Seattle Sounders' counterattack adjustment works to perfection in win over Montreal Impact

After dominating possession in each of their first two games, the Seattle Sounders were more than happy to switch roles on their first road trip of 2014.

The plan worked perfectly. The Sounders grabbed an early goal off a set piece and Obafemi Martins added an insurance goal in the second half off a well-executed counter strike in Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact.

“We wanted to sit back a little bit, so I knew we were going to absorb some pressure,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We were trying to get forward on the counter, and I figured we could create some chances like that.”

After getting the 8th-minute goal – which went into the books as an own goal after Lamar Neagle’s header from a Gonzalo Pineda free kick hit the crossbar and deflected off goalkeeper Troy Perkins –  the Sounders were mostly able to dictate their game plan.

“To get it on a set play, it’s usually what you kind of want to do,” Neagle said. “When you’re an away team, take your time on set plays and make the most of them. And we did that.”

The Sounders were limited to just 45 percent of possession and were outshot 25-9, but still ended up with the bulk of the better scoring opportunities. In addition to their two goals, Neagle had another shot hit off the inside of the post and would have also had an assist if not for Perkins’ spectacular save on a Martins header from close range.

To some degree, the change in philosophy was forced onto the Sounders, who were missing several key contributors. Clint Dempsey was serving the first of his two-game suspension and Brad Evans was deemed unable to play after suffering a muscle injury the previous week.

The Sounders responded to their absences by switching into a 4-3-3 formation that featured Neagle and Kenny Cooper as the wide forwards and a midfield trio of Andy Rose, Pineda and Osvaldo Alonso.

“It shows we have a good squad,” said Sounders defender Djimi Traore, whose goal-line clearance in the 85th minute helped preserve the shutout. “We were missing quality players like Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans, but we have other players that can come in at any time and do the work.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.