With the Sounders’ annual preseason trip to Tucson in the books, it’s a perfect time to jump to early conclusions about who won and who lost on the trip. I saw some things in the preseason matches that got me excited, and I also saw some things that concerned me. Let’s jump on in to 2019’s first Winners & Losers.
By far the most exciting thing about this preseason has been multiple youngsters from the newly rebranded Sounders’ USL team, Tacoma Defiance, being involved with the first team. The standout of the group of academy players on this trip was the 15-year-old central midfielder Danny Leyva. In the Sounders’ second match of the trip, they took on a Portland Timbers side consisting primarily of first team players. Leyva played with Alex Roldan in the double pivot, and did so excellently. He controlled the tempo of the press and handled Diego Valeri very well. He showed a good range of passing and a clear understanding of what he was being asked to do. I am not excited merely about the fact that there’s so many young players coming through the pipeline, but the fact that they are already showing their quality.
One of the biggest questions coming into this preseason was how Jordan Morris and Chad Marshall would do after recovering from their knee injuries. The good news is that neither showed more rust than anyone else on the team. Not only is Morris recovering from a major reconstructive injury, but he’s adapting to a new position. He had some bright moments on the right wing. Morris arriving in the box at the back post as a late runner is going to be something to keep an eye on.
Look, the first choice XI only scored twice in two games. That’s not great. But it’s preseason, so let’s try reading the tea leaves a bit. Both of the goals in their first match against Houston came from very similar buildups.
Don't want to sound dramatic or anything, but Seattle are going to score a billion goals this season. pic.twitter.com/c1w3pEv4rO— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) February 10, 2019
What they want to do in attack is pretty clear. They want to buildup through the left side of the pitch, having Víctor Rodríguez tuck in with Brad Smith overlapping on the outside. When it works (as it did against Houston) it works well. I have concerns about what they do when a team presses them (like Dallas did) but hopefully they can figure it out before the start of the regular season.
Nouhou & Roman Torres
By now you’re likely familiar with what’s been going on with Nouhou during this offseason. It’s not fantastic. Nouhou has only managed to find himself on the pitch for 28 minutes so far this preseason, mostly with a combination of unsigned draft picks, trialists, and youngsters. Coming into camp late and going viral on twitter for tweeting at fans of another team certainly didn’t help.
Román Torres was absent from the Arizona trip, and we’re assured by the team that nothing out of the ordinary is going on. Torres only played 45 minutes in the scrimmage against Atlanta in California, and didn’t feature at all in Tucson. He’s clearly the third choice centerback at the moment.
Last season when the Sounders’ defense was at its best, they had Chad Marshall lining up at the left CB position with Kim Kee-Hee at the right CB spot. For some reason during this preseason, Brian Schmetzer has switched them. Historically, Marshall prefers to play on the right but you can definitely see how uncomfortable Kim was on the left, especially in the Dallas match.
This move could be for a couple of reasons. Marshall isn’t the most mobile centerback in the league, and as I mentioned above, Brad Smith is an integral part of the attack. Schmetzer could be wanting to have the more mobile Kim Kee-Hee to cover the left side of the defense. This could also just be part of easing Chad back into the lineup, and having him in his preferred spot helps that.
Actually Scoring & Actually Winning
We know that preseason results don’t actually matter, but watching your favorite soccer team score soccer goals and win soccer games is fun no matter what’s at stake. I’m not very worried about the results so far this season, as long as the Sounders come out firing against Cincinnati. Besides, maybe Schmetzer is playing 4D chess and is just moving the Early Season Slump™ into the preseason so the Sounders are lights out for the regular season.