Sounders plan to pressure Philadelphia in

Schmid asks Alonso to play further up field

If all goes according to Seattle’s plan, the Philadelphia
Union will receive a baptism by fire during their first match in franchise
history.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid confirmed today that a big piece of the
Sounders’ puzzle in year two will be increased defensive intensity. Seattle is
betting that the raucous sellout crowd, combined with extensive defensive
pressure, will be enough to snap the Union’s nerves and defense in the first match of
the MLS season Thursday night at Qwest Field.

“We always want to do that when we’re playing at home,”
Schmid said. “Towards the end of last season, a lot of teams sat back against us at
home, so we have to work on breaking down a team like that in game situations.

“We’ve worked on that in training and we think we have the
pieces of the puzzle to do break that down. We certainly want to carry the game
to them.”

Earning a victory, especially a resounding one, at Qwest
Field is one of Seattle’s points of emphasis to start 2010. Last season, Seattle did not show the ability to break down
teams who played defensively and bunkered down in front of goal. To address that
problem, Schmid has been experimenting in preseason with moving defensive
midfielder Osvaldo Alonso further up the field in an attempt to force turnovers
in better positions. Schmid wants Alonso to play 10-15 yards further up the field,
moving him away from the center backs and allowing Seattle to sustain pressure
on the opponent.

“It’s going to depend a little bit on the way they are
setting up, but when the moment is appropriate we will do that,” said Alonso
through a translator. “We don’t know too much (about Philadelphia). They are a
new team. Right now we are focusing on our play and preparing ourselves.” 

In an after-practice interview, midfielder Freddie Ljungberg also
confirmed that Seattle will be picking and choosing spots to use pressure to force
the opponents into bad decisions. He also mentioned that Seattle, put emphasis
into learning certain attacking patterns to make their offense less predictable.

“I think we are
trying to develop our game this season; trying to play a bit more complex of a
complex game,” Ljungberg said. “I think last season we played quite simple
because we didn’t know each other very well.”

The familiarity of the team should be improved in 2010, with
the majority of the team that started the final game of the season back for
Thursday’s game. Only two players who started the playoff loss to Houston, the
injured Nate Jaqua and the suspended James Riley, aren’t expected to be in the
starting XI. With MLS First Kick just two days away, Schmid pointed towards
Patrick Ianni or Zach Scott at right back as likely options to replace the
Riley, who was red-carded in Seattle’s playoff loss to Houston to end 2009.

The other open position is right midfield, where Roger
Levesque seems to have won the spot while Jaqua recovers from
injury. Levesque, who emerged as a reliable option at the end of the 2009
season, offers a great work rate and a better defensive presence than Seattle’s
other options at right midfield, including Nyassi. 

“Maybe you have seen training, we have tried to pressure
harder and tried to get the whole team to come (forward),” Ljungberg said.
“Small things like that we have worked really hard on. I think if we can get
that right, I think we can be a much better team.”