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.”
[inline_node:120525]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.”