The weekend is in full effect and today is a good day to continue previewing our next FC Dallas game. Today we welcome in Dave Clark from the famed Sounder at Heart blog that covers the Seattle Sounders on SBNation.
BDS: The last time these two clubs squared off, the Sounders didn’t really look like themselves. What has changed over the last month and a half that has led to this turnaround? And why does this seem to happen every season now where the Sounders start slow and then pick up steam in the summer?
SaH: That early season the Sounders were hit by a string of red cards. Their first three games featured reds, which means four matches without hope at the coach’s choice for players. There were also many, many more injuries back then than there are now. Now they are just down to injuries to Jordan Morris (ACL), Clint Dempsey (groin or back or something) and that’s it for players likely to be out.
Getting healthy and playing smart were two keys. The third was getting a forward who changes games. Since they added Ruidiaz they haven’t lost. Their 4-0-0 +6 since his signing features three teams that were above them in the standings. The run is real.
BDS: Tell us about some of the new faces that have been brought in this summer. Did the Sounders do enough to their roster for the playoff push?
SaH: There are only two new faces. The first is the most significant. Raul Ruidiaz is a Peru international who was last with Monarcas Morelia in Liga MX. In his two years there he scored 20 goals in each full year. From 2013 to the present he’s played 139 league matches and scored 96 goals. His ability to put the ball in the net is why his transfer fee was the 6th largest paid in MLS history. What’s been as impressive is the defensive effort he puts in as well as his 87.8% pass completion rate. As a forward most of his action is far up the field, and he’s looking to push the attack. No regular forward has a better completion rate than Ruidiaz.
Brad Smith is the other new face. He’s a TAM LB/LW added from AFC Bournemouth on loan. The idea is that he’s a Joevin Jones type player who will push the attack with vertical speed no matter which position he’s used in. Sometimes that will be in the midfield and other times that will be at left back. It will be interesting to see him on the field as he has a solid history coming from Liverpool’s Academy, but injuries plagued his ability to get significant EPL time.
BDS: Despite the results early this season, Seattle still had one of the better defenes in MLS. What has attributed to that?
SaH: The defense is anchored by three players, but outside of those three the rest of the back seven has variability. The responsibility for the success of the defense starts with Stefan Frei. He’s the modern Nick Rimando in that he’s just the wrong age to enjoy national team hype and will spend nearly a decade as the best keeper in MLS who won’t ever win Keeper of the Year.
Cristian Roldan mostly plays as one of the two defensive mids (also a bit of right mid, right back, attacking mid). He doesn’t cause the fear that Osvaldo Alonso would when an opponent approaches him. He just deftly wins the ball, whether in the air or on the ground. Roldan also learned well from his mentors (Alonso, Pineda, Lodeiro) and quickly gets the ball out into the attack upon winning it.
For me the biggest key is Chad Marshall. He should again be a finalist for the Chad Marshall of the Year Award. He’s better in the air than Ike Opara, Matt Hedges and Laurent Ciman were when they won. Marshall is better than two of three in their winning seasons via interceptions. He fouls less than they did. He blocks better than they did as well. He’s doing all of this at the age of 33 on a team with the 2nd best raw Goals Against and a solid expected Goals Against. The Chad Marshall of the Year in 2018 should be Chad Marshall for a fourth time.
Lineup predictions: 4-2-3-1: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson; Brad Smith, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan; Raul Ruidiaz