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Ship’s Log, March 25: Less than their parts

The Sounders are falling below their lofty standards.

Last Updated
4 min read
Sounders FC Communications

What’s the opposite of “the sum is greater than the parts?”

Maybe it’s the March version of the Seattle Sounders. Right now the players who have featured regularly so far this year are less than they should be expected to be.

This isn’t about expected goals, but overall performances.

The only two regulars that have significantly improved over their recent pro performances are Andrew Thomas and Josh Atencio.

Raúl Ruidíaz can finish penalties. That’s proven. But he also can’t shoot near the goal. All of his threats are from distance. This is highly abnormal. He’s taking shots from more than 7 yards farther than his average in the league. Yes, he’s in a different role, a 9.75 who somehow can’t find the ball in the space of a 9.

But it’s not just a Raúl problem.

The midfield can’t find Jordan Morris in the box either. His touches in the penalty area are two-thirds of what they were in his near-MVP 2020 season. Despite strong performances historically as a forward this year he’s on an island that can only connect backwards. Where in the past he was a judicious shooter that looked for the best chances to score this year he’s not shooting. He seems to be searching for the perfect rather than the good.

Once vibrant Cristian Roldan isn’t showing the fight he has. He’s present and active defensively, but his passing map is limited. His late runs for those cut back passes aren’t there.

Entry passes are no longer Alex Roldan’s thing. He’s having his second worst season by xA per 90. His progressive carries and receptions are up, but his progressive passing has plummeted.

Early 2023 was Léo Chú’s season. Now, when he was healthy, he’s dribbling into the area well. Then the attack dies – no shot; no pass. He’s in the top 50 in the league for time in the attacking 18. He’s not an attacking threat.

The attack is less than what it should be.

There are a few possible reasons.

  • Coaching - except that it’s the same coaching that had these players succeed in similar roles and spaces in the past.
  • Injuries - not the to players listed above, but to those players that made them more than they are.

I’m partial to the second bullet. João Paulo, Albert Rusnák and likely Pedro de la Vega are the types to make their teammates better. They’re talent maximizers. They’re the space seers, the ground eaters, the visionaries.

The light evidence of their impact are the brief moments of vibrant ball movement and space capturing when Rusnák and de la Vega have been on the field. Both of them inserted not just energy, but a vision that the other regulars don’t have.

Will the Sounders be able to wait for at least two of those three to get back before the panic button gets mashed like that boardwalk gopher game? Maybe.

These parts can be much more than they’ve been. Missing three of the four most expensive – and visionary – talents at the same time is a familiar space for us fans. This knowledge isn’t comforting and the tenor of play isn’t exciting.

– Dave Clark

Catching up on Sounder at Heart

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