The Seattle Sounders will spend another day or two in Marbella, Spain before returning home, but for all intents and purposes, this portion of preseason is now done. The Sounders faced three European opponents while they were in Spain, and finished with a collective score 7-7 over 435 minutes (I hesitate to break this into an actual record because the first two match days were sort of split into separate mini-games while the final one was two full 90-minute matches).
The three opponents the Sounders faced provided some good tests. Serbian side TSC Bačka Topola (Sounders won 3-2 over 120 minutes) and Danish side Odense BK (Sounders lost 5-1 over 180 minutes) were both coming out of a midseason break, while Sweden’s IFK Norrköping (Sounders 3-0 over 135 minutes) was in a similar state of preseason as the Sounders.
Of the three outings, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was clearly the least satisfied with the last one, but also acknowledged some mitigating circumstances. Not only were the Sounders missing their entire starting backline, but they were also without three others who would have been expected to be top reserves. That forced the Sounders to dig pretty deep into their roster to play two full 90-minute matches. In addition to it being the first time all preseason the Sounders had pushed to 90 minutes, this match was also just four days after their previous training match, a day earlier than they had originally planned.
“We didn’t quite have the energy today,” Schmetzer told the media. “We could have done a better job of pressing. We had some clear chances. There were probably two to three that we should have scored. That’s been the Achilles’ heel. That’s what we came to work on.”
Of course, this trip wasn’t really about results. The main focus of preseason is getting fitness, working out kinks, embedding some new tactical wrinkles and generally creating a sense of team. By those standards, Schmetzer seemed at least satisfied.
“We were very pleased with the fitness level when they came in,” he said. “All the tests for fitness, we’ve achieved those. That will put us on track to start season in a good way. We had a couple of ideas in attacking movements that we can showcase when we get home, too.”
Here are some of my other broad observations from training:
Let’s put the individual results aside and focus on how the Sounders played. We were actually able to watch almost all of the matches and I would say the Sounders looked like a team that intends to press aggressively and hold a good deal of possession. There weren’t stats available from any of the matches, but I’m pretty confident in saying the Sounders had the advantage in shots, possession and turnovers forced in the opposition end in all of them. That didn’t always lead to goals – especially against Odense – but if we’re interested in something like “field tilt”, I'm very confident the Sounders came out ahead consistently.
As the Odense game showed, though, there are definitely some kinks to work out. The Sounders got caught in transition moments several times, and have some work to do there. They also were very wasteful in front of goal, a theme that was pretty consistent against all three opponents.
Jordan Morris was probably the one most guilty in that regard. Looking only at his last two appearances, Morris consistently found himself in dangerous positions but couldn't convert. I counted at least three 1v1 opportunities that were ultimately wasted, and he also had a point-blank header that he missed. It's way too early to say this is cause for concern – I suppose you can even argue getting misses like this out of the way now is almost preferable – but it's something that will need watching.
"We are saying to ourselves 'he got there, he made that happen,'" Schmetzer said. "At some point, he does have to score. These are preseason matches, though, so you can chalk it up to heavy legs. Goal-scorers are streaky. That’s just a function of getting him fit, making sure he feels good and making sure we’re getting him the ball in the right spot."