As the season rushes toward a close, the Seattle Sounders face a virtual must-win match on the road. On short rest, Brian Schmetzer’s side looks to continue their dominance of Orlando City SC. OCSC sits 5th in the East, with an 11-10-6, -6 record on the season. The Sounders are 10th in the West, with a 10-14-3, +0 record this year.
Seattle has never lost to Orlando, winning 4 of the 5 previous meetings in league play. Orlando may be looking ahead. Next week they seek their first trophy when they host Sacramento Republic in the U.S. Open Cup Final.
Wednesday’s match is on FOX 13 (not +) and Prime Video with kick at 4:38 PM PT.
Keep that three-back line
The 3-4-1-2 has looked better than the 4-2-3-1. Head coach Brian Schmetzer should stick with it. Yes, the 4-2-3-1 was strong at times this year, but that shape was weak more often than strong once the top two DMs went down. With the 3-4-1-2 Seattle has been able to get Albert Rusnák forward more regularly; Jordan Morris is closer to the goal; Nouhou is a better player. Keep this shape running.
Discover a third goal threat
Raul Ruidíaz and Morris are the only two Sounders whose impact in the attack has been consistent. Yes, neither All-Star is at their best, but they’ve still been better than the rest of the team. For the Sounders to win on Wednesday, and to win the next game and the next game, they must have someone from this list turn into a consistent threat: Nico Lodeiro, Rusnak, Léo Chú, Fredy Montero, Will Bruin, Ethan Dobbelaere, Dylan Teves, Jimmy Medranda. Because until Cristian Roldan has recovered, the third threat right now might be Jackson Ragen — and he’s not scoring either.
Trust the kids
Three games in nine days can be tough, especially when the middle match is the one with a cross-country flight to a place with thunderstorms and 90-degree heat. Schmetzer should rotate some of his older players to put on the vibrant youth that have shown promise and performance. Resting one of the two forwards, Nico and Kelyn so they can go 90 against Houston on Sunday would be prudent.
Trust these young winners to win some more. Then at half, start inserting a few of the elder statesmen.
Make their bad offense bad
You may think Seattle’s attack is bad? You would probably be right. But the Orlando offense is worse. They have only 32 goals on the season. Forward Ercan Kara leads the team with 8 goals. Their Uruguayan No. 10, Facundo Torres, has 8 assists. Outside of those two, the Lions’ attack is lacking. A shutout should be the target for Stefan Frei and his defenders.
Force Oscar Pareja into hard decisions
The Open Cup is a big deal for Orlando. Since coming to MLS they have struggled. Their longest fans likely remember three regular season titles and two championships from the USL era of the team. But the rest of those in the crowd only know a team that’s been poor. Pareja may think that he can rest a few players to prepare for Republic.
If Seattle can get off to a hot start any hope of rest could be squashed. Scoring before half will start the calculus of fitness versus desire for a win over a poor Sounders team. Any second that the Orlando staff is thinking ahead is a moment they aren’t thinking about the Rave Green.