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Sounders continue to face home scoring woes

Freddie Ljungberg ( 

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They weren’t, and probably won’t be last year’s New York Red Bulls. But Saturday night’s Seattle Sounders FC was in many ways the same club as it was in Year One. And that doesn’t bode well for the Rave Green and its faithful.

Seattle’s strength is and will continue to be in the back, at least until scorer Blaise Nkufo arrives to help bolster the offense. The Sounders’ defense was strong again Saturday in a 1-0 loss to New York, from defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso to goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

But coach Sigi Schmid has to realize, if he hasn’t already, that his talented team can’t get by on quick counters and occasional Steve Zakuani one-on-one runs to score goals. And at some point, Seattle has to finish more chances if it is going to live up to the lofty expectations set for the club.

Sounders fans had to have left Qwest Field Saturday wondering if another long streak of goal-less games at home is at hand. The team didn’t score at home in four games from July 25 to Sept. 19 last season, though it outshot its opponent in three of those matches.

Saturday night, Seattle set club records set club records with nine corner kicks in the first half and 12 for the game. It outshot the Red Bulls 17-10, and forced goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul to make five saves.

Give NYRB credit – Coundoul was on his game, and the Red Bulls made the best of a good albeit well-defended chance when Macoumba Kandji scored off a corner kick in the 21st minute. It is clearly a better team than last season’s version, with two wins already, and the Red Bulls are quite a step above the young and mistake-prone Philadelphia Union team that came into Qwest and was soundly defeated 2-0 on March 25.

But nine corners and 17 shots produced zero goals this past week. And then there is this lovely nugget from the team: In 34 regular-season and playoff games, Seattle is 13-1-8 when getting at least one goal. It is 0-8-4 when held scoreless.

That includes an 0-3-4 mark at home.

“I'm not displeased with our effort, I'm not displeased with our ability to get forward but I am displeased with our ability to finish,” Schmid said after the game.

The simple answer in finishing chances is practice, practice, practice. But Sounders FC did that last year, too. Teams are going to continue to mug Freddie Ljungberg and Fredy Montero, so chances for them will be based on their ability to get free for open shots.

Perhaps the team sensed that when deciding to add proven scorer Pat Noonan to its depth at forward. But Noonan needs time to adjust to how his teammates play and fit in.

Maybe the secret to stopping the Sounders is fouling its playmakers. Maybe it is great goalkeeping. Or maybe the Sounders have to find other ways to generate chances, even if it means sacrificing something on the defensive end.

That seems to be where Schmid finds himself at present.

“"Disappointed that we weren't able to get one. We did enough work to make that happen,” he said. “When we went to three in the back, we actually had less of the ball. Sometimes it might have been better to stay with the four because we were applying a lot of pressure. Guys were pushing up out of that. You've got to roll the dice sometimes.”

Especially at home, where goals for Sounders FC are at a premium.


  1. As the game wore on, montero played wider and wider, because he wasn’t winning any balls with the central defenders muscling him. So not only were Seattle playing long ball, it was being played way out in flanks–not much danger, considering the sounders lack a healthy target man in the middle. Plus a lot of those balls were overhit, or behind the player ( Marshall and riley’s service was abysmal).

    Nyrb’s center mids did a great job in the second half pressuring–every time Alonzo got the ball someone got right on him, usually nipping him as he released the pass. It put him off his game.

    One other comment : zak was playing even with the forwards. On the attack, there was so much space behind him where he would have been able to pick up a pass, then run at the defender. Instead, it was like a 4-2-4 formation, and zero transtion game. Noonan did better, and offered some more options

  2. The Sounders are a team out of balance – the problems are more than just bad luck. They play with no right winger – that’s just a space for one of three guys to drift into. With Riley unable to handle that line by himself, they struggle to get any service from that area. And when they do, there are rarely more than one or two runners attacking the cross.

    Also, the team puts little to no pressure on teams to shoot from distance. It seems like they want to score only from inside the six yard box. Shooting from distance will open up space for the forwards to maneuver.

    I also think the attack breaks down too often because the two centermids sit to deep most of the time. Evans can develop into a true two-way player, but he’s not there yet. Ozzie is a #6, through and through.

    I hope in the short term they’ll move Ljungbrg out to the right and let Noonan play up top with Montero. Will provide more balance. And don’t hold out hopes for Jaqua – his injury has probably put him out for the year, if not for good.

  3. Sounders have two essentially possesion/defensive center mids, so their offense has to come down the wings. They only have one good wing at the moment, which is Zakuani. They have nobody in the middle for him to cross to because neither Fred/die is an aerial threat. Any team that has solid center backs and a right back that can keep Zakuani on the sideline will make it tough for Seattle to score. On set pieces they had nobody within 10 feet of heading the ball.

    When Jaqua returns he needs to be up top to give the wingers a bit of a target and Llungberg will slide back into the nominal right mid spot for Levesque. This is not ideal but will be more potent than what they have right now. Sigi tried the number 10 forward and a small forward at Columbus as well, but Moreno was much, much tougher and physically capable in the box than Montero.

  4. The positive side for Seattle is that when they DO score, they win 59% of those games, and tie 36%, and only lose 5% of the time. This shows that they can protect a lead and are good at shutting down their opponents. If they could reduce the number of times they get shut out from 12 to, say, 6 like LA/CLB in ’09, that would translate to a 14-5-11 regular season record, good for 53 points. (this assumes that in the 6 games they’re shut out, they’d go 0-4-2, same loss/tie ratio as last season’s 0-8-4). For reference, last season’s Western Conference co-champs (Houston and LA) had 48 pts, and Supporter’s Shield winner Columbus had 49.

    Figure out how to capitalize on a few more chances (and get Jaqua back to health, Noonan up to speed, and N’kufo as an added boost mid-season), and Seattle could be a formidable team, indeed.


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