The Sounders started their 3-game road trip off on the best foot as possible. There were Oba goals (only one flip, though), Dempsey “just doing stuff”, and stout defense. Sure, you could nitpick the game — namely, NYCFC having too much possession and too many shots– but there’s not a whole lot more you could of asked for from the Sounders, especially at the beginning of a somewhat difficult stretch that sees the Sounders fly coast-to-coast twice, and another Cascadia Cup match. And besides, when is it not fun to continue a team’s seven game winless streak? Especially when that team is coached by Jason Kreis, and is owned by Manchester City. Anyways, I had some thoughts after the match.
Clint & Oba: There’s More Than Meets the Eye
Regardless to how often or how little you’ve watched the Sounders, you may have noticed Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey scoring or assisting goals. Obafemi Martins is the second player in Sounders’ history to reach 30 goals (the other guy is busy doing this). Clint Dempsey has a goal or an assist in 16 of his last 17 games, including one in his last 8. Okay, we get it. These two guys are good at soccer, but there’s more to it than just their raw ability. The team around them is very, very good at making sure they get the ball in good spots.
By now, you’ve probably seen this incredible back-heel pass by Clint, and a perfectly placed shot by Oba. But what I want to focus on is the 18-pass sequence that was just before the goal. What that build up displayed was a team that is incredibly patient in possession, but also knows when to pounce on opportunity. A total of seven different Seattle players had at least one touch in that sequence, which points to a team that knows each other well & can execute a game plan.
Soccer Sunday? How About Freaking Frei-day
Stefan Frei had another outstanding game in goal, and if it wasn’t for Medhi Ballouchy’s goal, he would of had another clean sheet. Frei recorded 8 saves last night, which was good enough for the second most saves in a win in Sounders’ history. He’s only allowed more than one goal in one game this season, while recording four clean sheets in that time. We all know that Frei’s goal keeping was suspect at times last season, but I think it’s safe to now expect the best (which isn’t the easiest for Sounders fans) from Frei. Sigh Schmid said last night that he thought, “…Frei has been great in net for us,” and I could not agree more.
But it’s not just Frei that has improved, it’s been the entire defense. The Sounders don’t have to try and out gun the opposition — which worked & didn’t work last season –, but they can dictate the game from the back line. Two players in particular did a great job last night: Dylan Remick and Brad Evans. Brad Evans was solid and composed for the entire match. Dylan Remick had his best game of his career, and has surpassed Leo Gonzalez as the starting Left-Back (which is no small feat). A defense that was the weakest link of the team has become its strongest feature this season.
A Final Thought & A Look Ahead
While it seems like everything is firing well (and it is), I still don’t think this team has hit its full potential yet. And that should be terrifying for any MLS opponent that they face, especially on the road. A convincing 3-1 win against a reeling first-year expansion team is the perfect way to start a three game road trip. It’ll be interesting to see how the Sounders build on this as they have to face a tough opponent in the Columbus Crew SC next weekend in Columbus.