You could be excused if you found yourself dozing off during the Seattle Sounders’ 0-0 slog with the New England Revolution on Saturday. It was undeniably boring, at least aesthetically. Neither team put a shot on frame until the 72nd minute and that was off a Nicolas Lodeiro attempt from near midfield and the two goalkeepers were each only forced to make one save. The combined xG was only .73, which was easily the lowest of any MLS game this season and is probably one of the lowest on record.
Anyone without a rooting interest in that game was likely bored to tears and the mood around here was decidedly mixed.
But given the state of affairs, I actually found it to be a reasonably encouraging performance. At the very least, I thought there were more positives to take from it than the 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids a few days earlier.
Offensively, it was an undeniably ugly performance. The Sounders completed just 73 percent of their passes and attempted just two shots from inside the penalty area.
Defensively, though, the Sounders were as tight and organized as they’ve been all year. The New England Revolution may have been frustrated by the approach, but they weren’t able to do much to break down the Sounders. The Revs only had a single shot from inside 17 yards and the only shot they put on frame wasn’t anymore troubling than Lodeiro’s.
The Revolution had come into the game averaging about 1.8 goals per game at home and never looked particularly dangerous. Conversely, the Sounders had only ever gotten two positive results in eight previous trips to New England and were playing their third game in eight days, the last two of which were on the road. That they shut down an opponent in a place they’ve often struggled is something to build on, as far as I’m concerned.
Something like momentum...
As I noted in my last column, the Sounders came into this game having never followed a win with even so much as a tie this year; they can finally put that ignominious stat to rest. I don’t think you can call four points in two games momentum, and they probably needed more than the eight points they’ve gathered in their last six to feel confident about a turnaround, but I suppose you can at least call it progress.
The most recent goal was to get to the transfer window with something like a fighting chance at making the playoffs, and I think they’ve at least accomplished that. The Sounders currently sit 10 points below the red line with a game in hand on the Vancouver Whitecaps with exactly half of their games left to play. In order to make a run at the playoffs, they’ll at least have to play at the pace they finished out each of the past two years (when they got 30 and 31 points, respectively, in their final 17 games). That’s hardly an easy task, but they’ve shown themselves capable of going on these types of runs.
Reason for hope
If there’s a reason to think they can pull this off, it’s that their roster is finally starting to look interesting. It’s at least within the realm of possibility that the Sounders will have Raul Ruidiaz and Gustav Svensson available for Sunday’s game against Atlanta United. It’s also possible that Kelvin Leerdam will soon be returning to action.
I don’t think we’ll see this (graphic) to start Sunday’s game, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this is the group that is on the field together by the end of it.
To be sure, that’s a lineup with some defensive vulnerabilities. But once you add Roman Torres to the center back rotation and potentially a TAM winger to the mix, this actually starts to look like a team that presents some interesting options for Brian Schmetzer and staff.
Yes, I think it still requires some significant rebuilding in the offseason and it remains to be seen how cohesive this group would be when jumbled together, but it at least offers us something different and hopefully worth watching.
Return of Roldan
Perhaps the most troubling thing to happen during this season was the seeming regression of Cristian Roldan. There have been blips here and there, but he’s failed to assert himself like we saw so often last season.
Maybe this was the game he turns it around.
Paired with Jordy Delem, who is at least mobile and defensively sound, Roldan had a bit more free of a role and showed off considerably more range than we’d seen in awhile.
His seven tackles were more than double his season average and 18 defensive actions were much more in line with the numbers he has posted in his best performances.
As much as new additions may be able to help the Sounders turn around their season, getting players like Roldan to play at previous levels is perhaps even more important. Let’s hope this a sign of things to come.
The game in one gif
Some social-media sleuthing suggests the Revolution coaches were mad about a couple “professional” fouls the Sounders committed toward the end of this one. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
"We ALWAYS go to Chili's after the game. Why on earth would you suggest Applebee's?!" pic.twitter.com/jeGp0NCavW— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 8, 2018
Quote of the day
“I was just going to ask if you guys are still awake” - Revs head coach Brad Friedel.
One stat to tell the tale
1.44 — As bad as the Sounders have been offensively (and no one really needs to see those stats again to know), they’ve been pretty good on the road defensively, which is typically where sub-par MLS teams struggle. Their road goals-against average of 1.44 is tied for the fourth best mark in MLS.