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Controlling tempo remains a priority for Sounders

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Schmetzer says he still likes the idea of using three centerbacks to kill off games, even if it didn’t go as planned in Chicago.

Adam Eberhardt / Seattle Sounders FC

Finding things to criticize about the Seattle Sounders following their best start since 2009 is not an easy task. But if there’s been one consistent criticism, it’s that the have sometimes struggled to control the temp of the match.

The Sounders have gone into halftime of all three matches leading by two goals, but haven’t made the second halves as easy on themselves as they probably would have liked.

“It’s been a theme all the way since preseason,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said following Wednesday’s training session, noting that the Sounders blew two 2-0 leads during preseason.

One thing the Sounders have done is to devise a short-sided game where teams can score points by either connecting 15 passes or by scoring a goal. The point being that there are multiple ways to kill off a game, one of which is by continuing to score.

“Little things like that are what we try to do in practice without changing the dynamic of our team,” he said. “We started off fast (on Saturday); we didn’t just slow the game down and connect a bunch of passes. They kept going for that third goal and they got it.”

What happened after the third goal against the Fire, though, was not necessarily part of the plan. The Fire came back to cut the deficit to 3-2 before Raúl Ruidíaz put the match away with an 88th minute tally. Schmetzer had tried to staunch the bleeding by inserting Román Torres as a third centerback, but that only served to deepen the Sounders’ point of confrontation.

“Gustav has had a tendency the last two games to drop between the two centerbacks,” Schmetzer said. “At times it looks like we’re playing with four centerbacks. It wasn’t really great. We need to refigure that through personnel, through tactics, through training.

“We worked on it a couple days this season because I like when I bring in Román to close out games. We have to fine tune that. When you have three centerbacks, the outside guys can push up, block crosses, and if they do get crosses off you have three giants in there ... so I like the idea behind it, we just have to fine-tune it.”