On Saturday the Seattle Sounders will be coming to town to face off against our Colorado Rapids with the pressure firmly on the visitors to register their first win of the 2013 season. The Sounders have stumbled out of the blocks, collecting 2 points out of a possible 15 and scoring only two goals in the process. Bottom of the West, and bottom of the 19 in total, isn't exactly where anyone, particularly Sounders fans themselves, expected them to be at this point of the campaign especially after their roster improvements over the offseason. However that IS where they find themselves despite their preseason expectations but this could prove dangerous for the Rapids come Saturday.
In the majority of their games this season, Seattle have dominated in attempts on goal and in most games squandered numerous clear-cut chances. This was particularly prevalent in their last two games against Santos Laguna and Saturday's 0-0 draw against New England Revolution both in which their strikers fluffed simple opportunities. Steve Zakuani has been particularly profligate, missing a few sitters whilst playing in a less familiar central striker role rather than as a winger. That could be one reason for the lack of goals though. Seattle have been suffering from a few injury problems up top and have not yet had a settled strikeforce starting seven different combinations in nine games. That lack of continuity is certain to affect production but for me it doesn't excuse missing simple chances. That's just poor play.
The dangerous thing though is that the more they create these chances, the more likely it is that they will score goals. It's as simple as that. To me, it's only a matter of time before they start putting them away especially when Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson gel a striking pair. Luckily for the Rapids though, it doesn't look too likely on Saturday that they'll get the chance to pair up with both carrying injury knocks and listed as questionable.
In terms of the way the Sounders are going to be set up, Sigi Schmid loves his 4-4-2. The centreback pairing is set with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traore locking down those two spots with DeAndre Yedlin and Leo Gonzalez likely to be at either side. With Yedlin at rightback, his movement and positioning has seen him far up the field playing more of a wingback role in what tends to sometimes appear as a 3-5-2. It's purely his recovery pace that allows him to take up those advanced positions and will certainly provide a threat down that side, if not with crossing, simply just by adding to the number of attacking bodies. In terms of a weak link in the backline, to me it has to be Traore despite his impressive start so far. Every time I think of Traore all that enters my head is his remarkably calm finish (in his own net) against Burnley in the FA Cup for Liverpool. He is known, particularly over here in England, to have a calamitous streak so hopefully that will be on display on Saturday.
In midfield, the signing of Shalrie Joseph has facilitated Osvaldo Alonso's move into more of a box-to-box role allowing him to provide a more attacking threat. Joseph now tends to sit back and screen the back four, taking over Ozzie's role and adding more steel to the centre of the park. Whilst acquiring more steel in the central midfield slots, what they have sacrificed is creativity. The creativity tends instead has to come from the wide midfielders/wingers which may likely come in the form of Mauro Rosales on the right and Brad Evans on the left. Sigi, though, might opt to play Alex Caskey on the left on Saturday as he tends to provide a more defensive option which will be needed against the attacking Rapids at DSGP.
Up top it is a lottery as to who will line up come Saturday afternoon. Both Johnson and Martins are listed as questionable with Sigi not wanting to rush Martins back until he is properly ready and rested which may be following the Rapids game, after their bye week. Zakuani looks likely to start up front again and could provide a big threat in behind the Rapids defence, particularly if Marvell Wynne is moved out right and Oscar Pareja decides to start Drew Moor alongside Shane O'Neill.
The key for the Rapids in this is to win the battle in the midfield and stay calm in possession. The Sounders play a high pressure game without the ball, pressing high up the field which usually results in them also dominating the ball. However if the Rapids can keep cool under the high pressure that they are certain to face then they may be able to exploit the gaps that such a high pressure game usually leaves. What may also provide a useful avenue for Rapids attacks may be down the left-hand side - usually DeShorn Brown's arena - taking advantage of the space where Yedlin is supposed to be when he is instead on his offensive forays. Without the ball, the Rapids will need to stay vigilant especially seeing the amount of chances that Seattle have created in behind the backline in recent games. On top of that, Seattle's strength down the sides is also particularly pronounced if they start both Rosales and Evans who can provide excellent deliveries if given the opportunity.
A big factor in the result on Saturday could be Seattle's frame of mind. If they are low on morale and Sigi fails to rally his troops then the Rapids could take full advantage of such a scenario. What they do need to be careful of though is that it is possible that they may come out strong, feeling riled up after a week of stewing over their failure to grab three points against the Revs. For me, it could hinge on the Rapids scoring more than one which has been a challenge so far despite the amount of chances created. If the Rapids bring it from the outset and find a way to contain the multifaceted Sounders attack then they will no doubt create chances going the other way which need to be taken advantage of. If they are, there'll be three points for Rapids fans to enjoy come Saturday evening.