Just five matches remain in the regular season, and Sounders FC is in the hunt for its seventh straight MLS Cup Playoffs appearance. This weekend features a crucial battle with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the current Supporters’ Shield leaders. With Seattle leading the 2015 Cascadia Cup standings heading into the final fixture of the competition, a win or draw would clinch Seattle its first piece of hardware this season.
Here to share his thoughts on Saturday’s game is Steve Zakuani, former Sounder and current team broadcaster.
On what to expect from the Whitecaps:
I think the Sounders have seen Vancouver enough to know what they’re all about. They’re a very, very fast team. They’re very good on the counterattack. They’re not a team that tries to dominate possession, but they’re almost more dangerous without the ball. Once you lose it, they can spring forward with their fast wingers, so Seattle has to be wary of that.
But I think the Sounders have played Vancouver pretty well this year. Aside from the last game, the other two games went pretty well. They won up at BC Place when Obafemi Martins was unavailable earlier this year, so that makes me think they can win again on Saturday. The previous games don’t mean that much, but it’s about knowing Vancouver’s style and being very aware of how quick they are on the counterattack.
On the MLS debut of Andreas Ivanschitz:
He’s great on the ball. He came on and had three of four very good set pieces, and each one found the target. He actually reminds me a lot of Mauro Rosales, who I played with. The Sounders are going to be so much more dangerous with him. You only get so many set pieces per game, and you’ve got to make them count. I think once he gets more fit and more familiar with his teammates, the fans are going to be very pleased with what they see from him.
We’ll see more and more of his qualities in the coming games. He’s a good player, even away from set pieces. But since Chad Marshall’s good in the air, Brad Evans is good in the air and Oba has shown he can score on set pieces, having a guy like Ivanschitz to find them on crosses is huge.
On Nelson Valdez complimenting his fellow DP strikers:
Valdez is a very smart player. A player like him is best positioned in the middle, but he’s a guy that really understands the team concept. You saw him tracking back, defending in his own box and putting his body on the line. So I think he’s the kind of guy that can do a good job on the wing. It’s going to take a little bit of time for them to gel, but he’s come in here and shown that he understands the team concept. I think he’s definitely better down the middle, but we’ve seen him do a decent job on the wing. It’s a promising sign.
On the season-ending injury to Román Torres:
I think the most important thing for him to understand is that he’s going to come back, but it’s going to take some time. Even when he’s healthy again, it’s going to take some time to get back into form. As long as he’s aware of that, he’ll be OK. He’s got a great training staff around him, the best staff I’ve ever had. All the trainers know what they’re doing.
He’s just got to be patient. It sucks for him and it sucks for us, because we’ve enjoyed watching him play. He’s definitely made a difference – I’ve been particularly impressed by his long passing out of the back. He just has to be super patient and not rush anything. He still has a lot of time to play for Seattle in the future. Hopefully next year he’ll pick up where he left off.