Now, perhaps more than ever, watching the Seattle Sounders has been a bit of an oasis.
While the world is often a funhouse mirror, full of distortions, confusion and chaos, the Sounders play has been remarkably steady.
Sure, there are bumps — like the loss to the Portland Timbers last week — but we know what we’re going to get for the most part. The Sounders will play solid defense, they’ll create chances, and — more times than not — they’ll win games, often in highly enjoyable fashion.
Or as Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer succinctly put it following Sunday’s 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy, “I just sense the guys like playing soccer together.”
The Galaxy game was a pretty much perfect example. The Sounders controlled the action from kickoff and were creating decent chances almost as quickly. Unlike the most recent Timbers game, the Sounders were able to convert those chances into an actual goal relatively early when Jordan Morris connected with good buddy Cristian Roldan in the 12th minute.
As they’ve been doing with remarkable regularity, the Sounders beat a defense’s high line, transitioning from defense to offense with ruthless efficiency.
The entire sequence took just 18 seconds to basically go endline to endline. It started with Xavier Arreaga expertly winning the ball and then alertly pushing it forward to Gustav Svensson. A line-breaking pass from Nouhou to Jordan Morris got the attack supercharged and Roldan calmly put away another well-executed left-footed cross from Morris.
I really liked how well the Sounders transitioned on this play. From defending along the endline to goal in about 18 seconds. pic.twitter.com/UOf5ILvjXd— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) September 30, 2020
What was most encouraging about this sort of sequence is that it wasn’t isolated. The Sounders seem to be feasting on teams that get caught pushing numbers into the attack or trying to apply high pressure.
Just 10 minutes later, they had another counter-attack with a lot of similarities. This buildup is a bit more methodical and doesn’t actually result in a goal, but it has many of the same principles of progressive and quick passing. Everyone but Arreaga gets a touch on the ball during the 24-second sequence.
Been thinking about the buildup on this play. Sounders did a really good job of playing out pressure and this was one of the best examples. pic.twitter.com/PSATki2zPB— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) September 28, 2020
That the Sounders did a good job of handling a team inclined to apply pressure high up the field is not anything new. In the five games where their opponent has most often attempted to apply high pressure, Seattle has averaged 3.4 goals per game and only once failed to score at least three goals. Those games are a big reason why the Sounders lead MLS with +17 goal difference — which would equate to +44 if they were to maintain it over a 34-game season.
“Teams play how they want to play,” Schmetzer said following the Galaxy game. “If teams decide to do that, it’s their business. I just think we played well tonight. I could sense the mood before the game ... those guys know how to come back and put together a good performance.”
Given the nature of this season, I’d hate to make any predictions about how it ends up. What we know is that the Sounders are playing well, seem to be having fun, and are giving us something enjoyable to briefly distract from everything else that’s going on in the world.