The Seattle Sounders started the 2023 MLS season on fire after securing two home-game wins against the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake. While both games demonstrated the intensity and grit that define the Rave Green, this Saturday will be the ultimate test as they are challenged with their first away match-up against FC Cincinnati (4:30 p.m. PT | Watch free on Apple TV). Here are the three key components the Sounders need to focus on in order to take home a victory this weekend:
Take advantage of attacking talent
After scoring a total of six goals over the course of only two games, it’s crucial to maintain that same mentality heading into this Saturday against FC Cincinnati. The Sounders will be missing Brazilian forward Héber due to a hamstring strain, but the depth of the attack remains apparent with Raúl Ruidíaz, Fredy Montero and Jordan Morris serving as potential options to step into that No. 9 spot. If the Sounders offense can continue to make runs behind, take on players 1v1 up the line, crash the box, and take half-chances when the opportunity presents itself, the team will have no problem putting balls into the back of the net.
“I've got Fredy, I've got Raúl, I can play Jordan up front…. I feel bad for Héber because he was playing very, very well, but that's why you got to have a good roster, and we'll need everybody over the course of the year and this is just one of those moments,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer.
HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake | March 4, 2023
Dominate central midfield
The central midfield of Albert Rusnák, João Paulo and Nicolás Lodeiro will be key to controlling the game for the Sounders. The three veteran players have the ability to dictate the tempo of the game through switching the ball, driving at opposing defenders and dragging players out of position. By flowing the ball through the central three, it will open up space for other players to engage in the attack and be in positions to score.
“There are a lot of guys out there that would say games are won or lost in the midfield and we have an advantage over a lot of teams in that area,” said Schmetzer. “Right now, those three are playing at a high level.”
The Sounders largely picked apart the Colorado Rapids in transition, while they created a host of chances against Real Salt Lake with sustained possession. With both avenue’s resulting in victories, it’s important to apply the two strategies to the Sounders’ upcoming match against FC Cincinnati. Quick transitions beginning from the back will leave Cincinnati flat-footed as they hustle back to defend. Maintaining possession will eliminate bursts of energy from the Ohio team as they grow tired of chasing around for the ball.
“Obviously we've messaged a little bit more possession, but look, we're a good transition team,” Schmetzer said. “So, if Jordan or somebody has a chance to go directly to goal, we're going to encourage that… If they've got five defenders back plus a couple of holding midfielders, I might suggest to them that they keep possession for a little bit, so we'll see how the game plays out but players have heard that message.”