The Seattle Sounders have been “too open” in their recent matches and must tighten up their approach to possession, team shape and transitions if they are to fulfill their ambitions for 2019, said goalkeeper Stefan Frei as his team prepared for Wednesday’s key midweek visit from FC Dallas (10:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
The Rave Green sit in second place in the MLS Western Conference standings and are 3-1-1 in their last five games. Yet they’ve posted just one clean sheet in 13 league matches since the end of June, a leakiness that Frei attributes to costly slackness in their buildup and an inability to impose their preferred tempo on opponents.
“We still have to gel a little bit better as a team when it comes to our defense,” said the veteran ‘keeper on Tuesday. “One really vulnerable position for us is when we are in possession and we're trying to open up or maintain possession, sometimes I think we put ourselves in unfortunate situations in that part of our game, and then that makes it very very difficult for our defenders.”
Illustrative of Frei’s point, Seattle blew a 2-0 lead at home vs. the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, allowing their guests to haul themselves level at 2-2 in the second half before a late surge restored the three points to the Sounders’ side.
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“We want to find a way where we can control games and really settle in and dictate,” he added. “It’s not very fun when you’re constantly having to extinguish fires and you never know what’s going to happen.”
The 1.57 goals per game that the Sounders have conceded this year is the most since Frei became the starting 'keeper in 2014.
|Year||Goals Conceded per game|
Head coach Brian Schmetzer sounded a bit more sanguine after his team’s rain-soaked training session, albeit with a warning about the menace posed by a “desperate” FCD side fresh off a humbling 4-0 rout at Chicago over the weekend.
“It’s a group that’s a little tired, but certainly they’re in good spirits because the last performance was a good one,” said Schmetzer of his squad, noting that he’s “blessed to have some choices” in terms of lineup rotation as Seattle play their second of three games in an eight-day span.
“We can't afford having injuries at this point,” said Frei. “It's very important to watch those minutes and for guys to be honest with themselves and with the squad. How far can you go? Obviously always want everybody to push to the max and I think every player wants to do that, but there’s also a level of being smart and realizing that we do have three games and travel in a matter of a week – and games, and important games, looming after that as well.”
Seattle must travel across the continent to visit D.C. United on Sunday. But first they’ll take pains to avoid overlooking an FCD group locked in a tense race with Portland and San Jose for the West’s final postseason berths.
“They're a dangerous side and I think they always get up for it against us … we have to match that and then some,” said Frei, who pointed to Dallas’ ability to counterattack at speed and framed Wednesday as a must-have three points for the Sounders.
“We’re maybe blessed because we’re playing a lot of teams that are in it, fighting in it in the West,” he added. “It makes it maybe more difficult because you’re fighting against desperate teams; tomorrow is the perfect example of that. But it’s in our hands, so that’s good.”