SEATTLE — Most people are their own harshest critics. Will Bruin certainly gave the impression that the Seattle Sounders were feeling that way after a lackluster 0-0 draw at home against a 10-man Columbus Crew Saturday, saying that the offense was too stagnant in trying to break down the Crew.
After the match, most of the team seemed unenthusiastic about answering questions regarding the result. Bruin didn’t pull any punches about how he felt the attack had performed.
“We were too slow, we moved it too slow,” Bruin said. “We were too predictable. We just didn’t even try to play through the final third, I think everyone in the stadium knew we were going to get it and try to cross it, you’ve got to find other ways to create chances, and we just haven’t been able to do it.”
16 minutes after Pedro Santos was dismissed by referee Hilario Grajeda for a Daniel LaRusso-esque kick to the face of Alex Roldan, Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter subbed on towering centerback Alex Crognale for winger Cristian Martinez. The move all but dared the Sounders to try and break down a five-man back line with incisive passes.
A passing chart that includes the work of all of Seattle’s midfield—Roldan, Clint Dempsey, Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson and Osvaldo Alonso—shows that the Sounders failed to answer the challenge:
Not shown on that image are seven failed passes attempted by the players listed aimed for a target in the Crew’s penalty area. Counting the three completed passes that reached the penalty area and considered against the 307 total passes attempted by the five players who comprised Seattle’s starting midfield Saturday, the Sounders’ midfielders attempted to pass the ball into the opponent’s penalty area with just over three percent of their connections over the span of 90 minutes.
Seattle’s shot selection on the day reflected this:
Columbus’ iron-clad line of confrontation forced Seattle to take nine of its 17 attempted shots (of which one was on-target) from outside the box.
There are circumstances that explain this: the absence of Nicolas Lodeiro’s passing ability and his ability to create space by making runs between defenders, the decreasing footspeed of Dempsey and the threat posed by Frederico Higuain and Gyasi Zardes on the counter if Seattle committed too many resources to the attack. Still, that the Sounders seemed to have no plan to bust Columbus’ bunker save for more crosses from the alleys (which they successfully completed 10 of the 43 attempted) suggests that the team has lost the dynamism which it traditionally has been known for in league play.
Bruin expanded on this.
“We’ve got to be willing to take chances,” he said. “Get some creativity, some flair. We’ve got to pass and move, we’ve got to try things, we are too caught up with playing the simple pass, ‘I’m not going to make the mistake and move it to the next guy.’ You aren’t going to score like that, it’s too easy to defend. It was a prime example tonight.”
The addition of Henry Wingo, Handwalla Bwana and Magnus Wolff Eikrem did little to bash down the “do not enter” sign Berhalter’s side had erected around the 18-yard box.
With an MLS Cup rematch against a Toronto FC team starving for momentum after a slow league start Wednesday and a road clash against the Portland Timbers Sunday, the Sounders will be pushed to the limit with a roster already thin due to injury.
The tension for a breakthrough is piling up for Seattle. The club is a long way from rock bottom, but it’s become clear that the situation is far from normal in the Emerald City a fifth of the way through the MLS regular season.
“We need to find a solution to this. If you can’t tell I’m pretty frustrated right now. We are going to look at film tomorrow and I hope we look at ways to exploit Toronto and ways we can attack them… I hope we can generate some goals.”