After two days off, the Sounders returned to training at Starfire, and it’s fair to say much of the focus over the last two days has been on the missed opportunities, which led to a somewhat frustrating 0-0 result in Vancouver on the weekend.
While a road point against a conference (and Cascadia) rival is hardly a terrible result, the inability to break through the Whitecaps’ defense on the day exposes some potential issues as the season continues, which the Sounders will be focusing on this week.
The decision by the Whitecaps to bunker at home didn’t necessarily come as a surprise to the Sounders (they employed a similar tactic in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs), but Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said they didn’t really explore other ways to counter the tactic.
“I could have played a little bit higher up the field, knowing that they were defending in a deep block,” Roldan said. “I was worried about them all of a sudden having a goal against the run of play.”
Roldan noted that it’s pretty uncommon for a team to have eight or nine players in the penalty area, especially at home. Given the Sounders’ ability to score, he admitted it’s a tactic they may see more often.
“Teams may play like that at their home,” Roldan continued. “It does make life more difficult, but if you can score a goal early on in the first half, it makes the game so much more wide open for us.”
While the team did not get too deeply into a game plan today, Coach Brian Schmetzer said the team went over film and that will be a focus throughout the week. “We’ve got some ideas; we presented the players with a few ideas,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll come up with a strategy and a tactic to make sure that if teams do that (bunker), we’ll be ready.”
The other talking point was from the end of the game, where Sounders’ goalkeeper Stefan Frei came up with a huge save that was followed up by a heroic effort from Kim Kee-hee to block a shot from South Korean countryman In-Beom Hwang, only to be called for a penalty that was eventually overturned by VAR.
While Frei was disappointed that Joaquín Ardáiz was able to get in on goal, which forced the save, he heaped praise on Kim for not giving up on the play and being able to block the shot.
“I had to withhold my praise for a little bit (during the VAR review),” Frei said. “When the referee dropped the ball and I played it long...that was the moment for me to really go after him and let him know that’s money, that’s what I need and I really appreciate that.”
There was some good news on the injury front, as Harry Shipp returned to full training after missing the last couple of games. Raúl Ruidíaz picked up a bruise on his foot, but was out jogging around. Victor Rodriguez also suffered a minor knock to his ankle, but was outside doing some work as well. Schmetzer attributed it to the rigors of MLS play, and indicated that neither player should miss any time.