Pre-Match Analysis by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. We’ve finally arrived at the last match of the MLS season. Match #34 sees us hosting Rocky Mountain delinquents, Colorado Rapids in a Sunday afternoon match at Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, Washington. At stake: a chance for the Sounders to avoid having to play in the one-off knockout round of the MLS Cup by earning one of the top two conference positions. It’s pretty clear that today’s match is a vital one for our Boys in Green. All the voices of the supporters must be heard, so I hope you lot have been conserving your voices for use at the ground and at the pub. One club. One voice. Before the kick-off in Seattle, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!
The Good News
The Sounders find themselves in 8th place in the league table. It’s been a fine season when you look at the entirety of it. 13-11-9 record, which amounts to a result in over two-thirds of our matches. A proper and professional display.
Although our form has been a bit choppy of late, last week’s fixture saw us paste the Dallas 4:0. The same Dallas side that won the League and US Open Cup double last season. That has to be seen as a positive sign going forward.
We defeated Colorado in our only other meeting with them this season by a 1:3 scoreline in Commerce City. All-time we have only lost five times in 21 matches against Colorado in the league (14-2-5). Colorado’s away record in the league this season is 1-2-13. You read that correctly, only one win, two draws, and 13 losses. When in the friendly confines of Occidental Avenue, we have only lost twice in 11 matches (8-1-2) against Colorado. The Sounders have only lost once at home in 16 matches (10-5-1).
We average nearly a goal and a half per match whilst our opponents average less than a goal per match (0.91). Of the two sides, Colorado are far more likely to concede more than one goal (average of 1.45 goals conceded/match).
Although we have injuries to key players, our General Manager, Garth Lagerwey, has seen to it that we have the depth in the side to contend at a very high level. The additions of both Rodriguez and Leerdam will prove vital at this time of year.
The only motivation for Colorado to win is to spoil the Sounders’ chance at avoiding a one-match play-in to the MLS Cup Quarter-Finals.
The Bad News
Colorado have nothing to lose. The Rapids find themselves in 20th place in the league going into today’s match. So they also have nothing to gain, except to spoil the Sounders’ chance to avoid the MLS Cup Knockout Round, and perhaps in the doing, salvage a share of 19th Place in the league.
The Sounders are (According to MLSSoccer.com), missing Morris, Alonso, and Svensson due to injuries. All three play very important roles that are difficult to replace. Morris is a tank of a forward with pace to burn, often creating severe matchup problems for our opponents on the left flank. Alonso provides the bite in our midfield defence, and is a true, inspirational leader, often wearing the Captain’s armband. Svensson is a veteran player of over 200 matches of European football, with his versatility being of particular value to the side. Svensson has played at holding midfield, and centre-half, often doing yeoman’s work, ably deputising for first-choice players. None of these players can truly be replaced.
All factors considered, there seems to be a place setting at the table for the Sounders to feast on a three-point meal. And in a league dominated by engineered parity, that’s what worries me.
Toronto FC is a lock for the League Championship. On 68 points they can’t be displaced by their closest competitor, NYC FC who are 12 points adrift.
Although Colorado have nothing to gain or lose from this match, The Sounders may be able to tie for the highest point total in the Western Conference.
The reason we can’t finish in the top conference place is that Cascadia rivals Vancouver and Portland are playing each other with a Vancouver win putting first position out of reach for either the Sounders or Portland. If the sides draw Vancouver would be on 53 points which is the maximum the Sounders can earn with a win this afternoon. This would see the Sounders and the Caps even on 53 points.
Should Seattle win and Portland win we would be tied for first position in the conference with our bitter rivals on 53 points.
If Seattle win we can’t finish lower than 2nd position in the conference. The top two finishers in each conference don’t have to play in the one-match knockout in the first round.
Should we draw with Colorado we could be overtaken by both Portland and Kansas City.
Know Thine Enemy
Tim Howard shouldn’t need an introduction. One of the world’s top keepers, even as he’s getting on in years. Continually fights a harder opponent than any football team, Tourettes, and holds his head high as he continues to triumph over it. Played nearly 400 matches in English football with Everton and Manchester United. He has earned 121 United States caps. Has a list of honours longer than your grocery list for the market. Difficult to beat, regardless of the team in front of him. If the Rapids start any of their apprentices over him, they’re more foolish than I’d imagined.
Hairston, 23, was developed by Louisville (NCAA). He has 79 appearances and seven goals in MLS, all for Colorado.
Ford, 21, was developed by Denver (NCAA). Ford is in his rookie season in MLS as Colorado is his first pro club. Has played 19 times for his club.
Sjoberg, 26, was developed by Djurgardens IF of Sweden and Marquette (NCAA). Played 20 matches for Sollentuna FF in Sweden. Has played 63 times for Colorado since he arrived in Denver two years ago.
Miller, 24, is a product of Minnesota Thunder and Creighton (NCAA). Has 85 matches of MLS experience, 55 of those with Colorado.
Boateng, 23, has 85 matches and 16 goals with Strømgodset under his belt and has played 17 times for Colorado.
Saeid, 26, a Swedish national, was developed by BK Forward of Sweden and West Bromwich Albion FC of England. He has 124 matches of Swedish football between BK Forward and Orebro SK. He has 81 matches of MLS experience, 28 of those with Colorado. Moved from Minnesota United to Colorado this March.
Gatt, 26, developed by Michigan Wolves, started his professional career in Austria playing 15 matches with Rheindorf Altach. In 2011 he moved to Molde FK in Norway, playing 60 times scoring nine goals. He moved to MLS for this season with a transfer to Minnesota United and swapped to Colorado a month later. Gatt has played 19 times for Colorado this season, scoring twice. Gatt has two United States caps.
Aigner, 30, developed by 1860 Munich in Germany. The German national is a typical Euro-ringer with nearly 300 matches of experience that includes clubs such as Arminia Bielefeld, 1860 Munich, and Eintracht Frankfurt. He has twice scored over 20 goals in a German season. Moved to Denver for this season. Has played eight times in his first season with Colorado scoring twice.
Badji, 25, has 74 matches and 17 goals for Colorado over three seasons. The Senegalese forward is a product of Boston University (NCAA). Moved to Denver in 2015.
Gordon, 36, was produced by Yavapai (NJCAA) and Oregon State (NCAA). Has played 270 MLS matches scoring 55 goals in his 13-year professional career. Moved to Denver in 2017 and has played 25 matches scoring three goals for Colorado this season. Has two United States caps.
Michael Azira played 25 times for the Sounders. Azira is listed as out this match due to an ankle injury.
Sounders FC: Frei, Miller, Meredith, Nouhou, Marshall, Alfaro, Leerdam, Torres, Jones, Fisher, Roldan, Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Kovar, Mallace, Shipp, Delem, Wingo, Mathers, Dempsey, Adekoya, Bruin, Neagle.
Colorado: Howard, MacMath, Berner, Burling, Castillo, da Fonte, Ford, Miller, Sjoberg, Watts, Boateng, Gatt, Gil, Hairston, Hamilton, Perez, Saeid, Serna, Aigner, Badji, Calvert, Gashi, Gordon.
Sounders FC –
OUT: Evans (back), Morris (hamstring), Alonso (quadriceps), Svensson (hamstring).
MATCHDAY DECISION: None.
OUT: Azira (ankle).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Williams (ankle).
None suspended from either side.
There will something for Sounders’ supporters to look forward to after the MLS Cup tournament ends. As a result of winning the MLS Cup in 2016, the Sounders have qualified for the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League. Well done there. The CCL format has changed and has eliminated the group stage in favour of a home and away knockout format. The tournament draw date has not been announced by CONCACAF, but the first leg of the Round of 16 will begin in February at a date to be named later. Other qualified clubs are: UANL (MEX), Chivas (MEX), Club America (MEX), Tijuana (MEX), FC Dallas (USA), New York Red Donkeys (USA), Colorado (USA), Toronto (CAN), Saprissa (CRC), Herediano (CRC), Tauro (PAN), Motagua (HON), Santa Tecla (SLV), Cibao (DOM), and the winner of the CONCACAF League tournament which contains entrants from Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the league champion from Belize, and the runners-up, third place team, and fourth place teams from the Carribean Football Union’s Championship. That’s pretty complicated, but then what isn’t complicated in CONCACAF?