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Talking Points: Sounders turn up the pressure

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Sounders find their scoring boots just in time for playoffs.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: After a lackluster first half, where the Seattle Sounders dominated possession but didn’t really threaten the opponent’s goal, they stormed out of the gates in the second half to score an easy win. This time, it came against the San Jose Earthquakes and the 4-1 win pushed the Sounders into the second seed.

Granted, these games have been hard to come by for the last month, where the Sounders had trouble scoring goals and picking up wins. So while the first half struggles will still be a talking point as the playoffs approach, the Sounders will be pleased to finish off the regular season on a high note.

Second half magic returns

To be fair to the Sounders, their first-half performance against San Jose was hardly poor. It was just ... uninspiring. Dominating possession to the tune of a 60-40, the Sounders struggled to break down San Jose once again, as the Earthquakes were content to sit behind the ball and press the Sounders into turnovers once they passed the midfield line. In the second half, the Sounders did a much better job of passing and moving without the ball, and when the first goal came, the Earthquakes were forced to push for a response, which opened up even more space for the Sounders to exploit.

Sounders turn up the pressure

The old saying, “if you can’t beat them, join them” could partially explain the Sounders defensive strategy in the second half. After having trouble dealing with the Earthquakes’ press for much of the first half the Sounders decided to give them a taste of their own medicine. Applying pressure early and repressing after losing the ball, the Sounders managed to turn the Earthquakes over and create numerous attacking chances. In the 74the minute, Alex Roldan and Nico Lodeiro harassed the San Jose backline, forcing a bad pass that allowed Lodiero to pounce and find Jordan Morris, who was able to poke the ball in the San Jose net. The pressure also contributed the final goal in the 78th minute, with Morris pressuring San Jose into a turnover, which led to an own-goal.

Stars shine

It’s hardly a surprise that the Sounders struggled over the previous six games, while getting pretty limited production from Morris and Ruidiaz (who to be fair was off on international duty, and suffered through a Covid-19 diagnosis). So when you get both of them scoring in the same game, you can be assured the Sounders are likely to win. And when Lodeiro joins them, it’s almost a guarantee. Lodeiro as usual was all over the field, harassing San Jose defenders with his motor and providing the opening goal. Lodeiro said after the game that scoring the first goal was key, because it forced San Jose to chase the game. That allowed Morris and Ruidiaz much more space to exploit in the second half, and both found their reward.

Rocky road ahead

The tournament gods did the Sounders few favors, as not only did they draw the highly-talented LAFC squad, but should they win they would be staring at a potential semi-final matchup against rivals Portland Timbers, who have given the Sounders fits this year on the way to a 1-2-1 record. The good news for the Sounders is that they should have a mostly full-strength lineup, something they haven’t had since defeating the Timbers 3-0 back on Aug. 23. They’ll take the two-week break and recover, and hope that none of their internationals pick up injuries — or illnesses.