Posted by: Matt Gaschk
The Sounders are on a hot streak and it's no wonder with the success of their attacking foursome in the last nine matches.
The Sounders FC is currently on the hottest streak of the club’s short history. Unbeaten in their last nine matches, Seattle has accumulated 21 of a possible 27 points in that stretch.
They’ve used every means imaginable to reach that point, too.
Head coach Sigi Schmid has used 19 different starters and 21 different players overall to get the Sounders within one point of the MLS-leading LA Galaxy. In that stretch, Seattle has also gotten goals from nine different players and assists from eight different players.
That depth on the field and in the score column was on display at CenturyLink Field in a 4-3 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Four different players scored goals and three players had multi-point games to produce a scoring barrage that capped a ten-goal week for the Sounders.
“You can't concentrate on one player. If you focus on one guy hopefully another guy is going to come along and hurt you. That’s what’s important about our team,” Schmid said after the match. “We got four goals from the run of play, which was also good. We’ve got some goals from set pieces so if we can get goals from set pieces and the run of play and goals from different players that makes us a more difficult team.”
In their four goals, the Sounders showed a bit from each of their four attacking players - Fredy Montero and Roger Levesque at forward with Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales on the wings. The increased output from the midfield from Osvaldo Alonso and Erik Friberg has given those attacking players the creative freedom to cause havoc to opposing defenses.
In that midfield duo, the Sounders have found a defensive strength that has also gained confidence passing the ball forward, allowing the attackers to play their game without over-exerting themselves on defense.
“I was very pleased with our front four,” Schmid said. “I think they were creative and they put a lot of things together and a lot of combinations.”
Each individual in that front four brings something different to the table.
For Montero, it is the creative brilliance and moxie that got him a team-high 22 goals in his first two MLS seasons. He also led the club with 17 assists. A bit of a dry spell to start the season hasn’t deterred his confidence and now he has exploded on the goal column with four goals in his last five matches to bring his season totals to six goals and five assists.
After a two-match spell on the bench, he has returned to the form that got him named an MLS All-Star in each of his first two seasons.
“He’s stepped up and accepted the challenge,” Schmid said.
Levesque has been a solid, though unlikely, strike partner for Montero. His work-rate never in question, Levesque has found a niche as a hard-working target forward that has been able to set up his teammates while also providing a scoring option by crashing the box for crosses from either side of the field.
A strong player at the USL level for six seasons with the Sounders, Levesque had 27 goals and 16 assists to rank among the all-time leaders for the USL club. At 30, he may still be playing his best soccer. In his last five matches, he has three goals, including one on a sliding redirection at the near post on Saturday.
“Roger Levesque brings that work ethic. He’s a guy who seams things together by working and he’s done a great job of holding up the ball for us and connecting and finding that pass,” Schmid said. “When he can do that and get the ball to Mauro or Fredy and then run, we become more effective.”
Speaking of Rosales, he’s been the find of the year in MLS and has to be among the front-runners for Newcomer of the Year.
The past nine games have shown his true quality, as he’s grown more comfortable with his teammates and his team more comfortable in him. His two goals and three assists in that span and six assists on the year don’t even begin to tell of the incredible dynamic he’s added to the club.
“Mauro is probably off the run of play as good of a crosser as there is in this league,” Schmid said. “He finds people and picks them out on crosses.”
And finally, Fernandez. The midfielder has found a home on the left wing - the position previously occupied by the ever-explosive Steve Zakuani. While he plays the position differently than Zakuani, he has found success of late in making runs to get past unsuspecting right backs who have appeared to think it an easy night without the lightning quickness of Zakuani to deal with.
He has two goals in the last four matches to bring his season total to five, second only to Montero. After struggling a bit to adapt to MLS and his ever-changing position on the team, he has been another revelation for the Sounders FC in 2011.
“Flaco brings some physical qualities as well,” Schmid said. “He’s able to get in the air and he’s able to get up and down the line. He has more speed than people think he has and he brings creativity.”
All told, the 6-0-3 run has lifted the Sounders to 10-4-8 on the season and second in the league as they enter their first break in the MLS schedule all season. With a match against the Philadelphia Union rescheduled from July 23 to October 8, the Sounders now won’t play another league match until July 30 in a road contest against the Houston Dynamo.
Before then, they will face Manchester United in a friendly on Wednesday and Panama’s San Francisco in the CONCACAF Champions League on July 26.
“Right now we’re 22 games in and we have some more games to go and we want to maintain this,” Schmid said. “The guys have gone through a good run and now it's time to relax a little bit, take a deep breath and prepare for the next stage.”