Tomorrow your Seattle Sounders play for the glory of Cascadia, the history books and vindication. With a win, Seattle will reclaim what is rightfully theirs, the Cascadia Cup. With a win, Seattle will be the first post-shootout era team ever to reach 20 victories. With a win, Seattle will inch one step closer to being the team this city wants them desperately to be, champions. How do the Sounders win?
Vancouver is a pacey team. Kekutah Manneh and Darren Mattocks run faster than fat in a pan. Normally Seattle can deal with speedy attacks like-for-like with DeAndre Yedlin, but Yedlin’s been called up by USMNT Jurgen Klinsmann. However, I think the lack of Yedlin may help Seattle.
Seattle gets whupped by teams that wait for us to overextend in the attack before countering quickly and efficiently. When Seattle plays a tighter backline and doesn’t rely on the fullbacks for width, we don’t open gobs of space for a speedy counter. This weakness needs to be assessed before the playoffs. Tomorrow’s match against the ‘Caps may be the perfect time to experiment.
Seattle is so attack-oriented we don’t need our fullbacks foraying forward. My wife noticed during the recent Colorado win that our fullbacks seemed to be staying at home more. Which is odd because Yedlin’s unique strength is his ability to join the attack and Brad Evans is a midfielder first. I checked the heat maps from the matchup, and yep, the fullbacks stayed mostly behind the midfield stripe. You can see Yedlin (the top) pushed a bit farther upfield than Evans:
I compared this to our recent 3-2 victory over Real Salt Lake and, sure enough, Leo Gonzalez (you’d assume less offense-minded than Evans) and Yedlin were much more involved in the attack. In this win, the fullbacks repeatedly crossed midfield to push the pace of the game (notice I flipped the pic for easier comparison):
This is a single comparison, and static clouds my thesis: the win against the Rapids was sewn up early, so the backline could settle in and just defend; against RSL, the Sounders were chasing the game more, having fallen behind and then not wanting to settle for a tie. All this could be true… or coach Sigi Schmid could have a renewed interest in keeping his backline back and not exposing tantalizing space for counterattacks. Let the front seven handle the attack, we have loads of talent up there.
The Sounders will be a more balanced team, staying goal dangerous but defending better, if they commit to keeping their fullbacks at home.