Sounders FC is just two matches into the 2014 season, but there are already plenty of things we’ve learned in the opening of the year.
PARITY IS ALIVE AND WELL
Sigi Schmid talked about the parity of the league after Seattle topped Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, in the season opener, ousting the defending MLS Cup champions with a stoppage time goal by Chad Barrett. That concept was on full display in the second match when Seattle fell, 2-1, to Toronto FC, who had the third-worst record in MLS in 2013. It could be a dramatic turnaround for Toronto after an offseason overhaul, but is also an indication of just how close teams are in this league.
Around MLS, there were six draws in 16 matches and only one team, the Houston Dynamo, has taken all six points from its first two matches. It’s still very early in the season, but if this is a trend that continues throughout the year, the playoff chase in September and October is going to be a sight to behold.
MARTINS AND DEMPSEY ARE LINKING UP
Of the 72 passes Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey attempted on Saturday, 11 were made to each other, including Martins finding Dempsey at the top of the box to assist his first goal of the season. The two international stars are combining more and more and as they further develop that partnership, it will undoubtedly mean more scoring chances for Seattle. However, Schmid notes that the ability for Martins and Dempsey to combine is also contingent on the wing play.
"For them to be able to find each other and play off each other is important and for that chemistry to develop,” Schmid said. “We still have to look for the right mix, too, as it involves our wide guys in the attack as well. So we're still looking at getting that going."
FREI REMAINS CONFIDENT
Allowing two goals in seven minutes can break a goalkeeper’s spirit. That was far from the case on Saturday for Stefan Frei after two goals from Jermain Defoe. In those cases, Defoe was virtually uncontested on the shots, leaving Frei 1v1 with the England National Team striker. Three minutes after the second goal, though, Frei came up big on a screamer from Alvaro Rey coming in from the right side, parrying the shot over the crossbar for a corner kick and keeping Seattle in the game. Frei has made five saves while allowing two goals for a 1.00 goals against average, posting one shutout.
“I think it was difficult for him on the two goals that Toronto scored because the shot opportunities were pretty clear-cut, open chances for Defoe. He came up with a big save after that. His feet have been good. He’s been solid in that way. We have confidence in him,” Schmid said. “He’s played well in the two games he has played, but Marcus is right there as well.”
FINISHING MUST IMPROVE
The results don’t show it, but Schmid is enthused about how his team performed from week to week, seeing overall progress in his team despite tasting defeat in the second week. However, play in the final third is where Seattle could see the most overall improvement.
“I think we played better in game two in terms of the soccer and knocking the ball around. There were some pretty good looks that we had,” Schmid said. “Our finishing has to get better. We’ve got to make sure we get behind the back four a little bit better, but I thought there was definitely an improvement in the soccer from week one to week two.”