Orlando City will try for the third time to take something out of a game against the Seattle Sounders when the two teams tangle tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET at CenturyLink Field. The first two meetings saw the Sounders win a pair of lopsided matches by a combined score of 7-1.
When you factor in that Seattle is playing better of late, winning three of the last five and three straight at home, against an Orlando side that has one win from the last nine outings, things could seem a little bleak. Now add in that Jason Kreis will rotate the squad somewhat, meaning it won’t be a full first-choice starting XI, and Cyle Larin is still unavailable. Prospects for a result seem even more remote.
But hey, you’ve got to play the game, and anything can happen for 90+ minutes after a kickoff in a game of soccer. So, we’ll see what happens.
Stopping by to give us an advance scouting report on the Sounders is Andrew Tingkang from SB Nation’s Seattle blog, Sounder at Heart. I responded to SAH’s questions as well, and you can find those responses over at their place.
While it certainly is too early for Seattle fans to panic, the Sounders don’t seem to be clicking on offense the way they did down the stretch last season. What’s going on with the attack?
Andrew Tingkang: The Sounders’ attack has been hampered by injuries, national team call-ups, and an unsettled starting XI that seems to shift from week to week as players show better or worse form. Harry Shipp started the season injured, Will Bruin has been injured, Jordan Morris has been injured almost all year, and that’s just in the attack. The Sounders seem to have two primary modes of attack: through-balls on the ground or over the top to Morris or Joevin Jones and building out of the back when there are no lanes for through-balls. With Morris injured, and the defense shifting through fifth-and-sixth stringers due to the aforementioned injuries, the Sounders have had to try and find other ways of getting goals.
Honestly, Nicolas Lodeiro seems to be the one who is missing the same sharpness that he had last season, missing great opportunities to put crosses away, delivering meandering crosses (especially corners) himself, and not quite hitting Morris or others in stride like he did last season. He’s still usually the best player on the pitch for the Sounders, capable of delivering a dose of magic at any moment, but he hasn’t connected this year with the ease he did last. Perhaps that’s the short off-season, perhaps it’s a combination of all the other factors adding up to hamper the Sounders, but if the Sounders are to defend their championship, Lodeiro likely needs to bring his game back up a notch.
Statistically, it looks like Jordan Morris is the player who is having trouble linking up with Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, etc. Has Morris hit a sophomore slump or is he just being snake bitten?
AT: Maybe? It is really tough to tell with Jordan. We know he’s been literally hamstrung for part of the season and then earned himself a bum ankle, both injuries which he mostly played through. He’s also been shuffled back and forth from forward to wing, depending on how Brian Schmetzer sees the tactical approach for the day (usually a choice between Bruin and Shipp/Alvaro Fernandez). There have been games where Morris looks great on the wing with Bruin clearing space for him up top, and games where Morris looks best pushing the back line with more possession-oriented, defense capable wingers/mids behind him. Not to mention Jordan’s extremely short off-season, having less than a month between winning the MLS Cup and joining the USMNT camp in January.
On the other hand, Morris should be doing much better statistically than he has been. He has been clear on breakaways where his shot just wouldn’t fall right. He has served up balls to guys like Lodeiro and Dempsey on a platter that they couldn’t finish. Just this weekend, Morris watched his beautiful through-ball to Shipp, who was clear on goal, die in a puddle of water that stopped the ball in its tracks.
All that to say is the jury is still out. We think Morris will return to form with a bit of health and a (hopeful) settling into the lineup, whether that’s at wing or forward. But we are expecting more from the young man than he’s achieved so far this year.
Flipping from offense to defense, only a couple of teams have conceded more goals than the Sounders so far in 2017. Is this simply a matter of getting through some injuries on the back line or is there more to the issue than meets the eye?
AT: This we can comfortably say is almost entirely due to injuries. The Sounders were one of the best defensive teams in MLS last year, especially through the MLS Cup run, and have only gotten better by swapping Mears for Evans. Unfortunately, Roman Torres and Brad Evans have not been able to stay healthy, leading to constant shuffling at the back as Chad Marshall and Jones have also missed a handful of games. Simply put, the Sounders have had to give way too many minutes to Jordy Delem, and Tony Alfaro has shown he is not ready to be a full-time starter. The Sounders have been eaten alive on the road, totally falling apart in the second halves of certain games, largely due to mistakes from the youngsters. Of course, at home the Sounders are giving up less than a goal-per-game, posting shutouts in their last three home matches, while also usually fielding slightly stronger lineups. I would expect the Sounders to be a top five defense with Jones, Marshall, Torres, and Evans all healthy, with Gustav Svensson filling in where needed.
Injuries/suspensions/projected starting XI/score line prediction?
AT: Oniel Fisher and Jordy Delem are at the Caribbean Cup with Jamaica and Martinique, respectively.
Projected lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Brad Evans; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris; Will Bruin
Score prediction: 2-0 Seattle win.
Big thanks to Andrew from Sounder at Heart for giving us some insight on tonight’s opponents from the Pacific Northwest.