Halftime tweaks rescue Sounders in Cascadia Cup draw

Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — Sometimes all it takes is a little flexibility.

After watching his team struggle to both control the ball in the midfield and allowing the Vancouver Whitecaps to generate numerous quality scoring chances, Seattle Sounders manager Sigi Schmid opted to start the second half on Saturday with a few changes.

The most obvious was replacing Alex Caskey with Andy Rose, but just as important was a more subtle change.

“In the first half we didn’t do a good job against the central part of their midfield,” Schmid told reporters after the team’s 2-2 draw. “[Jun Marques] Davidson was free to orchestrate it and they were playing three against two.

“What we did at halftime was drop [Fredy] Montero into that hole to deal with Davidson and play more of a 4-2-3-1 to match up better with that,” he added. “Also, the guys were a little more honest. I think we cheated a little bit defensively in the first half and that gave them opportunities. In the second half we did a better job of that.”

The results were undeniably positive. The Sounders generated nine second-half shots — after taking just two in the first half — scored two goals and salvaged a 2-2 tie to run their road unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2). Montero and Eddie Johnson each scored a goal and picked up assists, while Mauro Rosales assisted on Johnson’s goal.

Schmid stopped short of saying that the formational change would be a permanent one, but acknowledged that figuring out how to best utilize the skills of Montero, Álvaro Fernández, Rosales and Johnson is an ongoing process. Saturday marked the first time those four had played together for an extended period of time.

“It’s still a little bit disjointed,” Schmid said. “Mauro isn’t playing his best right now, but it will come. Flaco, this was his first start in some time, so his rhythm and timing will come. It’s a matter of us understanding how to put those four guys on the field together.”

The installation of Rose helped facilitate the change. While Caskey was tasked with playing more of an attacking role in what was nominally a 4-4-2 — and struggled doing it — Rose played alongside Osvaldo Alonso in a more defensive role.

“It’s really easy to play with Ozzie,” Rose told MLSsoccer.com. “Even though he seems to be everywhere all the time, he gives you your space as well. I was able to get touches fairly high up the field and try to connect and get Fredy and Eddie more into the game. Fredy drops deep and it’s easy to play between those two.”

Even though Rose was playing relatively deep, he helped create several scoring chances and nearly picked up an assist in the 50th minute. After tracking down a loose ball on the endline, Rose settled the ball and sent in a cross to Johnson at the top of the penalty area. Johnson then flicked a header to Montero, whose one-touch shot was only kept out of the goal by a diving Joe Cannon.

It wasn’t exactly how the Sounders drew it up, but it was a sign of progress.

“It’s coming,” Johnson said. “It’s not coming as fast as we thought we would be, guys haven’t been able to play on a consistent basis together. It’s just whoever Sigi puts on the field, we have each other’s back 100 percent.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.

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