SEATTLE – A big part of Seattle’s 2-0 victory in the US Open Cup came from its defensive effort.
Specifically, the Sounders successfully snuffed Chicago midfielder Pável Pardo out of the match. With Pardo unable to distribute from his central midfield position, the speed of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro was greatly limited.
“They look for the long ball first and foremost, so we talked about it before the game: let’s make their backs play as much as possible, especially [Dan] Gargan,” midfielder Brad Evans said after the match. “I thought we did a good job of that.”
“Pardo wasn’t really involved until middle of the second half, early in the second half,” Evans added.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said shutting down the attackers was a team effort. Evans bore the primary responsibility of shutting down Pardo, but strikers Mike Fucito and Fredy Montero also used their energy to harry the Chicago back line.
With the long balls nullified, the speedy duo of Nyarko and Oduro didn’t cause Seattle too many problems.
“We talked about making sure their defenders – and primarily Pável Pardo – didn’t have a chance to lift their heads and hit those long balls in behind,” said Schmid. “I thought Evans did a really good job. Sometimes we were stretched in the midfield, but I thought he did a very good job of stepping up to Pável. When you look at the 90 minutes, it was a rare occasion that he was able to hit a ball behind our defense.”
In all, Seattle defended well against the Fire’s most dangerous weapons. Oduro, who found himself marked up against Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, failed to record a shot in 90 minutes of work. Strike partner Nyarko didn’t fare much better, with only one shot on goal.
Schmid complimented the instincts of Hurtado and Jeff Parke in his postmatch comments. The players anticipated balls over the top by beginning to retreat, especially when there was no pressure on the ball.
With the focus being paid to Pardo, perhaps the presence of Sebastián Grazzini in the starting lineup would have benefited the Fire. But by the time Grazzini came on in the 84th minute, the match was almost over.
As Marco Pappa faded out of the match in the second half, Chicago were not able to generate any sustained offense. The best chance—Oduro’s header against Kasey Keller in the 90th minute – was ruled offside. In the end, Chicago had only one paltry shot to their credit in the final 45 minutes, a harmless effort in the 50th minute.
“I think [there were] only maybe three occasions in the entire 90 minutes when they dangerous getting in behind us,” Schmid said.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.