Ahead of saturday's game, I caught up with Dave Clark of the Seattle Sounders blog Sounder at Heart to swap questions. After the jump Dave talks about the importance of the Cascadia cup and how to beat Seattle, and I answer his questions about Aron Winter, Stefan Frei and julian De Guzman. Before the game, be sure to check out Sounder at Heart as they do do a ridiculously detailed and good job of previewing games. So, Seattle Sounders, How you Doin'?
Waking the Red: Last time we played you had just lost Zakuani and White. How has the team adapted to their loss? You seem to be doing ok results wise, have tactics changed? Other players stepped up?
Sounder at Heart: Sigi has moved to a more diamond shaped midfield and even played with two smalls up top paring Mike Fucito and Fredy Montero. This is a significant shift, but has resulted in chances, just not goals. The team is continuing to tread water and wait for better health and the transfer window, because right now it is a merely average MLS side.
If Alvaro Fernandez is back things should be more open as he allows Seattle to do some different things with diaganol balls, as well as reading a crowded penalty box quite well using chips and short passes to break through tight spaces. Without Fernandez Seattle will probably use Erik Friberg. He's a decent passer, but not as strong defensively, and doesn't offer the ariel threat that Alvaro does.
WTR: The entry of Portland and Vancouver to MLS has taken things up a notch out in the north west? How important is that rivalry to fans? In a hypothetical ranking of all the trophies you could win this year, where would the cascadia cup rank?
SAH: I followed the team in the USL and A-League so the Cascadia Cup is a big deal for me, but I like most MLS Sounders fans will consider it merely the 4th trophy in importance. The road trips and stadium atmosphere are amazing, but I'm one of those odd people who think that winning is more important than tifo. There may be a season where the Cascadia Cup is vital for Seattle fans, but that would mean that the Sounders had a piss poor season and it would be the only trophy on the season.
It continues to raise the profile of all of the teams in the region among the casuals. That is going to be key for long term growth of the sport, as Seattle's goal is to fill a 67,000 seat stadium for league matches. I expect a Cascadia match will be the first one where that happens.
WTR: Things went horribly wrong for TFC in Seattle with that 3-0 defeat. What should we change? What are the keys to beating the sounders this year?
SAH: Seattle can be beaten quite simply. The opponent should not try to play beautifully, but instead just bunker and counter. The team is very good at run-of-play soccer, so the losses come either from great counter attacks, or great set-play work. Those may be boring ways to win, but they are the best ways to beat these Sounders.
Seattle can break down organized standard defenses and will pepper opposing defenders (they lead the league in blocked shots) as well as the keeper. A team that keeps its composure in those circumstances and understands that without the goals those shots off goal are just turnovers should have a chance.
SAH: Are TFC supporters losing patience with Winter's version of the game due to the lack of results? Will his lack of success lead to his firing?
WTR: Supporters are definitely losing patience, not just because of the results, but because it all just seems so disjointed. Right now it looks like he's trying to play too complicated of a system, that the players aren't comfortable with and most of them frankly aren't skilled enough to play. Unfortunately there's not a lot that fans can do, everyone realises that the last thing TFC need is another managerial change, so there's an air of resignation and just having to wait until at least next year around the supporters. Combine that with the novelty wearing off, 4 years of failure, and a Front Office that seems almost hostile to Supporter's Groups, and it's a recipe for apathy and falling attendances.
Even with all that, I can't see him getting fired any time this season, if after a full year to build his squad and teach the players his system, we're still struggling at this point in 2012, then that question will really come into play.
SAH: Stefan Frei is an incredible shot-stopper, but he faces too many shots. What can Toronto do to keep him happy and get him the recognition he needs around the League?
WTR: Stefan Frei really has been a game saver for TFC with the saves he makes, and keeping him happy should be a big priority. Making lots of saves is one thing, but having as big of a goals against record as he does really can't be helping his future prospects. He's a very professional player so I doubt it would ever become a public issue, but it wouldn't surprise me if he were to start looking for a way out of this club, for the sake of his opwn career. The best way to keep him happy would be to build a better defence in front of him, and not just to keep the shots down.
His main weakness when he broke into the team in 2009 was his control of the box and ability to come for crosses. In 2010 under Preki, the defence as a whole was a lot more organised and it really made a difference to Frei, who seemed a lot more confident about when he needed to come for crosses, and thus much more effective. He's taken a step back in that respect this year behind our ever changing and unfamiliar back 4, and looks very uncertain, coming for a lot of crosses he really doesn't need to, and looking very shaky when he does.
SAH: Julian De Guzman has been used in different roles during his time in Toronto. Is he settling into a comfortable one finally? Will he ever be able to meet expectations?
WTR: I guess that's the silver lining to Canada getting knocked out of the Gold Cup, De Guzman will be back earlier then expected. He has been playing a specific role the last few games he played for us, as a pure Defensive Midfielder with 2 midfielders in front of him, the midfield 3 playing 'point back'. That was started after the Seattle game and it generally went quite well. Whether that will continue when he rejoins the team is another question though as now that Alan Gordon is back at centre forward, Maicon Santos may need to be accomodated as an Attacking midfielder, with the midfield triangle going to 'point forward'.
Wherever he plays, I think it's now pretty clear that he's never going to meet the expectations TFC fans had when he arrived, Maybe those expectations were always too high, but even if they were, it's just another in the long line of disappointments we suffer through.