Wednesday, February 5, 2014

PRESEASON: Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes - 02/05/2014

Both of these teams have a lot of new faces that have a shot at locking down starting roles or first-choice subs. The first half saw lineups that were very different from what these teams put out last year. Both teams looked like they were playing the same general style as last year.

Final score: Seattle 2 - San Jose 1
Full stream available here 


This should come as a surprise to no one who watched San Jose over the last two years. They look to get the ball forward, cutting out as many defenders as possible with one pass. Lenhart was his typical self, moving around to be a target forward and knocking balls down for his midfielders to run on to. However, that seemed to be the second option for San Jose to move the ball from the back 6 to their forwards. Billy Schuler was dropping deep into the hole created from San Jose's empty bucket midfield. They tried to find his feet early and then allow him to lay the ball off for a midfielder. Don't expect him to start as Wondo is just away on international duty.

Seattle allowed San Jose's defenders and holding midfielders to ping the ball around the back until they could find Lenhart or Schuler in a favorable situation. Pierazzi and Martinez kept the ball well by playing simply. Seattle had absolutely no urgency to try to win the ball until it was within their own half. That allowed San Jose to render Seattle's forwards useless by penetrating that first line of defense with a pass. Seattle was already up 2-0 halfway through the first half, so I imagine the urgency would increase if the scoreline was flipped.


Kenny Cooper looked like a straight up baller in this half. He was the focal point of Seattle's build up as he was the one usually dropping into the midfield to collect the ball. He simply looked to combine with the midfielders and always presented himself as an option after playing the ball. I'm not sure how Dempsey's presence might change the way Cooper is deployed. It should be interesting to see if we play a diamond midfield, an empty bucket like we've seen for years, or maybe a switch to 4-2-3-1 is in order. Time will tell.

Martins also dropped into the midfield to collect the ball when Cooper was electing to stay high. The two of them did a good job coordinating who would stay high and who would go low. Martins would also just look to combine with the midfielders and found some success doing so with Neagle out left and also an overlapping Dylan Remick, who put in a great cross for Rose to head back across the face of goal for Oba's second goal.


The two teams utilized their outside backs in two completely different styles. San Jose's stayed relatively deep, as the Quakes weren't trying to combine their way up the field. This ultimately made it more difficult for Neagle and Bowen to get involved in the game as they weren't able to exploit space behind an over-committed outside back.

Seattle's outside backs got forward and tried to overload San Jose's outside backs 2v1. Remick tended to get higher on overlapping runs than Anibaba, who tended to just be a wide passing option. The space was often there for him to run into as Bowen tended to drift high and inside much like we saw Rosales do last season to allow Yedlin to bomb forward. Anibaba didn't have any glaring mistakes, but I imagine Yedlin would have put himself in more dangerous positions.


The second half was full of reserves, substitutes, and rookies just trying to make the squad. Lots of sloppy play, misplayed balls, and miscommunication. Interestingly, San Jose played the second half completely different from the first and were actually looking to string passes together instead of just longballs to a target forward. They were much more dangerous in this half. They had a stand out performance from Colombian trialiast, Baena. I thought he was the best player on the field in the second half and was more effective than anyone else for San Jose on the day. If he plays like that consistently, I'd give him a contract. For Seattle, Long Tan had a couple decent opportunities. Other than those two, no one really stood out that much.


Seattle look like they will be a playoff team again this year, provided Obafemi Martins is healthy enough to play 3/4 of the games. The midfielders should have plenty of opportunities to get into the attack and score some goals. San Jose will be an interesting squad this season, and much of their success will rest on how well Lenhart/Gordon/Jahn can knock down balls for their teammates. Their wingers look like they will struggle to create much on their own. I'd place them just on the bubble of making the playoffs.

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