OK, I had some time this week before the Thursday night match to exchange questions and answers with Sounder at Heart's Dave Clark and this is how it went:
I asked the following questions:
Q: Since the July 4th loss at LA, the Sounders have gone on a 5-1-2 tear and gotten themselves back into the playoff race, after spending May and June wondering if they should "toss in the towel" on the MLS season and focus on the US Open Cup and CCL, what happened?
A: Since the July 4th loss at LA, the Sounders have gone on a 5-1-2 tear and gotten themselves back into the playoff race, after spending May and June wondering if they should "toss in the towel" on the MLS season and focus on the US Open Cup and CCL, what happened?
From my end it was all about the return of Osvaldo Alonso and actually having a healthy target forward on the team. Alonso is one of the best defensive players in this league, so when he went down Seattle's slower defenders (such as Tyrone Marshall) were more often exposed. Now, Alonso can be stellar and the team was forced to shift to a pairing of Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni.
As Sigi runs this offense, the team needs a target man. Life with paired Center Forwards was rough. While Montero was still good, he just didn't have the space to create. Now that Nate Jaqua and Blaise Nkufo are up top the young Colombian has been showing that he is clearly one of the best players in the league. Pressing up on Montero, either leaves Jaqua with time to shoot, or he can pass to the wings with speedsters like Steve Zakuani, Sanna Nyassi andAlvaro Fernandez.
Q: With only two players to score more than a single goal this year, do the Sounders need to adjust and find a way to get more players involved in their offense? It has been working well over the last 8 matches but the matches before that showed it can be hard if you rely on only 1 or 2 players for the majority of your offense.
A: With only two players to score more than a single goal this year, do the Sounders need to adjust and find a way to get more players involved in their offense? It has been working well over the last 8 matches but the matches before that showed it can be hard if you rely on only 1 or 2 players for the majority of your offense.
If the Sounders are ever fully healthy the numbers will look different. Brad Evans would probably have another goal. Nate Jaqua would have more than his five Open Cup goals. Role players like Mike Fucito would have more than one. It isn't that the offense has only two focal points, it is that the other points of attack have been a revolving door.
Take the right wing. The following players have time there this season; Pat Noonan, Roger Levesque, Freddie Ljungberg, David Estrada, Miguel Montano, Alvaro Fernandez and Sanna Nyassi. There aren't a lot of starts to spread that thin, and so putting up numbers from that position has been difficult. But you should fully expect to see Fernandez and Jaqua attacking the goal, with late runs by Alonso, Nathan Sturgis and Leo Gonzalez.
Q: With 8 matches in the next 30 days, 5 of them on the road (including trips to Costa Rica and Mexico). How is the depth of the Sounders holding up? You guys have battled some huge injury issues this year (you still have 4 listed as out, 1 as questionable,and 1 probably), who are the guys who are stepping up for the Sounders from the bench?
A: Injuries continue to mount for the Sounders in 2010. This means that the guys that have gotten experience in the Open Cup over the last two seasons are going to get more time in league play - particularly Zach Scott at right back. He's a traditional flat four type of full back. Seattle can inject a youthful element and a ton of speed in four different ways throughout the attacking positions with Sanna, Estrada, Montano and Fucito. And of course Nate Jaqua is a similar type of player to Nkufo. There will be a lot of rotation of players, except at the Center Mids where Seattle is only 3 deep right now.
My answers to his questions after the jump:
His questions for me:
Q: Salt Lake has managed to completely dominate at home, but why are they merely an average road team?
A: I would question average on the road this year, 3-4-4 isn't bad with just 10 goals allowed. Only 3 teams in MLS have more than 3 road wins, a clear testament to how hard road wins are in MLS. I do think that RSL's confidence is much greater at home, as their 22 match unbeaten streak would indicate. I still think the issues on the road have a lot to do with travel time, practice on the opposing pitches (RSL practiced at a local high school this morning in order to practice on turf), and I think in a majority of our road matches we have been the more aggressive teams during matches but it is all about that first goal. If they get that first goal it forces the home team to play more aggressive which often causes RSL to play more defensively in reaction. Both RSL and Seattle each have 6 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches and scoring first is a huge advantage (12-1-1 for RSL, 8-2-3 for Seattle).
Q: MLS rules were the primary reason that RSL got Saborio. How much has he meant to the side?
A: He has been huge, when RSL lost Yura Movsisyan in the off season it meant that the other strikers would have to step up in big ways and when Alvaro got here and integrated to the team so quickly it provided the other strikers with a level of comfort (maybe too much in some cases) and confidence that they wouldn't have to do it alone. He provides a quality target on set pieces and has a great vision of the game and without him I would say RSL probably would have 2-3 fewer wins at this point of the season. It is interesting with your first question that Saborio hasn't scored a MLS goal away from Rio Tinto yet, and while he has a minor injury, I would love to see him get one up there at Qwest field.
RSL is going to face a big question at the end of the year, as they are forced with making a permanent move for Saborio (who is on loan) and the contract of Robbie Findley expiring. It will likely take money at the DP level to keep either or both of them, and I don't envy the guys who have to make that decision.
Q: RSL just announced their new ticket pricing structure, will this further boost attendance?
A: No, I don't think it will boost our attendance. Right now we are averaging just under 17,000 per match, which is 6th in the league and I don't see that number going up much with the new prices. I think the move is designed to get people to buy season tickets instead of game by game tickets. The profit and amount of work in selling season tickets instead of selling them as one offs is significant enough to justify them lowering the prices for many seats. We are the smallest metro market in MLS, and the reality is that growing from our current attendance numbers to 18 or 19,000 per match will take time and I don't believe that just ticket prices are enough to drive those numbers.
There you have it, 3 questions with Sounder at Heart, just enough to keep you pumped up for the match until my full match preview is completed later this afternoon.
OFF MY SOAPBOX