Sounders FC uses the middle of the pitch more than all but one of its MLS opponents (LA Galaxy). Still, the coaching staff wants to use wide spaces more. An offense that depends on a single tactic can be shut down more easily than one with variety.
When Seattle looks for width, it does not just watch for an overlapping run and cross with a hopeful header. The Sounders are not well setup for this as a baseline tactic, and it doesn’t lead to goals often.
So how will you know if they are getting the width they desire? It varies depending on a few different factors.
“Playing with width is based on what’s happening in the game, our personnel and a little bit about who we are playing,” Top Assistant Brian Schmetzer told SoundersFC.com this week. “With (Real Salt Lake), who likes to pinch in, as soon as the ball comes from one side to the other we’re trying to get wide fast and get two-v-one against one of their outside backs. If we’re playing against a team that’s more of a traditional 4-4-2, maybe you have that midfielder pinch in and your overlap comes from the outside back and those situations occur. It’s really a fluid thing.”
Width can come from the right through DeAndre Yedlin, from the left when Lamar Neagle starts there, or on the right when Neagle and Marco Pappa switch. Plus, both forwards can drift into wide channels. Clint Dempsey sprung Neagle for his assist on Obafemi Martins’ second goal against Colorado. Martins drifts wide and can drive the ball into dangerous spaces for Dempsey to get a touch on it and convert into finishes.
Playing in wide areas is not only about variety, but also about getting space for Martins and Dempsey. The two clearly like to play in tight spaces and work with each other. Much of how the offense is designed is getting the two Designated Players the ball where they can be dangerous. Sometimes that spot is wide, and other times it's right at the top of the 18-yard box with the two just a few yards from each other.
“We let them play,” Schmetzer said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel. They’re doing their stuff and we let them do it.”
That’s probably the key when watching the attack. Are the Sounders getting their star forwards the ball? Are they finding different ways to do it? That could be by a run from Yedlin or Neagle, and it could also be Dempsey and Martins just stuffing it right down the middle of the pitch.