TUKWILA, Wash. – One of the main reasons Jackson Ragen has been able to establish himself as a fixture in the Seattle Sounders’ lineup is his passing ability. The centerback grades out as the top-passing field player, according to American Soccer Analysis’ xPass stat, and he is generally considered a key component of the Sounders' ability to play through opponent presses.
That can come at a cost, though, and has directly contributed to two of FC Dallas' best scoring chances during their first-round playoff series.
In Game 1, Dallas was able to pick off a Ragen pass that eventually forced Stefan Frei into a tough save. In Game 2, it was an errant Ragen pass that directly led to Dallas' third goal.
"We just have to play over the top a little more," Ragen told reporters following Tuesday's training session. "Myself, I play to feet a lot, and that gave them confidence to jump and be aggressive, so if I look longer first it will make them drop off a little bit."
Ragen noted that Dallas also did a good job of forcing him onto his weaker left foot, something he was aware of at the time but knows he must do a better job of handling.
At the same time, Ragen knows he can't simply boot the ball long anytime he's under pressure.
Knowing exactly when to play and went to punt is part of the maturation process, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said.
"That is the trick," Schmetzer said. "That’s what will make him go from a really good MLS centerback to a really good centerback somewhere else. That’s the decision-making he has to learn and it’s part of it with all young players. They can wiggle out of things, but when is it better to play simple one-touch and connect the pass and go the other way. That’s what those guys need to have that game experience to push them to a higher level."
DPs not exactly thrilled to be super-subs
During the first two games of the best-of-3 series, Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz have basically been used as super-subs. Lodeiro has logged 55 minutes, while Ruidíaz has been limited to 28.
Schmetzer strongly hinted that they'll continue in that role for Game 3, but also indicated he "won't hesitate" to bring them on earlier if that's what the game needs. He also made it clear he wants them on the field if there's any chance of the game going to penalties.
As you might imagine, neither player is thrilled with this arrangement.
"They don’t like it," Schmetzer said. "But they’re team guys and they’re going to do whatever they can to help the team win."
Reed Baker-Whiting will likely be available
Although Reed Baker-Whiting still hasn't trained in full since suffering a hamstring injury in the regular-season finale, he is getting "really close" and Schmetzer said the 18-year-old will likely be available off the bench in Game 3.
"I will have a conversation with the guys about his participation in training either tomorrow or Thursday in full," Schmetzer said. "If he can complete a decent day of full training and a fitness test, I’ll put him on the bench."