Back when the results showed a Seattle Sounders FC side sitting on the edge of the Western Conference Playoffs the team was having trouble scoring from set-pieces. Four matches later and the dead ball became a path to three of the last five goals, all three game-winners in 1-nil wins.
Now, the club sits in the middle of the league on goals scored from set-pieces, as well as the percentage of goals scored from non-PK dead balls.
Data via WhoScored.com
The club is doing it with variety in tactics and personnel.
Against Portland it was a glancing header by Eddie Johnson that redirected Mauro Rosales’ free kick from the left side of the field about 20 yards from the endline.
As the near post runner pulled two Timbers away, Johnson found himself clear and used nuance rather than power to score the goal. If the scrum of defenders at the far post was the target a goal is an unlikely result.
Down a man against Columbus, Mauro Rosales set up just right of center. Johnson is the near post runner with a man on him, but that man is more present than active.
Without significant contact made Eddie rises high and slams it to the far post to earn the winner. That a man who set the league record for headed goals finds himself free to rise is poor defense. His finish is a text book combination of power and angle.
Another lineup reduced by injury and national team calls took the field last Wednesday. They joined in on the set-play magic. Nearly on the touchline after Yedlin was fouled Marc Burch’s left foot blasts the ball almost dead center at the top of the six yard box to a free Lamar Neagle. Neagle took a touch and then scissor kicked it home. Unlike the other two goals, the scrum was at the near post. Two flat-footed Chivas USA players let Neagle slip through.
Three straight game-winners from a stoppage in play are a clear demonstration that when fouling a Sounders FC player in dangerous spot punishment is just one kick away.
It can come at the near post, the middle of the goal or the far post. Other plays have shallow near post corners targeting a head to flick on to the back.
With left and right-footed service available and potent headers of the ball like Johnson, Dempsey, Hurtado (he just missed on the back post against the Fire), and Scott the Seattle Sounders FC is scoring in ways that should make any defender think twice before fouling within 40 yards of goal.