Tactical tweaks unleash breakout attacking display for "irritated" Sounders

SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders’ recent offensive drought is a thing of the past.

Going into their derby match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, the Sounders had managed just three goals in their last five matches and had been shut out in two straight – an offensive rut that had been widely noted as a caveat of their recent 13-match unbeaten run.

On Wednesday, however, the Sounders finally got a long-awaited breakout performance as Victor Rodriguez, Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey all scored goals in a dominant 3-0 blowout of their Cascadia Cup rivals.

“I think the team as a whole was getting a little irritated,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters after the game. “That streak was a good streak – 13 games unbeaten is a great accomplishment – but it also kind of wore on us a little bit as we were getting some of those draws and not the results we wanted. So, this group was going to have a breakout game and that was tonight.”

It may have just been a matter of time for Seattle’s high-priced, star-studded attacking corps, but some tactical adjustments from Schmetzer may have played a role as well. Schmetzer chose to move Dempsey higher up the field as the lone forward atop Seattle’s 4-2-3-1 formation for the match, with Cristian Roldan also moving up to the No. 10 role from his normal spot as a defensive midfielder.

The moves paid dividends, as the Sounders put on one of their most fluid and cohesive attacking performances of the season.

“I think it just suits Clint’s skillset staying higher up the field and then dropping into the pocket to combine with Victor and Nico,” Schmetzer explained. “I thought that was good. Then you had the energy and enthusiasm of Cristian, Kelvin [Leerdam] and Joevin [Jones] providing a three-pronged kind of attacking movement to get in behind.

“Those other guys did their job too. It wasn’t just the front four, it was the team as a whole.”

For the Sounders, the hope is that they’ve discovered the formula to keeping their attack on track as they adjust to life without forward Jordan Morris, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Tactical shifts aside, however, Roldan said that Seattle’s clinical finishing of the chances they generated – something that had been lacking in recent weeks – was perhaps his biggest takeaway from the performance.

“To be honest, it was the same formation, it was a difference in personnel,” Roldan said. “And I felt like we created the same amount of chances as before and this time we finished them. It’s a different storyline when you finish your goals. They change games. It was just a difference in personnel and we were able to get our attacking players in good spots and our fullbacks really high.”