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Postgame Pontifications: Getting closer

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We’ll take all the points we can get, but we should probably pump the brakes a bit on any sustained excitement.

Feel free to caption this.
Seth McConnell / Sounders FC

When points are at a premium, how you get them is somewhat secondary. In that sense, the Seattle Sounders did exactly what they needed to do in securing a 2-1 victory over a Colorado Rapids squad that was coming off a pretty big road win of their own.

From the perspective that the Sounders simply need to gather enough points over the next few games to keep themselves plausibly alive for a playoff run, it was a great result. If they can’t beat the Rapids, after all, where can we reasonably expect them to find those points?

But projecting what this win means in the larger picture is much more difficult. We’ve obviously seen the Sounders win games previously this campaign — three other times, in fact! — but none of them have been followed by anything like the sustained run of quality play that they need in order to salvage this season. The Sounders have not yet posted a two-game winning streak, have yet to secure points in more than two consecutive games and haven’t even followed any of their previous wins with a tie.

The Sounders have yet to beat a team that was either in playoff position when they played them or in such a position now. The Sounders will have a chance to change that on Saturday.

Which is to say that momentum has been a hard thing to come by, and I’m not sure we saw much in this game to suggest an unprecedented run of success is in the offing.

Capitalizing on mistakes

Just about however you break it down, the Rapids were pretty bad. They managed to hold just 44 percent of possession at home in a game in which they trailed more than half the time and completed just 77 percent of their passes. How bad is that? The Sounders had not won the possession battle in any of their previous road games and had only once “forced” their opponents to complete a lower percentage of passes away from CenturyLink Field this season.

The Rapids were particularly bad in their attacking half (67 percent) and third (62 percent), while they allowed the Sounders to basically ping it around in the same areas (completing 75 and 77 percent of their passes, respectively).

While it’s tempting to suggest this was a result of the Sounders playing better, I don’t think most reasonable people would believe that if they actually watched the game. The Rapids seemed to have no ideas and were often giving the ball away with unforced errors or bad decisions.

If anything, the Sounders probably should have won this game more easily. Their first goal was almost gifted to them and their second was the result of an inexcusable giveaway at the top of the penalty area. If the Sounders had won this game, say, 4-1 I think I’d feel a bit better about their short-term prospects.

But there were positive signs

I don’t want to discount everything positive the Sounders did, though. Winning on the road is not easy in MLS and if the Sounders were playing better at home, I’d probably have more positive emotions tied to this win.

Victor Rodriguez was, again, very good. When he and Nicolas Lodeiro are on the field together, the Sounders at least look capable of scoring multiple goals against just about anyone. The Sounders have scored at least once in all five of Rodriguez’s starts and have scored twice in three of those games. That’s the same number of multigoal games the Sounders have among their 11 other matches combined (where they have also been shut out eight times).

Baby steps? You bet, but it is progress.

Rodriguez was also the author of the arguably the game’s best play. After Cristian Roldan alertly took the ball off Shkëlzen Gashi at the top of the box, Lodeiro tapped it back to Rodriguez, whose perfectly weighted first-time touch allowed Will Bruin to score the game-winner (and full credit to Bruin for an amazing first touch of his own and quality finish).

Rapids’ mistake aside, it was the kind of offensive play we’ve rarely seen from the Sounders this year. Now, if we can only see them put together that sort of play for sustained periods...

Two steps forward, one step back

As relieving as this sustained period of offensive competence may be, it has apparently come at the cost of stout defensive work. For as disjointed and bereft of ideas that the Rapids appeared, they still managed to create several quality scoring chances.

Dominique Badji, in particular, got two high-quality chances from inside the penalty area. One of them was a 1-v-1 chance that Stefan Frei did well to come off his line to cut down. There was also a close-range chance in the 89th minute that Badji fortunately fired straight at Frei.

Then there was, of course, the still unbelievable save that Frei made on Gashi in which he somehow managed to palm away a shot with his left hand that was already behind him and seemingly well struck. Fault Gashi for not finishing at a virtually open net all you want, but Frei had absolutely no business even getting a hand on this let alone keeping it out of the net.

This continues a trend that goes back at least five games — I don’t think it’s related to Rodriguez, but they do coincide — in which the Sounders have been surrendering far too many good looks and should probably have allowed more than the eight goals they actually did.

To my eye, there isn’t an obvious culprit. Each game it seems to be a different sort of failing that leads to these chances. I again was unimpressed by Waylon Francis’ play, but it’s not like an inordinate number of the attacks came down his side. I didn’t think Cristian Roldan or Jordy Delem were necessarily bad, but the Sounders do seem to lack the kind of defensive shield that peak-Osvaldo Alonso provided or even that Gustav Svensson is prone to supplying.

I’ve long hoped that an improved offense would basically solve the Sounders’ big problems, but now I’m wondering if it’s maybe a bit more complicated.

The game in one gif

This was reasonably close to being a sort of break out game, at least offensively.

Quote of the Day

“We always talk about repress and counter press once we lose the ball. I made eye contact with Howard, thought that he was going to throw the ball in short, and felt like I wanted to take a chance.” — Cristian Roldan on Bruin’s goal

One stat to tell the tale

52 — On the heels of last week’s stat about the Sounders only having led for 74 total minutes at home, it should be said they managed to lead for 52 minutes in this game. That basically doubled their total number of minutes they’ve led on the road all season (which was 56 before this game).