The 0-0 draw between the Seattle Sounders and Nashville SC wasn't the most entertaining game of soccer to ever happen, but there were a lot of positives to take home for the Sounders. Here are the five most interesting things we saw on Saturday night.
Reed Baker-Whiting is arriving
What we are witnessing right now with the young Baker-Whiting is really cool and special. Not only has he become a reliable rotational piece at two positions (at least), but he's providing an option at fullback the team didn't previously have.
RBW is turning into the attacking left back the Sounders have been missing for a few years, but I feel like focusing on that undermines just how good he is on the defensive end of things as well. On Saturday night against Nashville, he had 9 successful duels and 5 tackles. Leading all players in the match in both categories. Offensively, he was no slouch either. He was second among Sounders players in touches with 70 (João Paulo had 86), but the two stats that stick out to me are the numbers of successful dribbles (3) and passes into the final third (13). Those two stats show, to me, that Baker-Whiting was always looking to be on the front foot.
It was only his fifth start of the season and presumably Nouhou will resume starting following his suspension, but Baker-Whiting has given the coaching staff something to think about.
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The best midfield pairing is here
I will probably sound like a broken record until the end of time about this, but the best center midfield pairing for this current Sounders team is João Paulo and Josh Atencio. I'd wager that it's even the best midfield pairing the Sounders could have at the start of next season, too (which, interestingly enough, it was).
The Nashville match is the perfect example of why it's the best pairing, and that can be summed up in one word: control. JP and Atencio struck the perfect balance of urgency and patience on Saturday night against Nashville. There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between the two midfielders, knowing exactly what the other is going to do at any moment.
That sort of foundation can allow the team to build a solid defense and a plan of attack going forward.
Héber almost scored!
Well, technically, he did score...however a silly social construct called “offside” robbed us. It would've been such a good goal to score, too. It wasn't necessarily a well worked bit of possession or a golazo, but it was kind of the perfect type of goal we need to see Héber convert, fox in the box type stuff.
Héber had only played 97 minutes since July 1 before he got thrust into the lineup on Saturday night because of Raúl Rudíaz's late scratch. If Ruidíaz is out for more time, the Sounders will absolutely need Héber to be confident as they head into the playoffs.
The Sounders had gone 11 matches in all competitions without holding their opponent to zero. That changed on Saturday night when Seattle kept Nashville from scoring, and really from threatening at all.
The Sounders are now unbeaten in six and that's in large part due to the defense playing really well. There have been mistakes that have been punished, but they've largely played well and deserve their flowers. More clean sheets, please.
Good results don't always have to be exciting and that's where we can file Saturday night. The Sounders don't usually play well on the road against Eastern Conference teams – their last win in the Eastern timezone was on July 2, 2022 – but their game against Nashville was a nice change from that. They were the better attacking side and defended better when they needed to. Again, that moves them to six matches unbeaten, five of which were on the road.
The Sounders' playoff position is all but a formality at this point, but as they head into the final three matches, they can really build on this momentum and do something special with it. Two home games. One road game against the team first in the West. Let's do the damn thing.