Eventually, the New England Revolution will stop flying across the country to play MLS games in 2017.
That day however, is not today, as the Revs play their seventh (7th!?!?!?!) game against the Western Conference as the Seattle Sounders welcome the Revs for a rematch of Super Bowl 49. No, I’ve done that wrong...and I’m an Eagles fan...
Anyway, Dave Clark from Sounder at Heart answered a few questions and you can follow him on Twitter @bedirthan for soccer things and stay for the D&D stories and the unofficial fan club for Seahawks punter Jon Ryan. Check out my answers to Dave’s questions over on the SaH site where I’m already wrong since Kei Kamara won’t be in the starting lineup today.
TBM: I really enjoyed that 3-0 pasting of the LA Galaxy. Besides the Galaxy being bad, what went right for the Sounders in that game and how was it different from other games when Seattle seemed to be struggling a bit on offense?
I enjoyed destroying the Galaxy too. That first half might be as close to perfect soccer as the Sounders have ever played. Every aspect went how it is supposed to go. Seattle played their possession style perfectly. They used the ball in both attack and as a way to prevent attacks. Their finishing, the biggest problem on the early season, had no issues.
To be clear, the attacks struggles are about finishing. By expected Goals they are the top team in the league. Players like Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris didn't get worse. On the season they should all be fine. Playing mostly on the road they didn't finish. It happens. Rather than make massive changes Brian Schmetzer only made one minor switch - Will Bruin started at forward and Morris slotted back. That gave Morris more space to run and cleared a few more yards for Clint and Nico to operate in between the lines.
It also helped that LA is bad. They are structurally inadequate. By design they count on Jermaine Jones being a competent defensive mid. That's not going to work long term. He no longer puts in the effort throughout a game. That puts too much pressure, particularly forcing lateral movement, on Van Damme, Steres and Pedro. I hope the Galaxy believe deeply in those four. It will make the West so much fun.
TBM: Let's talk about the other side of the ball. How have Stefan Frei and the Sounders backline fared so far in 2017? I see Joevin Jones has three assists so far this year, how has he contributed so well out of the back?
DC: The defense has been rather unstable, if you think of defense as just the back four. But Alonso-Roldan are as important, maybe more important than the fullbacks. I've started referring to it as a pentagon (Frei, 2 CBs, 2DMs). Those CBs will often split wide in both defense and certainly in the attack. This let's Jones and whoever plays right back (Fisher with 3 starts, Svensson with 2, Delem with 2) get forward into the attack.
It's a defense that generally gives up shots from distance but closes in quickly when a team gets into the area. It can be prone to silly moments where they allow space to players they dominated for most of the game. Both Wondo and Montero took advantage of those mental errors.
All of that together allows Joevin Jones to be the 5th attacking piece. He generates quite a few crosses both from the touchline and from the endline with cutback passes. He has already matched last year's assist total and looks likely to be the best left back when entering the attack. That's good for eighth so far this year, and nearly everyone ahead of him is a #10. There is every reason to think that Joevin Jones, left back, finishes with 10+ assists in 2017. He's creating extraordinary opportunities, and was already robbed of an assist because Ashley Own Cole took away Bruin's opportunity to score.
TBM: I know it's early, and the Sounders are above the red line in the West standings, but how concerning is it to see Portland seven points ahead of you (even with a game in hand)?
DC: I don't spend much time thinking about Portland. Six is greater than one. Fifteen is greater than three.
Lineup prediction: (4-2-3-1) Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Tony Alfaro, Gustav Svensson, Jordy Delem; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Will Bruin
Seattle's backline is nowhere close to 100%, but it's the same backline that shut down both Atlanta and LA. I expect Brad Evans to be in the 18.