The Seattle Sounders have a challenge in this week’s matchup with MLS Western Conference leader FC Dallas. Dallas is the highest scoring team in the league with 13 goals scored and numerous goal-dangerous players. Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo are known stars, but midfielder Mauro Diaz is proving to be the straw that stirs Dallas’s attack.
Many in Sounders Nation are worried about our supposedly improved defense allowing four goals last Saturday. This weekend’s game could get ugly for Seattle unless coach Sigi Schmidt can identify and correct our defensive liabilities. On Thursday Schmidt admitted, “A lot… of the goals that we’ve taken up to now, we’ve been our own worst enemy.” Which Sounder is most to blame for our porous D?
For many Sounders fans, Jalil Anibaba was the whipping boy. Upon first viewing, he seems most to blame for Portland’s offensive explosion. I am still haunted by visions of Anibaba back stepping, as Diego Chara cocks his rifle. However, after rewatching the game, I am skeptical of Michael Azira. Unlike Anibaba, Azira didn’t contribute any goal creation. And he was on the pitch as we surrendered four goals. For a defensive midfielder, that is a poor day at the office.
As observers, we don’t know what was “supposed” to be happening out there. In the NFL, there are often busted coverages, as some cornerback gets burnt and seems at fault. Maybe the corner was squeezing the route because the defensive scheme called for safety help. Only the team knows for sure. Maybe Azira, and not Anibaba, is to blame for Seattle’s defensive gaffes.
How Portland Scored, or Let’s Point Fingers
Goal #1: The first Chara rocket. An ill-advised DeAndre Yedlin throw-in to an unawares Gonzalo Pineda allows Chara to thieve and fire.
Verdict: Yedlin should not have made that throw, but Pineda shouldn’t have been stripped. Both Yedlin and Pineda are guilty.
Goal #2: The Diego Valeri goal. Azira is on Chara’s right in the midfield circle. He watches as Will Johnson feeds Darlington Nagbe, who then dribbles up the flank into acres of open space. Azira joins Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, Pineda and Yedlin in floating around Nagbe. When one Timber is occupying five Sounders while gobbling yards of free turf, it is no surprise a ball appears goal dangerously in the box. Anibaba is the man on Valeri as the Argentine scores.
Verdict: Great work by Valeri to lift the ball top shelf as no one could stop that goal. Anibaba was stranded. I can’t single out one Sounder to blame as the entire midfield is guilty for allowing the Johnson to Nagbe to Valeri interchange.
Goal #3: The second Chara rocket. This goal is as controversial as the Zapruder film. I wish I could re-watch the game in full-field view to see more of what Michael Azira was doing. Re-watching the televised feed, I see Ozzie tailing Valeri who feeds Kalif Alhassan who feeds Chara. Chara is wide, wide, wide open. He dribbles into the final third with not a single Sounder challenging him. Before the pass to Alhassan, Azira is on Nagbe, but he lets him go and drifts to the left. Nagbe then occupies Chad Marshall and Anibaba. Ozzie is now trailing the play, Leo Gonzalez is floating to Chara’s right and Yedlin is marking forward Maxi Urruti. Anibaba backpedals and backpedals (and backpedals) and Chara scores.
Verdict: Every Sounder on the play seems to be occupied with someone except Azira. Maybe he was drifting out to mark right back Michael Harrington coming up the flank? It is possible that Anibaba and Marshall are supposed to be doubling Nagbe, but maybe Anibaba was supposed to step up to Chara. We’ll never know, but what seems clear is that Azira hands off Nagbe and takes himself outta the play. After the goal is scored, he raises his arms in a WTF fashion…. Doth he protest too much?
Goal #4: The Urruti Strike: Ugh. Kenny Cooper passes backwards to an ill-prepared Anibaba. He gets jostled by Urutti who finishes beautifully.
Verdict: The Cooper to Anibaba backpass is on both Sounders. Cooper should’ve never played that ball, but both are guilty.
Team-wide breakdowns allowed many of Portland’s most dangerous opportunities, especially miscommunications between the backline and the midfield. On Thursday coach Schmidt admitted, “We’ve given the other team an easy route to goal.” He also said Seattle has been focused on tightening their defense. Saturday we’ll see if the Sounders’s training has paid off.
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