With the LA Galaxy set to host the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night, we've asked four questions of Sounder at Heart about the Sounders' fortunes to date. You can read my answers to Dave Clark's questions over at SaH, while his answers to my questions appear below:
1) Seattle's in good form after a slow start. Is it simply shaking off the fatigue from CONCACAF Champions League, or is something else clicking?
Dave Clark: Three things have happened during this hot stretch. Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins are both playing, though Oba isn't starting regularly. They and Lamar Neagle are finishing, which has been huge. Seattle just was not converting at an acceptable rate until recently. Each has three goals during the hot stretch and Seattle could possibly have the best three headed attack in the league, even including healthy sets for San Jose and Sporting KC.
Lastly, the midfield defense is quite strong. Teams have to go through two natural defensive mids (two of Alonso, Joseph and Carrasco) as well as a wide mid that is a two-way player rather than pure attacker. This is leading to fewer passing lanes in the middle and rapid transition to attack from higher up the pitch. This change has helped the offense as well as an improved defense. With all of those things clicking Seattle is performing like the team people thought it was when they had it near the top of the preseason power rankings.
2) Eddie Johnson collects player of the week as Seattle finds the key against FC Dallas. What's he been doing right?
Dave Clark: Last year Eddie was all head. So much of what he did was from crosses and dead balls thrown into him about eight yards from goal. This year he's added his speed game back into his arsenal breaking away on all varieties of direct play. A defense that plays off of him will give him space to shoot. Playing tight means he can blow by them. Giving Seattle the opportunity to cross it into him and he's still got that great header that put him back into the National Team. He's better than he's ever been.
Seattle finally has variety in their attack. Plan A last year was a cross. Plan B was pray for Fredy to be awesome. Fredy isn't here this year. Plan A right now is Route One soccer and they are very good at it. Plan B is the cross. Rosales to Johnson is still as effective as ever.
3) Very difficult stretch for Seattle with an Open Cup tilt in between two matches in Los Angeles. Also, y'all are losing the aforementioned Eddie Johnson to international duty. How does Seattle push through? Is this the year Open Cup takes a backseat?
DC: Sigi Schmid has only thrown a full reserve out in a tournament when they've already been eliminated from it. They will send a mixed squad to Tampa and keep the rest in LA if I had to bet. Any player, coach and front office personnel that talked about getting knocked out of the CCL mentioned that they wanted to get back to that tournament. The US Open Cup is the quickest route for a Sounders return to international competition and will not be blown off. Plus they may want to add to their undefeated during MLS era Open Cup run.
4) DeAndre Yedlin seems to be showing well as Seattle's Homegrown signing. How's he mixing in?
DC: About perfectly. He still makes errors in positioning and needs to improve his crossing ability, but his speed means he can recover at a great rate. Yedlin is also pretty good at underlapping and running into the box leaving Mauro Rosales out wide. With his speed and decent touch this creates issues for defenses. He won't do it often, but when he does it creates a threat either from himself or the cross that Mauro puts into danger.
Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani are both going to be out for the Galaxy game.
Gspurning; Gonzalez, Traore, Hurtado, Yedlin; Carrasco; Evans, Joseph, Rosales; Martins, Johnson