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Sounder Strategy: Sporting is sinking

Seattle have no excuses against flailing SKC.

Last Updated
7 min read
Jane Gershovich | Sounders FC Communications

The Sounders have put a grueling month of games behind them. Now rested, but still without their new DP running the show, they head into an uncertain summer. But uncertainty is relative.

If the vibes around the Sounders are down after a fiasco of an ending against RSL, that is nothing compared to the turmoil at Sporting Kansas City. SKC is wallowing at the bottom of the Western Conference and confidence in coach Peter Vermes and his roster is at an all-time low. Let’s look back at what happened at home against Real Salt Lake, and look forward at a big opportunity for three points against Sporting.

Sussing out Seattle

Soccer can be a cruel game at times. For home fans this season, soccer has been a cruel game most of the time.

Seattle was holding strong with their 1-0 lead until around the 83rd minute, when the team’s demeanor shifted from calm to panicked. While defending in a mid- or low-block is fine when protecting a lead, the team simply stopped attempting to keep possession and instead booted the ball up field. At the same time, their ball pressure dissipated. Whether due to lack of urgency or defensive confusion between the substitutes, allowing wide open crosses despite having defensive numbers out wide is asking for trouble:

Despite having defensive numbers in the area, Seattle concede time and space for a cross.

RSL was able to sustain their attacking sequences and earn dangerous touches in the penalty area. Lack of possession should never mean lack of intensity when seeing out a match.

Of course, if the team could score more than one goal at home, they might avoid nail-biting in stoppage time. The Sounders’ general attitude in possession has softened from the slow, methodical style of last season. Seattle is being more direct, fast, and vertical in search of something to free their offense. Jackson Ragen’s risk-taking at the back looks like a feature of this change.

Ragen had a particularly sloppy game passing out of the back and was lucky to not concede a goal off a turnover. As the Sounders try to play more direct and vertical at home rather than relying on slow possession, drawing opponents’ pressure to the back line can be an effective tool to create space in midfield.

Ragen was caught multiple times by RSL's press.

When this tactic works, the Sounders get rare room to run, as in this sequence where RSL’s press is drawn in to Ragen, freeing up half of the field:

Ragen beats his defender and RSL's press is broken, freeing space for the Sounders to run.

A good cut and a lovely pass to Alex Roldan breaks RSL’s pressure and gets the Sounders moving vertically. A team that struggles this much to score at home must keep taking some of these risks in possession, but Ragen’s unease with the ball at his feet is becoming a worrying pattern.

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