Seattle’s attack is clicking on all cylinders right now. Eight goals in two games is impressive, particularly against two teams that entering those matches had solid defensive records. How Seattle Sounders FC is getting those goals may be more notable. In past Seattle systems the goals come from a rapid, quick transitions of short and medium passes that eventually go to the wings for a cross and attempt on goal. Lately the scores are being built from direct, long balls up the middle to the speedy strike trio of Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle.
The change to more “Route One” soccer is most notable in the two first-half goals against FC Dallas. When Osvaldo Alonso won his header and earned the assist on Johnson’s goal the headed pass traveled about 40-yards. Johnson touched it once to gain space and another time to score. Rapid transition to the attack came on a long ball from near the center of the pitch.
When Lamar Neagle scored the second goal of the match it was another centrally played long ball that got the assist, again with little possession build-up prior. Mario Martinez won the ball deep, squared it to Servando Carrasco who then found Brad Evans. Evans would use about a 40-yard throughball to find Neagle just outside of the box. Evans was on Seattle’s defensive side of the centerline.
These quick strikes through or over the defense are made most potent due to defenses playing higher lines despite Seattle having speedy forwards able to blow past that system.
Since Mauro Rosales converted his free kick against San Jose all six goals involved passes of at least 25 yards during Seattle’s possession prior to the goal. Three of those involved a single pass on goal. Two others involved only three passes. One was a 10-pass sequence, but involved Alonso using two long balls, switching the attack from center to left and then center to right.
Whether throughball, header or chip, Seattle is getting into dangerous areas more quickly than they did early on the season and doing so using the simplest of soccer. Clean passes that attack the opposing box and net from deep within their own territory are resulting in scores.
During the down stretch to start the season Sounders FC averaged 3.32 passes per possession and were one of the top teams in the league by that measure. They were careful, cautious and possession oriented. In the last five matches that number is down to 2.53 passes per possession and now one of the worst by that measure. It is risky, turnover prone and potent. Scoring 12 goals in those five matches show a shift in strategy that is paying off.
The purpose of possession is to score goals and there is little doubt that this simple path is following that purpose at this time.