The Seattle Sounders wrapped up the Tucson phase of preseason on Saturday with a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas at the Mobile Mini Sun Cup. In a match where both teams were devoted to generating offense through sustained possession, goals from forward Dom Badji and Thomas Roberts either side of halftime proved decisive, despite Nouhou grabbing a late consolation goal.
Fielding the same starting XI from the Houston match last Saturday, the Rave Green carved out some quality chances as they showcased a couple of new tactical wrinkles to their game model. Seattle routinely attacked down the left-hand side, taking advantage of the blossoming partnership between Víctor Rodríguez and Brad Smith.
In the 31st minute, Rodríguez, Smith and Cristian Roldan combined to release Raúl Ruidíaz inside the Dallas penalty box, but FCD goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez was alert to the danger and quickly closed down the angle on Seattle’s Peruvian forward, pulling off a brilliant save. The Sounders were made to pay for their profligacy within a matter of minutes as Michel Barrios burst into the box and laid the ball on a platter for Badji to smash home.
The Rave Green began to diversify the attack as Jordan Morris grew in influence throughout the match, utilizing his pace to repeatedly test Dallas’ left back. In fact, Morris latched onto a lovely through-ball from Nicolás Lodeiro in the 57th minute, but his open-net goal was called back due to offside.
Both teams continued to trade blows before changing out all the players on the pitch. Within minutes of coming on, FCD forward Roberts put the match out of reach with a powerful drive to the near post. Nouhou halved the deficit with just minutes to go, but his late tally, which he scored by nutmegging the goalkeeper on a back-post run, fell short of rescuing the result.
The Sounders will return to Seattle this week for a friendly against Uruguayan side Club Nacional on Wednesday before heading South to close out preseason with a closed-door scrimmage against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Principles of Play
Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer has spoken at length throughout the past week about the team’s dedication to building from the back. Time after time, Seattle’s intricate buildout play led to numerical advantages on the wings, especially for Rodríguez and Smith. Gustav Svensson and Roldan provided steady, reliable outlets in possession as the team looked to unbalance Dallas’ low block. The beauty of this system is that, if you can isolate Morris and Rodríguez 1v1 against the opponent’s outside back, Ruidíaz can utilize his movement inside the box to finish off any service. There were flashes of this throughout Saturday’s match, a positive sign heading into the MLS campaign.
The goal may have been disallowed on VAR review, but Lodeiro playing Morris in behind with a slide rule pass harkened back to their telepathic connection throughout the 2016 campaign. In Saturday’s match, Morris didn’t just park himself out on the right-side touchline – he often tucked inside next to Ruidíaz, which forced the center backs to defend 1v1. As the two forwards continue to build chemistry, the Sounders attack will be increasingly difficult to defend against.
Strength in Depth
One of the biggest takeaways from preseason has to be the squad’s improved depth. A heavily rotated side on Wednesday arguably outplayed the defending MLS Western Conference Champion Portland Timbers, who fielded a first-choice lineup. When the Sounders subbed in a new XI for the final 15 minutes against Dallas, the quartet of Harry Shipp, Henry Wingo, Handwalla Bwana and Nouhou combined for a lovely consolation goal. The competition for places in the starting XI will be extremely strong in 2019.