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Scouting Report: There is still hope

If the Sounders can win this game in New England, they still have an outside chance at the playoffs.

MLS: D.C. United at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

What You’ll Watch

The Seattle Sounders continue their road trip this Saturday as they head to the East Coast to take on the New England Revolution. This will be the only time this season that Seattle and New England will face off. Last season, the Sounders stormed back from a 3-0 deficit and earned one point at home with a 3-3 draw.

New England is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-4-6 (27 points in 17 games played; 1.59 ppg) while the Sounders are in 10th place in the West with a record of 4-9-3 (15 points in 16 games played; 0.94 ppg). Last time out, Seattle defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-1 while the Revolution beat D.C. United 3-2 at home on June 30.

This will be the 13th all-time meeting between the two and Seattle has a losing record of 4-5-3 with 18 goals scored while conceding 20. On the road, Seattle is 1-4-1 with seven goals scored and 15 conceded.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: D-W-D-D-W with nine goals scored and seven conceded

Leading Goal Scorer: Teal Bunbury, ten goals (six at home)

Assist Leader: Diego Fagundez, six (two at home)

Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty

New England

Out: Isaac Angking (illness), Chris Tierney (torn right ACL, out for season) and Femi Hollinger-Janzen (dislocated elbow)

Questionable:

Suspensions: N/A

International Duty: N/A

Seattle

Out: Jordan Morris (torn ACL) and Handwalla Bwana (right midfoot sprain)

Questionable: Kelvin Leerdam (right hamstring strain), Felix Chenkam (right hamstring strain), Osvaldo Alonso (hip tightness), Roman Torres (left ankle sprain)

Suspensions: N/A

International Duty: Gustav Svensson (Sweden)

Match Officials

REFEREE: Nima Saghafi

AR1: Jose Da Silva

AR2: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho

4th: Silviu Petrescu

VAR: Alan Kelly

What to Watch

New England’s System

Brad Friedel is part of the new crop of coaches in MLS less wed to particular formations and more concerned with player movement patterns. He’s run out a number of four- and three-man backline versions this year; just about every setup imaginable has been tried at least once.

Broadly, consider the Revolution a bit of an “idealised” Colorado Rapids. They generally are a bit better at holding onto the ball (48% at home, good for 20th in the league), and foul just a little less (15.3 fouls per game and 32 yellowe cards at home, both second in the league just behind the Rapids). They cross fairly heavily (18 per game), play long often, and aim to hit on better-supported and structured counterattacks.

Their defensive setup looks very similar to what we’re familiar seeing with the Sounders. The center backs spread very wide to cover for attacking fullbacks Claude Dielna and Andrew Farrell, who venture forward often. Central defensive midfielders play a double pivot, working together to cover the space between the center backs and support the more attacking midfield band.

What won’t look familiar is the higher line held by the center backs, who are tasked less with possession and more with generating turnovers and getting the ball to the outsides to get going the other direction. New England are particularly good at keeping the action out of their defensive third, sufficiently frothing the game to keep around 44% of it in the middle third and reducing the distance the ball has to go to turn into a chance.

Their offense is talented, no question; it also seems to be hitting its stride recently as more of a complete group. Interplay has improved, but it’s not intended to be methodical, near-lackadaisical possession — it’s aim is to dominate the transition phase, taking advantage of Diego Fagundez’s and Kristian Nemeth’s skill on the ball. The aim very much is to make the most of the chances that arise, but not be quite as concerned with controlling when those chances come. It’s a pragmatic approach. There’s also, of course, the issue of Cristian Penilla’s speed, which is best covered in three questions.

Quick Keys

  • Don’t let the squad rotation drag you down - three games in seven days is undoubtedly going to put some very tired legs on the field. Seattle will have a few couple key players returning to the lineup in Nouhou and Clint Dempsey, and likely the inclusion of Magnus Wolff Eikrem. Those are pretty good, in theory!
  • Push deep - the Revolution’s reliance on shortening the distance they have to attack is best countered by ... lengthening it. I know. Rocket science. Really, this is a multi-pronged key: it allows the lengthening of the attack, sure, but it also puts a defense that’s been shaky of late under a bit more pressure, forces more support to defense from wings looking to push forward, and can help expose the significant gaps the exist in the back line’s alignment.
  • Slow it down - tired legs mean Seattle will need to reduce the number of times NER get our ahead on a fast breaks. Working cohesively to ensure they’re always backing each other up in both directions will be critical to successfully pulling this off. Also, maybe fouling a bit more than usual.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Saturday, July 7 @ 4:30 PM

Location: Gillette Stadium — Foxborough, MA

TV: JOEtv

Streaming: YouTube TV

Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360AM (Spanish)