Well it is that time again, Real Salt Lake will head to the site of their biggest victory in team history as they head to the Emerald City for a afternoon match against the Sounders on Saturday. Oh I wish I could make it to this one as both teams are perhaps the only teams with a realistic shot of catching LA, both teams are highly motivated, and this could be the highlight match of the weekend.
The last time these two teams faced off it was a cold wet night at Rio Tinto where a red card in the 58th minute clearly changed the match. Now to prepare for this go around, I got a chance to exchange 3 questions with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart, here are my questions and his answers:
1. Well the 3rd year seems to be when Sigi is able to guide a team to great success and so far it looks as if that is the case in Seattle as well, what have been the main keys to the success the Sounders have found so far this year?
A. If there is one key to the Sounders this year it has been on-pitch awareness of teammates. After being around each other for nearly three years the understanding of who will be where both offensively and defensively has led to this being a such a strong team. The other note is the way the roster was constructed back when the expansion draft took place. There were a few older players taken for short term success (Marshall, Vagenas), but now the youth that was tested in 2009 is entering its prime. Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke are all multi-year regulars going right up the spine of the formation, and each is basically set to be part of longer run of success.
The rest of my questions for him after the jump:
2. Lamar Neagle has burst on the scene and while many people are focusing their attention on the incredible play of Mauro Rosales, for me the productivity of Neagle has been simply amazing this year, what is his story and what do you think he can add to the Sounders?
A. Neagle has an intriguing story. Under the last CBA he was a prime example of the grossly underpaid in MLS. He lived with his parents, worked other jobs and never really played. Under the suggestion of the team he left the state, all the way to the Charleston Battery, to become a better player by playing all the time. He did quite well, winning the USL-2's MVP and learning how to become a goal-scoring forward rather than a right back. Now in 2011 he's done another positional shift as he's a left winger mostly. Neagle is strongest with the ball at his feet about 25 yards out from goal. He doesn't have the speed to blast by a defender, but he'll use one or two moves to open up space and take the shot from distance. He will sometimes skip the easy pass and instead take the shot instead, but he's put 45% of his shots in MLS on frame.
3. With their 6 goals against the Crew, the Sounders have taken the lead for goals scored so far this year with 42 and 13 multiple goal matches, what has been the change this year after the team scored just 39 last year?
A. The biggest change has been a shift to a more technical team. Rather than booming crosses aiming at a big man's head (Nkufo, Jaqua, White) Seattle now counts on off-ball movement, dribbling skills and quick passes to open space. Additions like Mauro Rosales and Erik Friberg have improved the ball movement on the field, while using the small/small pairing of Mike Fucito and Montero up top has added speed without losing goal danger. Seattle is taking almost two more shots a game than their opposition (all competitions) and is converting at a slightly higher rate this year than previous years. Where in 2010 there would only be 3 scorers on the pitch at once, the discovery that both the left and right midfielders could be scorers at the same time has added variety to the attack as well.
Bonus Question - If you could take one player from the RSL roster to add to the Sounders who would it be and why?
It is still, and will always be Kyle Beckerman. A quite similar player to Osvaldo Alonso, I would love to see both on the same team and completely shutting down the midfield. Each can get forward in the attack as well, so unlike most conventional 4-4-2s it wouldn't be an empty bucket, but more a double pivot. Beckerman's passing skills are shining this season and are probably the reason he's getting opportunities with the National Team.
Well there you go a look inside one of the guys who knows the Sounders better than they know themselves. You will be able to catch his questions and my answers on Sounder at Heart.
OFF MY SOAPBOX