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Tactical summaries

Feb. 26, vs. Colorado Rapids (W 4-0): Facing an aggressive press and high line, the Sounders mostly stuck to their base 4-2-3-1 formation and were able to play through it with relative ease. They held a decisive 3.9-1.4 xG advantage and created seven “big” chances to the Rapids’ 2. Sounders also won 69 duels to Rapids’ 39, and attempted 12 tackles in their attacking half.

March 4, vs. Real Salt Lake (W 2-0): The Sounders started in their 4-2-3-1 shape but showed a bit more positional play with Alex Roldan notably higher up the pitch and Jordan Morris wider than in the previous match. The counter-pressing and ability to win second balls also seemed to be more pronounced as the Sounders were able to extend many possessions that way, including on both goals. Sounders held a 2.6-.4 xG advantage and generated six “big” chances to RSL’s 0.

March 11, at FC Cincinnati (L, 1-0): On the road for the first time, the Sounders were mostly stuck in their own end for much of the first half as FC Cincinnati came out in very aggressive press from their 5-3-2 formation. The Sounders attempted to drop João Paulo between Jackson Ragen and Nouhou, while using Nicolás Lodeiro and Albert Rusnák as a “false-fullback” at times. The Sounders were able to find more possession in the second half, but were using Yeimar Goméz Andrade as a sort of target forward for much of the final 15 minutes as they chased an equalizer.

March 18, vs. LAFC (T, 0-0): The Sounders played sort of a hybrid style, alternating between playing through LAFC’s press and going long. Offensively, the Sounders were deployed in more of a 4-1-4-1 with João Paulo effectively deployed as a single-pivot, while Nicolás Lodeiro (left) and Albert Rusnák (right) serving more as 8s.

March 25, at Sporting KC (W, 4-1): With three starters missing due to international duty, the Sounders stuck with their 4-2-3-1. Kelyn Rowe did a solid impression onf Nouhou at left back, Cristian Roldan played right back the same way Alex would and Jordan Morris added a new wrinkle as a line-stretching No. 9. After a rough start, the Sounders dominated the match from about the 6th minute until the 85th, by which point they led 4-1 behind four Morris goals. The Sounders again picked their spots to press effectively, and were able to play through any pressure SKC applied.

April 1, at LA Galaxy (W, 2-1): Schmetzer opted to go with basically the same lineup as a week earlier with the notable difference being Alex Roldán at left back in place of the injured Kelyn Rowe. This allowed Jordan Morris to reprise his role as a No. 9 and for Léo Chú to remain in the starting lineup. They again connected on a goal, with Chú setting up Morris on a near carbon-copy of their first goal a week earlier. Chú added a goal of his own. The Sounders were less press-heavy in this one, mostly allowing the Galaxy to dominate possession and looking for chances to counter. They were arguably a little lucky to hold onto the three points despite being outshot 28-9, giving up 62% of possession and losing the xG battle 2.4-1.1. They were also outdueled 57-38.

April 8, vs St. Louis City (W, 3-0): Always one of the most active pressing teams in the league, City threw a bit of a wrinkle by coming out in more of a 3-4-3 that set their line a little deeper and was less interested in a full-field press. In the first half, it worked reasonably well as the Sounders were held to one of their lowest xG halves of the season. But the Sounders made some adjustments in the second half, mostly having to do with the freedom central midfielders Albert Rusnák and Josh Atencio were granted, and began finding holes in City’s defense. From the point that Raúl Ruidíaz entered around the 60th minute forward, the Sounders were thoroughly dominant.

April 15, at Portland Timbers (L, 4-1): The Sounders unveiled a somewhat new look, with Jordan Morris on the right, Raúl Ruidíaz in the middle and Léo Chú on the left. It worked reasonably well as the Sounders maintained both possession and defensive solidity during those 68 minutes where all three were on the pitch. The game changed, however, when Chú was replaced by Héber and the Sounders moved into more of a 4-4-2. The Timbers scored four goals in 18 minutes to run away with the win.

April 22, vs. Minnesota United (W, 1-0): The Sounders returned to their more conventional look albeit with some lineup changes. With Cristian Roldan injured, Albert Rusnák moved to right mid and was replaced by Obed Vargas. Kelyn Rowe also spelled Nouhou at left back, who was sick, and Héber started at forward with Raúl Ruidíaz (injured) and Jordan Morris (played 88 minutes midweek with USMNT) unavailable to start. At halftime, Schmetzer swapped Vargas and Rusnák in an attempt to stretch the field a bit more. That didn’t necessarily work, but the Sounders did dominate possession (66-34) and found a game-winner on a 18-yard strike from Rusnák.

April 29, at Real Salt Lake (T, 0-0): Another week, another lineup change. This time, Brian Schmetzer deployed a starting frontline of Léo Chú-Héber-Jordan Morris for the first time this season. The group created some danger and the Sounders dominated possession (57%) on the road in a way they haven’t previously. But despite the possession and chances (1.1 xG), they couldn’t find the game-winner. Defensively, the Sounders were solid and limited RSL’s chances well.

May 7, vs. Sporting KC (L, 2-1): Facing the last-place team in all of MLS, who was riding a 10-game winless streak and had scored just three goals, the Sounders came out with a lineup that was probably too clever by half and paid for it. There were six players starting who were either new to the lineup or in different positions than the week before and the result was rather disjointed. Alex Roldán looked very uncomfortable at left back, Héber could barely get on the ball as a No. 10 and the press never even got started. The Sounders fell behind 2-0 and never fully recovered.

May 13, at Houston Dynamo (W, 1-0): The Sounders continued their dominance over the Dynamo, beating them for the 11th time in 12 meetings. The match was a bit ugly, however, that started with an hour-long rain delay that stopped the game in the 9th minute. Shortly after returning, the Dynamo went down to 10 men and ultimately finished with nine men after a second red card in the 77th minute. The Sounders thoroughly dominated possession, but had a hard time generating scoring chances before Paul Rothrock scored at the back post from an Alex Roldan cross. It was the fifth straight game the Sounders failed to score more than one goal.

May 17, vs. Austin FC (L, 2-1): Despite dominating xG 2.3-.6, Austin jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Sounders were able to close the gap to 2-1 with about 20 minutes left on a Fredy Montero goal and had several good looks at an equalizer but ultimately fell short. The Sounders’ press was largely ineffective.

May 20, at Vancouver Whitecaps (L, 2-0): The Whitecaps came out in a 3-4-2-1 and an aggressive press that seemed to give the Sounders all sorts of trouble. The Sounders struggled to break the press and then compounded those issues with some sloppy passing in both ends. The Whitecaps turned a pair of turnovers into goals and the Sounders never looked capable of getting back into the game.

May 27, vs. New York Red Bulls (W, 1-0): Mostly played around the Red Bulls press, electing to go long almost exclusively after grabbing a first-half lead. Still, they generated 1.8 xG, which was the most the Red Bulls allowed all season and were repeatedly able to get over the press to create opportunities. Played the final 15 minutes down a man after João Paulo was red-carded, managing the game well in a 5-3-1 formation.

May 30, vs. San Jose Earthquakes (L, 1-0): Statistically one of the Sounders’ most dominant performances somehow resulted in a third loss in four home games. The Sounders out shot the Earthquakes 23-8 and piled up 2.9 xG — which included four “big” chances — but could not find a goal. The Sounders were able to flood the Earthquakes box with numbers that rendered their post-goal bunkered defense relatively ineffective, allowing the Sounders to out shoot them 18-0 after their 48th minute goal. Unfortunately, most of the Sounders’ best chances weren’t able to be directed on frame, letting the Earthquakes off the hook.

June 3, vs. Portland Timbers (T, 0-0): The two teams combined for just .6 xG, which is tied for the lowest output of any MLS game this season. The two sides seemed intent not to let the other beat them on the counter and were reluctant to commit numbers into the attack. The Sounders did get a small boost after Cristian Roldan entered the match and the Timbers had a couple threatening chances early, but neither team looked particularly likely to score.

June 10, at Charlotte FC (T, 3-3): The Sounders got off to their strongest start in at least two months, generating several early chances and ultimately opening the scoring in the 11th minute when Jackson Ragen found Cristian Roldan over the top on a free kick from behind the midfield stripe. The game remained pretty wide open throughout with the Sounders grabbing the lead on three separate occasions only for Charlotte to equalize each time.