I had a chance to chat with Dave Clark from Sounder at Heart about the upcoming match. You'll notice that my questions all have to do with the Sounders' attack. This is due to the fact that the misfiring offense look very poised (check the New England game) to have a breakout in this next game with Colorado. Also, I was a bit shocked, I think we all were a bit shocked, that the Sounders are in this position of being at the bottom of the table with no wins yet this year. That's where we started things off. Check Sounder at Heart in the next few days for my responses to his questions about our Rapids.
1) I had the Sounders picked in my bold preseason predictions to be the team to beat this year, winning the MLS Cup and contending for the SS, so what the heck happened? Was there something in the tea leaves that I just wasn't reading, or has this surprised those close to the team as much as the rest of us?
There was a time when I thought the same. And while I'm confident this team is better than its record shows I am no longer confident that there will be a trophy in 2013. There are things to fix. The club has used too many forwards and none too effectively. A couple players were benched because they failed to give proper effort. The injuries are piled up. Seattle got that huge win in the CONCACAF Champions League, which was neat, but has too much more to do. A strong defense, strong keeper and possession is there. Chance creation is there. But a key element to soccer is not there - goal scoring.
Maybe I'd be happy with a three-three draw just because it would should an improvement in that area. That would leave Seattle with only a single win in any competition (even counting Reserves!). This is not even the worst stretch of play by the Sounders. Just last year they went nine MLS games without a win. Some could argue that the team looks worse now, but nine is much bigger than four.
2) The last game, the Sounders put on a real show against New England and were very unfortunate to not come away with a point. Huge surge of activity in the attacking third but no finishing. Unlike the Revs, the Rapids actually have a midfield. What do you think the key is for the Sounders to keep having a ball in the Rapids' final third, and who, to you, are the key matchups in midfield that will determine who wins the battles that determine who goes forward?
Recently Sigi moved to a structure that reduces the attacking heft of the midfield and inserts a wide midfielder who plays a little defense. That's almost certain to be Brad Evans' role on Saturday. The attack will come through the other starting wide mid and throughballs from Shalrie Joseph. That should pressure the Rapids' right side fairly well while clogging the center with Osvaldo Alonso and Shalrie Joseph. The club that switches to the left most effectively should create the most opportunities. Seattle should have the advantage there.
That midfield advantage will mean nothing if the forwards don't finish. Which I said above, but the finishing is really horrid lately.
3) I don't know if this is a coincidence or what, but the Sounders really seem to press the game consistently in the 70-80th minute stretch this season (regardless of whenever else they press). How do you think that will work in Colorado with the altitude effects setting in around that 70th minute, thus making the Sounders perhaps less likely to play the kind of quick movement offensive game that usually brings them a lot of attacking success? Or do you think they change it up, maybe try to play a more patient game with slower buildup to overcome the effects of altitude?
Seattle is likely to push for an early goal. The lack of success and finally having a normal Saturday/Saturday week should mean they are energetic to start. Seattle has lacked energy in only two halves (2nd v Portland, 1st v RSL) of this stretch though. That is not the problem. If they don't get that goal Sigi will need to make subs earlier than usual. Yes, every visiting club should do this. But with the performance of Seattle so far he can't count on a tired, more talented player to do things they have yet to do on the year.
Lamar Neagle is exactly the type of player who should play well in Colorado. He's all energy and effort with a little bit a defensive persistence in there to keep a backline offense.
BONUS: Anyone on the Rapids scare you as much as Yeldin and Zak scare me?
Oddly Wynne is the type of CB that should match well with Seattle's speedy forward pair. Both Martins and Johnson are speedsters. They almost always have the advantage. One of them won't on Saturday. They'll need to adapt.