Seattle Sounders – Gone Fishin!

Most should know that the single greatest rivalry in Major League Soccer is the battle between the Flounders, erh Sounders and the Portland Timbers.

Knowing that I ask your patience as I try not to fillet the Seattle team too much given my membership in the 107ist  (Timbers Army 107 Independent Supporters Trust) and my regular season blog covering the Portland Timbers.

If you recall earlier this year I wrote an article about the impact of Moffat and Dempsey as the season came to a close for Seattle; here’s a quick recap on some of those observations…

NOTE:  A typo was identified through comments (I had 81% when in fact the correct number is 61%) about efficiency for Seattle prior to Dempsey and Moffat taking to the field together.  Additional comments have followed about the statistics and their value relative to a team playing home or away.

For me, in this article I did not differentiate between home and away statistics – there are many views on this – for me mine is simple – a team plays 90 minutes no matter if the game is played home or away…  and each team plays 17 games at home and 17 on the road – the balance, for me, is equal.  Others may have a different view.

Here’s a recap from that article…

  • The Sounders Attacking Efficiency Index Rating reduced considerably (1.52 to 1.33) with the addition of Dempsey and Moffat; no add-ins here about injuries – teams experience injuries and they are part of the game. In other words their team attack got worse, not better.
  • Their overall defensive efficiency, in their own final third, dropped from 54% to 42% – in other words their team got worse in defending their final third as opposed to better.
  • Goals scored decreased from 1.37 to .714 per game – in other words their team got worse in attacking and scored fewer goals.
  • Goals against increased from 1 to 2.14 per game – in other words their team got worse in defending and gave up a significantly more goals after Dempsey and Moffat than before.
  • Overall points in the league table percentage went from an 61% efficiency (49 out of 81 possible points) to a 14% efficiency (3 out of a possible 21 points)
  • So… with the addition of two players, a change in style of play, and a significant amount of money spent, Seattle got worse!
  • Hard to find a better example on how much influence a change in potential chemistry/system of a team might have EVEN when adding strong players to the mix.
  • Does this spell trouble for Sigi Schmid this off-season? Hard to say as who was pulling the strings to make those changes is likely to remain unknown.

Fast forward to today…  Well we know now that Sigi Schmid is reorganizing his team and surprise of all surprises one of the first players to go was Adam Moffat!

So how did Seattle compare to the other teams in MLS last year when it came to attacking and defending as a team?

To begin, let’s not forget that Seattle made the Playoffs this past year – and for most teams this would be a great success.  I’m not thinking that is the case with Schmid and his players though.

Clearly the Portland Timbers (their biggest rival for those who don’t follow MLS) were more successful and with the history of these two teams I’m sure there will be extra motivation next year (with both squads) when they kick off their Regular Season match on National TV April 5th at JELD-WEN Field.

Some details…

In digging into their possession numbers Seattle averaged ~52% possession per game (6th best) last year with ~285 Passes completed per game (5th worst) and a Passing Accuracy rating of 76.74% (7th best).

In looking at penetrating the attacking third, ~22% of their 52% possession was within the opponents defending third; that was 5th worst in MLS last year.  That is a wee bit deceptive and I’ll get to why that is a bit later.

From that rather low amount of penetration, into the attacking third, it should come as no surprise that their Shots Taken (12.09) was 6th worst, their Shots on Goal (3.79) was 4th worst and they Goals Scored (1.24) was 6th worst.

Bottom line here is Seattle simply weren’t that strong in the attacking third compared to most other teams in MLS last year; and for a team that had the third highest budget in MLS that’s not what I would call efficient.

So how about the Seattle Defense?

In reviewing possession and penetration numbers it appears the opponent controlled possession 48% of the time while penetrating 21% of the time that they controlled the ball.

That’s slightly more productive than Seattle (21% of 51% versus Opponent at 21% of 48%).  BUT – here’s that deceptive part about statistics and looking for relationships across the goal scoring process.

Seattle won more games than they lost, so it is likely that extra possession time, without penetrating their opponents defending third, is down Seattle simply possessing the ball with the intent to possess…

In other words they didn’t need to penetrate the opponents defending third at times because they were winning – meaning some of their possession was possession with the purpose to control the game (kill it off) and not to penetrate.

So how about across the pitch aggression in defensive activities; tackling, interceptions, etc?

Seattle were the 2nd most aggressive defending team outside their defending third; averaging a total of 24 tackles won, interceptions, clearances and blocked crosses. And they were also the 6th most aggressive team within their own defending third, averaging 45 defensive activities per game for a combined total of 69 defensive activities per game.

All told that ranked 3rd best in all of MLS; only Kansas City and Columbus were more aggressive (comprehensively) across the entire pitch.

Bottom line is that the Seattle defense did a great job of trying to prevent the opponent from creating goal scoring opportunities.

And when reviewing the shot details their defense gave up 12.68 Shots Taken per game (8th best) with 3.91 (4th best) of those being on Goal.

Unfortunately that strong team defense didn’t translate to a lower Goals Against; in looking at all the teams across MLS Seattle were only 10th best in the ranking.  Is it any wonder Gspurning is gone and another goal keeper has been brought in to save the rot?

In closing…

Like it or not these guys were good last year but they weren’t good when they needed to be – clearly the addition of Adam Moffat (like it or not) directly/negatively influenced and impacted their rotation and scheme of play.  — See that diagram in the article/link provided above to confirm that analysis.

For those tracking whether or not the game is all about scoring goals I’d offer that the reduced team penetration and creation of goal scoring opportunities, after Moffat and Dempsey came on board, provides a clear example where success was not all about scoring goals.

And from a defensive standpoint – while the majority of the season Seattle were strong (1.00 Goals Against) that just wasn’t the case after Moffat was added as that number ballooned up to 2.14 Goals Against;  Ironically Moffat is supposed to be a defensive midfielder.

Given the experience Seattle had with making late player additions it is unlikely that will occur again next season.

As for changes – Kenny Cooper was first in while Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales were first out, and Clint Dempsey has gone on loan to Fulham FC.

Chad Marshall, we know, has been added to solidify the back-four while Stefan Frei has been brought on with Gspurning leaving.

Fredy Montero still shows as a member of their team and the roster indicates he was only on loan for 2013; perhaps he returns for 2014?  Others who follow Seattle will know better on that one…

Before finishing some parting questions for your consideration…

I wonder how burned out Dempsey will be after that loan stint with Fulham FC?

How much energy (and team understanding/communication/chemistry) will he have coming into pre-season and the early games for March?

How much energy might he keep in reserve as the World Cup nears and finally arrives this summer?

And…..  Will Sigi have enough time (with his strikers together) {Dempsey, Cooper, Martins(?), Neagle, or other new additions} to sort out what system/scheme/formation/style he wants to work towards for March?

Next up another End of Season analysis and more progress on my Dispossession with Purpose Defending Index…

If interested in the Timbers Army 107ist here’s a short note for your consideration…

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Chris Gluck

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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