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Postgame Pontifications: A job done

It’s not always glitz and glamour.

Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

(Editor note: Jeremiah’s out this week on vacation, so this is my best attempt to recreate something resembling ‘Postmatch Pontifications’ - Mark)

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got a job to do. That job might not be employment. It might be parenting or it might be studying. Or, at a highly philosophical level, it might just be as a member of a community. Someone relies on you, for something, somewhere. We all understand that there are roles that we need to fill in our lives and most days we make sure the duties of these roles are filled to the best of our ability. 90% of the time, you go about your business making sure things are taken care of without much fuss.

I’m also willing to bet that there’s something about your job that you’re really good at. Maybe you’ve won an award, maybe you’ve gotten a bonus, or maybe your kids have gotten you a “#1 Dad/Mom” mug. There are these moments where we are praised for our hard work and we sort of get to celebrate how well we’re doing.

In terms of the Sounders, Saturday night was very much a no-fuss, get to work, and do your job kind of night. There will absolutely be performances this season where it’s about the glitz and the glamour of being one of the best teams in MLS, but Saturday was more about a veteran team being grown up about the task at hand and taking care of what needed taking are of.

The thing about the moments in life where we get to celebrate being very good at something is, well, they don’t happen without those no-fuss days. You don’t get to have the award without the hard work. And for the Sounders, they can’t go through this season without grinding out results like we saw Saturday night.

When one door closes...

We should probably look into what made Saturday night a job that needed doing. First and foremost, Real Salt Lake are a very talented team. They’re much better than their record suggests, and at some level you might feel bad for them... at least I do. Regardless, they made Saturday night difficult for Seattle. Kyle Beckerman and Everton Luiz provided a foundation for RSL’s midfield, and it was from that foundation we saw how they were was going to frustrate the Sounders all night. Between those two players, they combined for 8 clearances, 7 tackles, and 20 recoveries on the evening. Even more impressively is where those defensive actions took place.

Both Luiz and Beckerman were extremely effective at helping RSL shut down Seattle’s left flank in transition. They knew what they needed to do in order to keep Seattle from transitioning onto their preferred attacking flank. RSL set up in a way that closed the door for the Sounders’ most favored mode of attack. But we all know what happens when one door closes, right?

...Another one opens

The Sounders weren’t finding much joy down the left side of the field all night, as I mentioned above. So what did they do to alleviate that pressure point? Quite simply, they switched the point of attack in a very clever way. Seattle didn’t switch their attack completely by trying to build out of the attack on their right, but instead they continued to build up on the left flank, then used Gustav Svensson to switch the point of attack, resulting in more direct play down the right hand side.

This forced RSL to have to play the entire pitch and kept them honest all night. Seattle had two really good chances come from a play developing on the left which then switched to the right. The first, obviously, was the goal. While not being exactly what I’m talking about here, the play still develops on the left and switches to the right.

Unfortunately I don’t have visual evidence of the other opportunity, so you’ll have to trust me. It was the chance where Cristian Roldan beat his man on the end line and played the ball to an on-running Jordan Morris at the penalty spot. Unfortunately, Morris put it over the bar.

Deny them entry

The Sounders didn’t just do what they needed to do offensively on Saturday night; they also did a bang up job on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, RSL had their chances to score and Stefan Frei made a save with his face. Well, sort of. He definitely saved the ball with his face, but it wasn’t a real threat because the attacker had been flagged offside by the assistant referee.

Where the Sounders did a great job of defensively on Saturday was in denying RSL space into dangerous areas.

There’s a whole lot of nothing happening in that green box because the Sounders wouldn’t let RSL have the ball there. RSL only had 12 passes into the penalty area, and they only completed five of those. On the flip side, the Sounders completed three times as many passes in RSL’s box, with 15 on 29 attempts.

Overall, it wasn’t the most exciting match on the year, but it also wasn’t as bad as most are suggesting. MLS is a tough league and even bad teams can give a good team a run for their money on any given night. Should the Sounders compete for the Supporter’s Shield this year, they will need to get things done with more workman-like performances like they put in on Saturday night.

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