After two tough matches on the road, the Sounders FC returns to CenturyLink Field to take on Supporters' Shield-leading D.C. United. Ross Fletcher provides his analysis in Off-Camera Observations.
On bouncing back after unfavorable results:
Without Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, I think it's time for Seattle to bring back that battling spirit. That has seen them through so many different situations over the last few years. The team has always found a way to win in the last year and a half. If you're going in a game with Chad Barrett or Lamar Neagle, you're not going to play with the same zippy possession-based football as you would with Dempsey and Martins. Barrett and Neagle have different strengths.
The team might think about playing more direct. Chad is great in the air and Lamar is wonderful running in the channels and can harass the opposing defenders. You might see a direct style of play this Friday. It might not be as pretty, but it's more pragmatic.
On D.C. United's strengths and what it will take to defeat them:
I think Ben Olsen has done a really great job, particularly considering where they were two years ago. D.C. was the league's worst team in 2013 but they stuck with Olsen. He was given a chance to reshape his squad and after going from worst team to best team in the Eastern Conference, they have been able to remain consistent coming into this season.
Their backbone is built through the spine of this team. Bill Hamid is one of the best goalkeepers in all of MLS. He'll be motivated to continue to play well after being left off the Gold Cup Roster. Bobby Boswell is an ever-dependent central defender and their central midfield with Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud provides a wonderful combination of both youth and experience. They have shown they can go through the gears.
Seattle will have to stop D.C. from scoring by committee. They don't necessarily have one out-and-out goal scorer like the Sounders do in Dempsey and Martins. They may have had that in Eddie Johnson, but they're relying heavily this season on Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola. The Sounders have to play a disciplined game.
The Sounders still have aerial threats in Barrett, Zach Scott and Chad Marshall. While the team may be lacking the creativity of Dempsey and Martins, they can use set pieces as their avenues to goals just as they did in Portland.
Now we sit back and wait to see who can step up in this game. Will Cristian Roldan, Thomás or a young Homegrown Player step into the breach? These are the types of games you're looking for gems to appear.
On being back at home:
The Sounders have a very good record when they play at home. When you look at the numbers that Seattle has put at home, it says fortress. The only team who has beaten them at home is the San Jose Earthquakes. I think the comfort of home will be a big advantage for the Rave Green on Friday night. I'll go back to what Tyrone Mears said before he signed with the Sounders. He attended a match last summer, which happened to be a 3-0 defeat by LA Galaxy. He noticed that even down by three, the crowd supported the team in such a positive way. That gives everyone a lift and a belief that they can go on and do something.
Home support is crucial but the Sounders don't have to issue any kind of rallying cry. The supporters will want to get the team out of this spell and being at home is an ideal scenario. This can help the team rebuild momentum.