Seattle Sounders vs Sporting Kansas City: Ticky Tacky

The Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City played an MLS game Saturday. On the Christmas Eve of European soccer, both clubs looked like they belonged in a second-class league.

Kansas City started a motley group of backups and young’uns, and we failed to capitalize. At home. SKC didn’t do anything that special, but played tight, clogged the middle and denied us time on the ball. However. The Sounders did continue their transformation into a possession-based side.

The Sounders, of late, have successfully employed a tiki-taka-esque approach, their 18- and 25-pass buildups before goals that last few weeks were beautiful. The sharp passing and possessing ethos of the 2015 Sounders continued against SKC as Seattle attempted an incredible 687 passes (a season high) and completed 80% of them. The Sounders also retained a whopping 65% of the possession. If you were Caleb Porter, another devotee of possession-based football, you’d point to those numbers and crow about it. But the game ended nil-nil, at home, against a depleted side.

Possession with a purpose is a pseudo-newfangled idea. After the long dominance of Barca and the Spanish national team built on short passes and sustained possession, the backlash is to question this ticky-tacky tiki-taka. Keeping the ball is great, but what do you do with it? What is your purpose?

Looking at the passing charts, you see most of Seattle’s passes were deep in our third: (from opta)

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 11.11.50 AMConversely SKC only attempted 374 passes, competing 73%. We dominated them in this statistic. But another telling number is chances created: 8 Seattle, 7 SKC. Nearly equal. Shots on goal? 3 for SKC, only 1 for SSFC. So I must ask, what is the purpose with all that possession Seattle? To play keep away for 90 minutes and happily trot off the pitch earning only a point? Is this the darker side to the siren song of possession football? Even in Portland, Porter has been playing a much more direct game (due to injury and the club’s sputtering of late). Seattle wants to play pretty football, hopefully wins don’t come as the cost.


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