Sounders FC has two players on the roster who were fixtures for the U.S. National Team last year and have good shots at starting roles in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Neither of them, however, were available against the Montreal Impact on Sunday, so Head Coach Sigi Schmid had to make some changes to the lineup, but it also brought about a tactical change since Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans are so pivotal in Seattle’s play.
On the surface, the shift meant Seattle was playing a 4-3-3 as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 it played last week against Toronto FC, but a closer look shows that that formation change really was just a matter of one player moving a bit further back on the field as Andy Rose played the role formerly occupied by Dempsey, but more as a midfielder than a second forward.
“We wanted to sit back a little bit so I knew we were going to absorb some pressure and we were trying to get forward on the counter and I figured we could create some chances off that,” Schmid said. “I thought, tactically, we did what we needed to do.”
In the match, Osvaldo Alonso was charged with slowing down Montreal’s playmaking midfielder Felipe while Rose and Gonzalo Pineda worked to cover the openings left by the outside forwards when Lamar Neagle and Kenny Cooper went on the attack.
Although Montreal was able to garner 25 shots on the night, Seattle limited many of those shots to the perimeter, blocked nine of them and made the rest easily stopped by Stefan Frei, who finished the match with five saves and his second shutout in just three matches this season.
The second objective was to create options through the counter attack and those turned out to be very beneficial for Sounders FC.
In the 17th minute, Rose picked off a ball in the middle of the field and Alonso led Neagle up the left side. Neagle found Obafemi Martins for a header and Seattle was only kept from a 2-0 lead by an acrobatic save by Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
When Martins scored in the 58th minute to give Seattle that 2-0 edge, it came when Pineda started a break from midfield.
All told, it brought positive reviews from Schmid for Rose, Pineda and Alonso.
“They sat in and they did their job,” Schmid said. “We wanted to pack our midfield a little bit to give us the chance to counter and I thought our midfielders did well.”
Seattle may employ similar tactics against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, as Demspey will still be out due to suspension. If so, Evans may slot into one of the midfield roles, if he is healthy enough to play next week.