On each morning from now until the MLS Cup final, Waking the Red will be exchanging a question with Sounder at Heart about the season’s grand finale at BMO Field.
We hope they’ll offer some insight into what Toronto FC will be up against in a Seattle team that has enjoyed something of a miracle run after firing previous head coach Sigi Schmid in July. To get started, we asked Sounder at Heart’s Dave Clark about the Sounders’ preferred style of play and how he sees them approaching Saturday’s game as the away team.
WAKING THE RED: Toronto had problems dealing with Montreal's counter-attacking style in the conference finals. How do Seattle like to play, what approach do you seen them taking for this game and how do you see it matching up against TFC?
DAVE CLARK: Under Brian Schmetzer the Sounders attack has focused on three things. They've really not shifted from them, no matter the opponent. Schmetzer wants other teams to adjust to them, and often this proactive approach is working.
The first of these is springing Jordan Morris. This can be via a through ball from Nicolas Lodeiro or long balls from many sources (Lodeiro, Alonso, Friberg, Roldan, Marshall, Torres). Morris is one of the faster players in the league, uses his body well under contact, and can deliver a great right-footed shot in heavy traffic. Even if forced away from goal he is rather effective at spraying the ball across the goalmouth. Those passes tend to target Valdez and Lodeiro. This is not only their primary path to goal, it is also the one most similar to what Montreal did effectively against Toronto.
If Morris is pushed wide and doesn't have a runner, or the defence gets back fast enough that the Sounders cannot seek Morris in those situations, they convert to a rather methodical long possession team. This will mostly focus on trying to get Lodeiro as many touches as possible in places where his vision can open a path to goal, but will include any of the non-centre-backs. It can be methodical and plodding, sometimes not resulting in a goal. The greatest example is probably their 35-touch, nine-player, one-minute 27-second possession against FC Dallas.
When this results in goals, those will most often come via a cross from wide spaces. This is a bit opportunistic.
Lastly, they are a rather good set-piece team. With both Lodeiro and Andreas Ivanschitz providing quality service aiming at the heads of Marshall, Torres, Valdez and Evans, the Sounders get goals this way. When they possess deep they know they will get foul calls within the range of those two players.
None of this is rather complicated or revolutionary. It's just how the team works, and since July 31 it has been working quite well.