Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned as Seattle Sounders finally hit their stride
I don't have a better lead than this, because what we saw from Michael Gspurning – arguably one of the league's two most reliable goalkeepers over the last two seasons – you couldn't write. It'd be laughed out of any screenplay for being too unrealistic.
A picture's worth a million words in this case, so here ya go:
Three things we learned from a bizarre 2-0 Seattle Sounders win over Colorado:
1. Dempsey in the diamond worked
I'd expressed my concern over Clint Dempsey's role as playmaker in a diamond-4 midfield, simply because he loves to get his touches even when he doesn't need them. Inefficiency can be a killer when you're in the most congested part of the pitch.
But ... it wasn't that congested there. For some reason Deuce was almost always given time to receive, see the pressure, then dance away from it and complete a pass. It absolutely murdered the Rapids in the first 45 minutes, after which they definitely should have been down more than 1-0.
This was the best early chance, and you can see how late the pressure is getting to Dempsey:
The Sounders got there repeatedly in the first half, as Dempsey's touch chart shows:
When your best player can set up shop exactly where he wants to, you're gonna have a good night.
2. Seattle's strength played directly into Colorado's weakness
The Rapids haven't been able to stop anyone from playing directly across the backline for a while now, particularly in semi-transition moving right to left.
Here's Camilo's second goal from the weekend. (Click it, it's a totally great goal.)
And here's Seattle's opener from tonight:
Seattle's persistence in attacking this area for the first 45 minutes forced Oscar Pareja to change from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 in the second half, and led to a near total dislocation up top.
Sigi Schmid definitely won the tactical battle with this one.
3. If you can't possess, you can't use the flanks
Rewind: MLSsoccer.com Live Postgame Show
Usually the 4-3-3 outguns the 4-4-2 in central midfield, leading to a possession advantage. But on this night, it was fairly even, both overall and in the final third.
The reason is because of the narrowness of the diamond, and the added steel of Adam Moffat and Brad Evans, both of whom played more horizontal than vertical (at least until Evans was moved to right back, and yes, Sounders fans, that is a gigantic concern).
The Rapids never got the numbers advantage, and as a result never really involved Chris Klute.
This is just sad:
Klute has been the most consistent and, frankly, necessary threat for the Rapids all year. Without him, Deshorn Brown was pretty lost, and the attack had no penetration up the left.
That changed a little bit once Vicente Sanchez came in, but it didn't change enough. Sanchez wants to drive the ball forward fast, and truth is, the Rapids really needed Dillon Powers, who has a little more patience as a deeper-lying playmaker.
What's it mean for this weekend? Well, Caleb Porter is not about to make the same mistakes that Pareja made, and will certainly make sure that both Will Johnson and Diego Chara understand how urgent the need to put immediate pressure on Dempsey is.
Pretty much every other part of the tactical battle hinges on that. Dempsey was brought in to be a rainmaker for the Sounders, and on Wednesday, he absolutely was.
It only gets harder from here.