The last two matches for the Sounders FC have been offensively remarkable. Their passing, their movement and their possession have all been second to none. Their play Saturday as they shifted to a 4-3-3 formation in a 1-1 draw with the unbeaten Columbus Crew was an exciting brand of soccer that ended with 16 shots by the Sounders FC. That they only have one goal to show for it is certainly frustrating, though not cause for alarm or further change.
“I thought the 4-3-3 suited us well. I thought we created a number of chances,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Overall I thought when I looked at the majority of the game I was very proud of how our team played, the effort we put in I thought was very good. We created and if we continue to play along that vein, I think luck will return to us.”
The match opened with a Steve Zakuani goal in the fourth minute when Freddie Ljungberg sprung him up the right channel and Zakuani was left one-on-one with Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer. That was indicative of the first 40 minutes, when Seattle controlled possession with Peter Vagenas and Osvaldo Alonso playing deep in the central midfield with Ljungberg playing just above them. The trio of Brad Evans, Fredy Montero and Zakuani, meanwhile pushed up the field better than they had all season.
Each of those six played key roles in the success of the attack, but moving Ljungberg back from the forward position and the inclusion of Vagenas are two moves that have proved crucial to Seattle’s success.
“We managed to get guys on the field to keep the ball. I think when Pete is playing we keep the ball better and that allows guys to make runs because we know the ball is going to be kept,” Zakuani said.
Added Ljungberg, who notched his second assist of the year - though he has had involvement in many more scoring plays, “I’m extremely happy. That’s where I want to play. I don’t need to be with my back to their goal now, I can go at them. We created an enormous amount of chances. It’s devastating not to win the game. At least we’re playing amazing football and you can see the fans really enjoyed it. If we can keep on playing like this, we’re going to get a lot of points.”
That appears to be the general consensus - that the Sounders have unlocked the space to regain their dangerous form, but finishing will be the critical element.
“We had guys all over the place and they couldn’t read us. Overall, we dominated the game, we just weren’t fortunate enough to win,” Zakuani said.
“I think it was good, early on especially,” Schmid said. “You look at the spaces Freddie Ljungberg got, he was able to slip people in, he was able to make some runs from deep. It’s a position I want him playing deeper than he was been playing for us, it’s something we’ll continue to work on and grow with, but I think it’s something that suits us.”
All told, the Sounders are now 2-2-3 through seven matches, but they haven’t looked better this season on both ends of the ball. Time will tell where they will be when players like Nate Jaqua, Pat Noonan and Mike Fucito regain their health and add further attacking elements to the Sounders FC offense, but one must be encouraged by the excitement and opportunity created by the new-look Sounders offense. Especially when they can show so well against a top league contender in the Columbus Crew.
“They’re a good team, but I think we dominated,” Zakuani said. “That’s great for our confidence. The last two games our passing’s been fantastic. Now hopefully the goals and victories will come.”