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Sounder Strategy: Shaken confidence and the Quakes

The cure for the Sounders' winless start- how about a winless opponent?

Last Updated
6 min read
San Jose Communications

After another disappointing home match, and down another starting midfielder, the Seattle Sounders head to San Jose. They will face the only team sitting below them in the Western Conference standings. The Earthquakes are desperate for a home win – any win, really – while the Sounders are just desperate for some open-play goals. Let’s look at why Seattle’s offense struggled last weekend against Colorado, and how they can get their first win against the Quakes.

Sussing out Seattle

Despite the Sounders’ lineup graphics showing a 4-4-2, their 3-2-5 possession shape was still in place with Raúl Ruidíaz playing the left attacking midfield spot. This is evident when Ruidíaz takes up positions between Nouhou and Léo Chú in what Brian Schmetzer has referred to as the “false wingback” role:

Ruidíaz plays the left attacking midfield position in the Sounders’ 3-2-5 possession shape behind Chú.

Raúl also spent plenty of time in the box, and Jordan Morris retreated into the midfield to defend, but the base tactics are still the same. The problem is, it’s not working, but I do not think the bulk of the blame lies with Raúl.

Though Seattle was able to progress the ball to their attacking third, their wide attacking play was consistently ineffective. The Rapids did a good job of keeping a compact center, forcing the Sounders to send the ball out wide:

The Rapids stay compact centrally and keep a numerical advantage on Seattle’s central midfielders, forcing play out wide.

The team’s passing into the box was dismal. Chú’s struggles on the left have been well-documented, but just as disappointing in this match was Alex Roldan’s service from the right wing. With plenty of bodies in the box, Alex was not able to hit a target.

Alex Roldan found himself in some good positions but could not connect on a cross.

Meaningful competition for the wide attacking spots is a long way off. Both Pedro de la Vega and Reed Baker-Whiting are weeks away from health and fitness. Jordan Morris may be forced to shift into the left-wing role if Chú cannot become productive. The fate of the early-season attack largely depends on the healthy wide players raising their game and giving the forwards some service.

But what about using more direct play rather than relying on buildup play from a depleted midfield? The Sounders’ new playing surface is doing them no favors. With transition opportunities already hard to come by at home, the turf monster is eating long balls:

Cristian Roldan’s pass to Morris catches in the turf, breaking up a two-on-two chance with Ruidíaz.

It’s not much of an excuse; the Sounders are the only MLS team who regularly gets to practice at Lumen. They should be able to adjust as they grow more familiar with the turf. But for now, add it to the list of issues for the offense. If the Sounders cannot play directly through Morris, cannot connect crosses from the wings, and cannot work more intricate combinations to make space to shoot around the box, what do they have left?

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