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Observations from a dispiriting loss to the Earthquakes

The Sounders need to find a way to more effectively rotate their lineups.

Last Updated
4 min read
Irina Filenko / Sounders FC Communications

Just when the vibes seemed to be trending upward, the Seattle Sounders came crashing back to earth with a dispiriting 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. The Sounders opted to go with a lightly rotated lineup and looked very much like a team that was running out of legs.

After a reasonably bright start that saw them boss possession and look the more dangerous team for the first 20 minutes or so, they surrendered a penalty against the run of play and never really gained their footing again.

Instead of heading into the final game before the Leagues Cup break with a head of steam, they’re now just hoping to avoid totally backing in.

Here were some of my observations from Wednesday’s game:

Short-rest bugaboo

The Sounders are now 0-4-2 in league games that are three or four days after another league game. They are also 0-4-0 in midweek games. This is a bad trend, to say the least. The good news, I suppose, is they only have three more midweek games remaining on their schedule, but depending on how they manage those games they could play as many as six of their remaining 11 matches on short rest.

My suggestion would be to mitigate how many of those games are actually played on short rest by employing much more aggressive rotation than they have up until now.

To some degree, Brian Schmetzer’s hands have been tied. He has not had a full complement of options for most of his short-rest games up until now. But with Alex Roldan, Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris, Raúl Ruidíaz and Nouhou — all of whom missed significant time in the first two-thirds of the season — fully available, he should have much better choices. Among the players who I think are prime candidates for rotation-day appearances are Xavier Arreaga (once healthy), Josh Atencio, Léo Chú, Abdoulaye Cissoko, Cody Baker, Reed Baker-Whiting, Obed Vargas and Héber. Ideally, the Sounders aren’t starting all of these players on the same days, but there’s no reason a squad made primarily of these players shouldn’t be able to get some results.

Possession without purpose

Whether they were tired or not, there’s no getting around that the Sounders reverted to some old and very boring habits. Sure, the Sounders had 62% of possession but a lot of that was in their end or while executing the dreaded “horse-shoe of death.”

The Sounders only managed nine shots, but worse than that was only two of them came between the Earthquakes’ two goals. During that 46-minute stretch, the Sounders just didn’t seem to have any urgency and were far too willing to ping the ball around without any real purpose.

That finally started to change once Atencio and Ruidíaz came into the game, but by then it was really too little too late.

Roaming Nico

On Saturday, we saw how effective Nicolás Lodeiro can be when he’s given the freedom to find the game as he sees fit. On Wednesday, we saw how that can really muck up the works. Once again, Lodeiro was sort of positionless, a right midfielder in name only.

What’s as problematic as how much time he spent roaming from the right side of the pitch was how little he was able to press forward. Even if Lodeiro is effectively being deployed as more of a dual-10 with Albert Rusnák — something Schmetzer confirmed on Friday — he still needs to find a way to get the ball in more dangerous parts of the field if he’s going to be effective.

Finishing strong

While I’m sure they were disappointed to be home when they were, let’s hope that the return of Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan from international duty can give the Sounders a much-needed boost. Roldan, in particular, should be able to provide some much-needed balance to the Sounders’ attack and it bears repeating that the Sounders are 5-1-2 while averaging 2.25 goals per game when he plays. If the Sounders can play even close to that level against FC Dallas, they should be able to win that game. If they win the game, there’s actually a decent chance that they’ll head into the Leagues Cup break even on points with Western Conference-leading St. Louis City.

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