TUSCON, Ariz. – There were a lot of things for the Sounders to improve on in their 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Wednesday, teaching points as they prepare for the start of the 2013 season. However, there were also many positives that Sigi Schmid and his coaching staff can glean as well.
Goalkeeper is not a concern
In four years with the Sounders, Schmid has never needed to worry about the man backstopping his team. Kasey Keller was among the best in MLS in his three seasons, earning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2011. Last year, Michael Gspurning led the league with a 0.73 goals against average and also helped the Sounders reached their fourth straight US Open Cup final and breeze through the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. At midseason, though, they also added
Marcus Hahnemann and in the second half of Wednesday’s game he showed that he is still among the best in MLS.
Gspurning held his typical command of his defense and only needed to make one first-half save, parrying away a shot early in the match. Meanwhile, Hahnemann was credited with just three second-half saves, but also thwarted many New England attacks by cutting off crosses and keeping control of the patchwork defense in front of him.
Arguments can certainly be made for Real Salt Lake, who feature the winning goalkeepers in three of the last four MLS Cup titles in Nick Rimando and Josh Saunders, but Seattle just may have the best goalkeeping combination in the league.
“Marcus is a quality goalkeeper,” Schmid said. “It’s a great feeling to know that if something were to happen to Michael, like it did last year, that we’ve got a guy like Marcus around. Obviously, he’s quality. He made some good saves, came out well and dealt with some crosses, but we left him on an island at times, so we needed to defend a little bit better in the second half.”
Eddie is ready
Johnson got into Tucson on Tuesday night after spending the weekend in New York for MLS marketing and media campaigns, but he showed on Wednesday that he didn’t miss a beat.
Given the option by the coaching staff to take the day off, Johnson instead opted to start and was a bright spot in the first half for the Sounders. He gave fits to the New England defense throughout the first half with his darting runs and hold-up play, then put the exclamation point on a good half of play by bending a blissful shot from the right side, cutting to his left foot and cutting the shot around his defender and the goalkeeper and inside the far post for a 2-0 lead.
After spending a month away with the US National Team, Johnson displayed that he is ready to pick up right where he left off in 2012 when he had a team-best 14 goals.
Possession is key
Getting Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso back into the lineup for the Sounders made a world of a difference over Seattle’s first preseason game last week against the Portland Timbers. Keeping possession was a focus for the Sounders in the match and having Alonso and Evans available eased that task tremendously as Seattle controlled most of the first half. When Andy Rose entered for Alonso late in the first half, the team continued that trend.
Add to that the patience to probe for quality plays into dangerous scoring opportunities while also recycling the offense when they aren’t readily available and it’s no wonder the Sounders were able to jump out to their early lead.
The back four was as good as could be expected in the first half, but they weren’t the only ones contributing to the clean sheet in the match. Schmid credited not just Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traore in the middle or Adam Johansson and Leo Gonzalez on the outside, but the whole team for their efforts to maintain their defensive responsibilities.
“Defensively I thought we were pretty good. I thought we were good with crosses. I thought we got to a lot of clearances. Jhon Kennedy and Djimi Traore did a good job in the middle for the most part,” Schmid said. “It was a good test for them. I was pleased with that. I was also pleased with the defensive contributions we got from Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales because them helping defensively at the right times is very important for us, and it thought that worked out fairly well.”