After 120 minutes of soccer and six rounds of penalties, the Seattle Sounders lifted the MLS Cup trophy to officially put an end to the 2016 season. As the celebrations commenced among Seattle supporters, fans from around the league turned their attention to 2017. Can teams like the New England Revolution learn anything from the Sounders’ championship run? Let’s take a look
It’s about finding a difference maker
Most people had already written off the Sounders by the summer of 2016. Wins were a rarity as the team struggled to cope with the loss of Obafemi Martins.
Then came Nicolas Loderio.
Loderio’s first MLS game was a sign of things to come, as the 27-year-old Uruguayan registered four shots, including two on target. One week later he collected a pair of assists. In a matter of weeks, Loderio had brought new life to the Sounders.
The Revs were hoping to gain a similar boost when they brought in Kei Kamara mid-season. Acquiring last year’s Golden Boot runner-up seemed like a good plan for a team that found scoring difficult. It didn’t work out, however, as the service wasn’t there. It wasn’t until the Revs paired Kamara with Juan Agudelo in a 4-4-2 formation that things turned around.
Kamara is a fine piece for the Revs to have, and there’s plenty of optimism about what he can do given a full preseason. That said, he and Agudelo need a midfielder to step up and be a difference maker. This could be Lee Ngyuen or Kelyn Rowe, who both have a knack for being creative.
You have to be tight in the back
Consider this: the Sounders won the MLS Cup without recording a single shot on goal during the championship game.
Having a dynamic attack is great, but a strong back line is probably more important during the chess matches that occur during the post-season. Roman Torres and Chad Marshall were perfectly in tune with Osvaldo Alonso and Christian Roldan, which caused nightmares for Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. This is the type of chemistry that leads to a trophy.
When the back line did bend, Stefan Frei proved to be up to the task. His best moment came during extra time when he used his left paw to deny Altidore. It was a save that will surely be remembered by all Sounders fans.
Conversely, the Revs’ defense was dreadful in 2016, as the team consistently trotted out different combinations. The club finished with a -10 goal differential, which was the second worst in the league. Expect changes next year, as the team is looking to add new faces along the back line.
Change can be good
The Sounders parted ways with long-time head coach Sigi Schmid at the end of July. Although it was a move that most people saw coming, it was still a shock as Schmid had been with the Sounders since they joined MLS in 2009. While in charge of the Rave Green, Schmid captured four US Open Cups, lifted a Supporters’ Shield in 2014, and helped the team make seven consecutive playoff appearances.
The man who replaced Schmid was long-time assistant coach Brian Schmetzer. Schmetzer had lead the Sounders when they played in the USL, but there were questions about if he could produce results in US soccer’s top division. Several months later, there are few doubts that he can.
When the Revs return in 2017, Jay Heaps will still be roaming the sidelines. The head coach, who brought the team to the MLS Cup Final in 2014 and the US Open Cup Final in 2016, is in the last year of his contract. Heaps has grown a lot as a coach, but you have to wonder if the front office would be willing to make a change if things aren’t going well at the beginning of season.