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The Review: Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids

The Sounders are suddenly having a lot of problems creating chances.

Last Updated
3 min read
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders’ season continued to false start as they dropped points at home to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Seattle initially took the lead in the first half thanks to a coolly taken penalty from Raúl Ruidíaz. That lead would hold until the 88th minute when the Rapids scored following a rebounded free kick.

There were pieces of a solid performance in the first half, but any inkling of that continuing went out the window in the second half. The game pivoted on the 57th minute red card to Josh Atencio with the Sounders unable to see out the match.

Talking Tactics

The Sounders officially have a chance-creation problem. Seattle’s two goals this season have come from penalties and they have rarely looked dangerous in the attacking third apart from those. So, what gives?

I’d like to get the most obvious issue out of the way, however unpleasant it is to have to discuss it. You simply cannot be good in MLS without your best players. Plain and simple, especially when they’re up and down the spine. The Sounders haven’t been able to start the likes of Albert Rusnák, Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Stefan Frei, and João Paulo at all this season. Pedro de la Vega’s lone start this season came out of position and his hamstring went after about 60 minutes.

Injuries tend to have a compounding effect on a squad and the tactics deployed. So, for example, not only have the Sounders been unable to start Yeimar in a game, but in not doing so it means Jackson Ragen has to move to the right centerback spot to accommodate Xavier Arreaga. The coaching staff has information available to them that suggests this is the right thing to do, but it does make Ragen worse by putting him in an uncomfortable position.

On top of covering the gaps left by injured players, the coaching staff has decided to deploy a secondary tactical setup. I’ve written previously about Léo Chú and Nouhou not playing well together in the past, while I don’t think they played particularly well on Saturday, there are much worse things that stood out in the match against Colorado.

The Sounders’ buildup play can be described as labored. They are having to do so much work to get the ball into the final third of the pitch that attacking patterns just don’t develop from there. To put it into perspective, the best “chance” the Sounders have created this season according to xG (provided by FotMob) was in the 3rd minute against LAFC when Jordan Morris was 1-v-1 with Hugo Lloris. That shot had a value of 0.25 xG. No other chance this season has been better than that.

The Sounders in their current iteration are sort of like the pickup basketball version of tactics. Disjointed and hoping your good players can bail you out. Does Chú beat his man sometimes? Yeah. Does Ruidíaz test the keeper with a shot outside of the box from time to time? Yeah. Do most attacks end with a hopeless cross? You betcha.

What Happens Next?

It really can’t be overstated how boring the start of this season has been. When you combine the on-field play with the off-field stuff happening around MLS, I can’t really blame anyone for being apathetic or even downright displeased so far. I certainly know I am.

However, there are a few reasons for hope. The cavalry is coming. Both Yeimar and Rusnák made sub appearances on Saturday, albeit in unfortunate circumstances. Outside of the injuries, the MLS season is very long and very forgiving – especially to teams with slow starts. Maybe the Sounders don’t contend for the Supporters’ Shield this year, but even then it’s too early to tell how that all shakes out. I want to see this team get healthy and play the way they intend to. That’s when we’ll get a fuller picture of what’s actually going on.