The Sounders have two
points from four matches so far. This is not
I’ve played soccer since I was five years old. Growing up in
Port Orchard, I started with SK youth soccer and then moved on to
FC Kitsap (now WestSound FC) and High School soccer at SKHS. Now
that the Sounders are in town, I’ve become an avid supporter as
well. Hell, I even work at Olympic Soccer & Sports Center in
Bremerton as a Marketing and Events Manager and play three times a
week. As a player and spectator I can tell you there are two
distinct styles to the game: one characterized by crappy teams and
one of good teams.
The organized approach – When good teams are on
the field, it is noticeable: they play together. Passes are quick
and accurate. Teammates make runs off the ball to get open and
create space. In attack, good teams build up from the defense,
through the midfield using the tactics I just described.
While attacking, teams are not always moving the ball toward the
opponent’s goal. Frequently, they will pass the ball backwards to
the midfielders or defenders in an effort to create space
elsewhere. Think of this in terms of the path of least resistance:
If a team is stacked heavily on one side of the field, it only
makes sense to pass back and move the ball to the opposite side,
where the greater opportunity lies.
Think of it like this: you’re a quarterback in the NFL and your
goal is to score a touchdown. You step back to pass, and you see
your wide receiver Billy McMullen being covered by Nnamdi Asomugha. As a qb, you know you’ve got a
snowball’s chance in hell of completing that pass. So you pump
fake, roll out and find your home boy Miles Austin who is being
‘covered’ by Kelly Jennings, who fell down just in time for
you to complete the pass for an easy six points. Gravy.
Side note: Hey Seahawks! You know what is overrated? Undersized
cornerbacks! Good Christ!
The key here is possession. By making accurate passes,
controlling the ball and making runs, good teams have the ball for
longer and create more opportunities to score.
The rec league approach – Bad, crappy and/or
unorganized teams, however, use a different method. Instead of
building the play up, they rely on one or two good players up front
to lie in wait for the ball. When defenders and midfielders have
the ball, they are panicked, impatient and/or or solely focused on
getting the ball to the strikers. Instead of building the play up,
the ball is kicked up and over the top to the forwards, who dash to
the ball, trying in vain to beat three defenders to score.
I notice this approach a lot in youth leagues and Hispanic
pickup games. This approach results in less accurate passes and
thus a lack of possession. Though the intentions are good, it
ironically decreases a team’s chances of winning. Sometimes you
have to take two steps back in order to go three steps forward.
Please note that these descriptions are high level; there are
countless styles or methods by which teams play. These are two very
general styles that I have observed.
The Sounders – Our boys in Rave Green have
sadly only picked up two points from four MLS matches against the
Galaxy, Red Bulls, Dynamo and Earthquakes. This is not up to par by
anyone’s standards and I have a few observations as to why.
First, I will say that all teams at the MLS level have skilled
players. The question is whether these athletes can play together
and create opportunities to win games. The Sounders, I believe are
not doing this. They seem to have more in common with the afore
mentioned Hispanic pickup game than a Championship caliber MLS
In 2008 and 2009, the Sounders style of play reminded me a lot
of Arsenal in the English Premier League. Arsenal are known as an
attack minded club that make quick passes and are surprisingly fast
on counter attacks. They build up possession through the midfield
and create many opportunities to score. The Sounders even had a
former Arsenal star Freddie Llungberg and former Arsenal youth
Steve Zakuani. For any other Arsenal fans out there, this is an
admittedly inadequate description of the team, I know.
Freddie Llungberg, formerly
of Arsenal and Sounders FC
This year is a different story, however. After observing both
home and away games, it is obvious something isn’t quite right.
With some new faces on the squad, the chemistry doesn’t seem to be
there. Here are some things I have observed:
Two things here:
o The Rec League approach – I lost
count of how many times during the Dynamo game the Sounders
attempted this. Watching from the Budweiser booth (Thanks Bdon)
after several Bud Lights, our frustration grew and grew as our only
method of attack was to clear the ball up to O’Brian White or
Montero, in a feeble effort to win the game.
I challenge you; during the next Sounders game against
the Chicago Fire, watch how many times this happens. Long balls
over the top are nothing but a hope and a prayer. They are not the
way to win games.
Former South Kitsap HS
players/friends Double D, myself, Sir Charles and Bdon at the
Sounders v. Dynamo game. Thanks to Bdon for hooking it up with
sweet suite tickets.
o Our normal passes used to build up an attack are
just awful. They are frequently directly to the opposing team or
they are difficult for our players to control.
o Is this a result of the bad passes? Or does our
lackluster touch force them? Either way, our first touch on the
ball is frequently too far out in front, which results in more
These deficiencies in the Sounders game result in less
possession, fewer opportunities to score and more counter attacks
from our opponents. In order to right the ship, the Sounders need
to develop chemistry with each other. They need to be patient, and
not simply clear the ball up to the forward like a god damn youth
soccer team. Also, the passes need to be accurate.
Fortunately, there are some good things I have observed as
Kasey Keller’s play has been great overall. The shots that beat
him have generally been phenomenal strikes on goal or opportunities
created by the opposing team that were nearly unstoppable.
Steve Zakuani has stepped up his game and is a serious threat in
Though off to a slow start in terms of finishing, O’Brian White
got his first goal against San Jose and is creating chances up
Hurtado is back and thought there have been some defensive
miscues, he does look solid.
Go get ‘em boys. Prove me wrong.
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