In order to get you ready for the game, we checked in with Mark Kastner of SB Nation’s Sounders site Sounder at Heart to find out more about the opponent. Thanks very much to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions!
LAG Confidential asks Sounder at Heart:
1. First, how was the MLS is Back Tournament for the Sounders and how was the game over the weekend against the Timbers? Big win there.
The Tournament performance was very underwhelming. The group stage had its ups and downs but then getting smoked by LAFC left the team with a lot more questions than answers. There were definitely some built in excuses for the Sounders, and I don’t think the fans were that upset given the situation. But it was still lame to lose to LAFC like that.
However, the win over Portland definitely put some of the tournament worries to rest. It was a dominate performance front to back. The Sounders have a pretty simple formula: Raul Ruidiaz scores goals. Seattle wins.
2. It seems like the defense has struggled with injuries of late. What’s going on with the backline and who’s been stepping up?
So, the Sounders have two high level TAM CBs in Xavier Arreaga and Yeimar Gómez Andrade. They’ve played less than 70 minutes together all season. That’s not ideal, obviously. Andrade was hurt most of the MLS is Back Tournament while Arreaga was busy putting in some nightmare performances. Now Arreaga is hurt (status for Wednesday unknown), and Andrade is back in the starting XI. He was pretty good against Portland.
The deputy CB for the Sounders has been Shane O’Neill. He’s a backup level CB in MLS and shouldn’t really be expected to be a consistent starter. Except, he’s played every game for Seattle this season. Getting a consistent CB setup is Seattle’s #1 priority right now.
3. I looked at the bench from Sunday’s game and I saw a lot of young players there. Is that by design, to give the youngsters some minutes, or because there aren’t other options at present? Are there any young unknowns you’re excited to see for Seattle?
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer and GM Garth Lagerwey have both gone on record this season that there’s a directive at the club to get minutes for the young players. When Lagerwey was hired as GM back in 2015, his number one priority was to restructure the team’s academy setup. Five years on, it’s time to start seeing some fruits of that labor. The team has bet big on their DPs in Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Joao Paulo. They expect the roster to be filled out with meaningful contributions from some of their Homegrown talent.
The pundits have caught on to Handwalla Bwana and what he offers the team, so I won’t bore you with talking about him. I’m personally really excited for Ethan Dobbelaere. He’s a US Youth international who went to the U-17 World Cup last year. He can play as a winger and as a #10. I think the best comparison in style is he’s a more athletic version of Harry Shipp, who just happened to retire from the Sounders. I’m not sure it’s fair to expect Dobbelaere to contribute right away, but he has a unique style that this team currently lacks.
You can find my answers to Mark’s questions at Sounder at Heart.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.