Sounders must ramp up defense
Coming off one of the worst defensive performances in club history last week at Portland, the Sounders’ opponent today not only has the best record in Major League Soccer (4-0-1, 13 points), but also has scored the most goals: 13 over five games, including four multiple-goal performances.
Seattle enters the match with the second-most goals: nine. Four of those came last week, but the Sounders’ defensive problems were such that they were able to salvage only a draw with the Timbers.
Those eight total goals set a Sounders single-game record and are the most in an MLS match this season. Seattle’s four goals allowed tied the second-most in club history. The 41 combined shots was a Sounders’ single-game record.
“We’ve been getting goals and that’s good: You need to score to win,” said Clint Dempsey, whose four goals are tied for the MLS lead. “But ... it’s also about us also being more compact as a team and not conceding the goals that we’ve conceded as well. I think we’ll get that balance right.”
Coach Sigi Schmid said Seattle’s main problems have involved transition, rather than just defense. Too many allowed goals have followed what he sees as purely preventable errors — often coming after loss of possession.
Two of the most notable mistakes at Portland involved central defender Jalil Anibaba, who failed to close space on Diego Chara on the Timbers’ third goal, and who had the ball taken from him by Maximiliano Urruti before the fourth.
Schmid offered his continued confidence in Anibaba, who was acquired from Chicago during the offseason. However, it is likely that Anibaba will be replaced in the lineup by Djimi Traore, who is again eligible after serving a red-card suspension.
“Djimi is an experienced player, and he’s done well for us back there,” Schmid said. “As a left-footed center back, it allows Chad (Marshall) to go back to the right-hand side. Djimi’s experience and leadership are important parts for us. I know he’s looking forward to being on the field again and playing, and just that enthusiasm helps as well.”
In Dallas, the Sounders face a balanced offense featuring five players with multiple goals scored. Among the top offensive threats are midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson, who has three goals — including two game-winners — and Mauro Diaz, who has two goals and three assists.
“(We’ve) got to keep an eye on Diaz,” Schmid said. “You’ve got to eliminate the supplier if you want to eliminate the goals. He’s someone who has supplied a lot of goals. But they’ve also picked up some (penalty kicks); and they’ve scored some goals on set pieces. Michel is a good server of the ball on set pieces, so you don’t want to give up unnecessary set pieces with him on the field.”
So far, offensive production has been enough to have Dallas at the top of the table despite allowing 1.20 goals per game and without yet recording a shutout.
“They’re flying at the moment and coming off a big game against their rivals in Houston with a big (4-1) win away,” said Sounders’ forward Kenny Cooper, who played in Dallas last season. “I’m sure they’re feeling good and flying high. I think we’ll be going against a really confident team, a team with a lot of speed and experience, a lot of good players. We can expect a tough game.”
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