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Seattle Sounders Wings the Key To Victory

The Seattle Sounders seem to have righted the ship but questions still remain, can they can regain the composure they had at the beginning of the season?  A draw against San Jose and a win at Portland were necessary building blocks, but unless they find a way to polish up their defensive play and continue to capitalize on their scoring chances, they could be in for a world of hurt.

At the beginning of the season, March, through the World Cup break, the Seattle Sounders were scoring 2.1 goals per game.  In that time they won 10 of their 15 games and ran away with first place in the league standings.  But since June 28th, when MLS returned to action, the Sounders have only scored 1.2 goals per game, and have earned a record of 4 wins, 4 losses and a draw.  A lot could be said about defensive issues and missteps, but 3 of the 4 losses were by 1 goal.  Demanding absolute perfection from your defensive line is unrealistic; mistakes happen all the time in soccer but are most noticeable on the defensive side of the ball.  What really happened here was a lack of goal production.

Seattle Sounders Wings the Key To Victory

The only statistic that truly matters is the score, and if you aren’t scoring goals you can’t win games.  The dynamic duo of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins have been working hard to try and slot home a few goals, but they haven’t been able to break down defenses in the same manner that they were in April and May.  But on Saturday we saw those two clicking on a different level, and a 4-2 win against the Timbers was the result.  Nothing changed with Martins or Dempsey.  Sure, Clint had said he was a little tired as of late, but even when he was out on the field he was trying to get things going.  The real mystery that was solved on Saturday was the caper of the outside mids.

Lamar Neagle is a great striker.  When some of the primary forwards are out on injury or away on international duty, he always steps up and gets things done.  But lately he’s only been able to break into the starting 11 on the wing.  If he has a rock of a defender behind him, such as Leo González, he can float forward freely.  But when he plays on the right in front of DeAndre Yedlin his lack of defensive help is shockingly visible.  If both players on the right side are constantly bombing forward an amazingly large hole opens up in their wake.  Like a black hole, it pulls in everything around it; opposing forwards, central defenders covering for their teammates, and occasionally, the ball.

Sigi knows this, and would prefer to play Neagle on the left side.  But with González only recently returning from injury, Lamar hasn’t been able to settle in with the wide range of players covering that position.  And with Marco Pappa recently showing how dangerous he can be on the attack and how reliable he can on defense, Neagle is finding it harder and harder to break onto the field.

Pappa is the best option on the left side of the midfield.  He’s creative going up the field and reliable getting back.  And with the return of Brad Evans from a nagging injury, the right side is his to own.  He serves as a perfect compliment to the attack-minded Yedlin; Evans will cover when DeAndre goes up the wing, and can provide great service into the box, like his assist to Martins on Saturday.

By organizing the outside midfield positions Dempsey and Martins have begun to score again, and often.  If the Sounders are to make a run deep into the playoffs and win the MLS Cup they need to continue to score in droves.  They can get back to that magical number of two goals a game if they continue to replicate their recent play.  It will also take the pressure off of the defense and allow them to continue their winning ways.  Finding the right balance between creative attacking and sound defending is always tough.  But Seattle has the pieces in their arsenal, and it looks like with Pappa and Evans on the wings they’ve got the puzzle figured out.


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