Sounders FC is preparing to head into its second match in just five days as the Colorado Rapids travel to Seattle. Sounders FC broadcaster Ross Fletcher chimes in on the midweek match-up with some more brilliant analysis in the latest Off-Camera Observations.
On the Sounders heading into a midweek match:
It's a difficult game against Colorado because they are coming off a victory. It was their first home victory since July. I think it comes down to Seattle using possession with purpose. We've talked a lot on the broadcast over the last few weeks about the change in style of the Sounders from this team that could run and gun with Clint [Dempsey] and Obafemi [Martins] carving up the middle to a team that uses possession as a much more important tool.
In Vancouver, we saw them using possession with purpose. The Sounders knocked it around and had a final product. Against Sporting Kansas City, they didn't have the same cutting edge and there wasn't the same kind of impetus to use that possession and turn it into really good chances. The team only had one shot on target.
Against Colorado, the emphasis has to be back on possession as they face a team that's really strong defensively. Like the Sounders, they've only conceded nine goals this year.
On Colorado's defense this season:
Pablo Mastroeni made a big point in the offseason of saying 'we're not nasty enough in midfield'. Last season, Colorado leaked goals through the midfield like a sieve. They didn't feel like they had a leader at that position to take responsibility. Drew Moor, their central defender, was out for most of the last half of the season with an ACL injury and in midfield, they didn't have an enforcer like an Ozzie Alonso.
Mastroeni went in the offseason and brought not one, not two, but three central midfielders with bite: Sam Cronin from San Jose, Lucas Pittinari from Argentina and Marcelo Sarvas from the LA Galaxy. Sarvas is now out because of knee surgery, but what they've done is really battened down the hatches at midfield and made it really difficult for teams to play through them. They've provided protection for their back four and that's denied teams goal-scoring opportunities by and large. The only team that's really managed to do that was Seattle when they went to Dick's Sporting Goods Park and ran away with the match in the second half in April.
That extra layer of protection in the central midfield has been really important for Colorado. They also have James Riley at right back and Michael Harrington at left back and they've just tinkered around the edges with their central defense. They're a much more disciplined, strong, nastier unit and I think a lot of that comes down to the two defensive central midfielders.
On Colorado Rapids' new forwards:
I watched Kevin Doyle a lot in England when I did play-by-play in the Championship and the Premiere League and I think he's a really good signing. He's 31, he's got a lot in the tank and he played with Marcus Hahnemann at Reading when they got promoted with a record-scoring season in the mid-2000s. They ran away with the league in 2006 and in that season, Doyle was terrific. He's got the ability to be a goal-poacher but he's also great in the air. That's a big win for Colorado.
You'll probably see Doyle playing in that No. 10 role against the Sounders. He came off the bench in the last match against Vancouver, but I think he'll start against Seattle in that withdrawn No. 10 role. He can get in the box late, he can score goals with both his right and left foot and his head. As a Designated Player, he's the kind of guy who will make a difference.
He will support the other new guy, Luis Solignac from Argentina who is a true No. 9. He's six feet tall, he's good with his back to goal, he's a strong player and again, adds a little bit of bite that maybe they've been lacking up front. They are a very interesting one-two punch. We don't know yet if they will have chemistry...we'll have to wait and see. Certainly I know Kevin Doyle and I think he's the kind of player who will improve Colorado significantly and I'm keen to see the kind of damage he can do.