and said, ‘You still have to come to Seattle, we will see how that goes.’” - Will Bruin