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Sounders Practice Notes: Breaking the Bunker

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Facing a slumping RSL, Sounders know they need to be better when teams won’t attack.

Miki Turner / Sounder at Heart

TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders continued preparations for Real Salt Lake, with the bench players who featured for the Tacoma Defiance on Monday returning to the practice field Thursday. The team has mostly put the game against the Vancouver Whitecaps behind them, though they continue to focus on ways to break through teams that may decide to bunker against them — particularly at home.

While Cristian Roldan previously remarked that scoring the first goal is important in bringing opposing teams out a defensive shell, head coach Brian Schmetzer said the solution is more nuanced in devising a way to get the first score.

“How do you score that first goal,” Schmetzer said. “That’s what we were working on a little bit today; we’ve messaged it through film (and) worked on it on the training field and we’ll work on it again tomorrow.”

Schmetzer felt that it’s possible that the fixture congestion over the international break may have had some adverse effects on the team as well.

“We’re getting them to be a little bit sharper,” Schmetzer continued. “I think the week off might have taken its toll a little bit; there might have been a little bit of international fatigue.” The Sounders had six players (four starters) who played minutes over the international break, but Schmetzer said the issue has been addressed.

Vancouver’s compactness on defense made it difficult for Jordan Morris to influence the game, but he noted there were some positives from the experience.

“It was hard to break them down, and credit to them,” Morris said. “We’ve been working on that; how to break teams down and different ideas here and there. And obviously there’s going be games like that throughout the season.”

Defender Brad Smith also credited Vancouver’s strategy, and said the team was a bit surprised by how effective they were.

“I just don’t think we expected them to defend like that,” Smith said. “We didn’t have the answer on the day; we couldn’t really work it out.”

As for preparing for Real Salt Lake, Schmetzer noted that the loss of Damir Kreilach to a red card will be a significant loss to their team, and makes a bit more difficult to game plan for them.

“We’ll prepare for a couple of different scenarios, but it’ll be interesting to see which direction he [RSL Head Coach Mike Petke] goes,” Schmetzer said.

One other issue Schmetzer addressed was the relative success of the Whitecaps in transition. While he doesn’t believe that Real Salt Lake’s transition game presents a more serious problem than the Whitecaps, he expects the team to continue to work on preventing counters. “If we’re not careful, if we’re not clean on our active defending, it can cause us some problems,” Schmetzer said.