Know Your Enemy: Seattle Sounders

A few months ago a match against Seattle Sounders was quite a different prospect than it is now. Before mid-July, the Sounders were drifting through the season, eyes seemingly on the future as they paired solid defense with whatever the exact opposite of offense is. One of the longest winning streaks in MLS history has changed all that, and now Seattle has Raul Ruidiaz powering up the attack and Nico Lodeiro back to his best. The Western Conference didn’t see that coming, and now Brian Schmetzer’s team is pushing for a playoff spot as Vancouver, Portland, and Real Salt Lake glance nervously at the fast-rising defending conference champions.

Double digits

Seattle has nine wins in a row. They haven’t lost since June, and that’s also how long it’s been since Stefan Frei allowed more than one goal in a game. Here’s the positive spin: The only Eastern Conference team Seattle has beaten during their winning streak is NYCFC, and the Union beat David Villa and co. 2-0.

Not much else to say about this. Just one heck of an impressive winning streak, and it will be an emotional moment if Philly can be the team to end it.

Raul with it baby

The arrival of tiny superstriker Raul Ruidiaz has galvanized Seattle’s attack. In much the same way that Wayne Rooney’s signing breathed new life into Luciano Acosta’s game, Ruidiaz has jumpstarted Nicolas Lodeiro. These two players combine very well, and Lodeiro’s unnerving ability to draw attention before releasing the ball into space is perfect for Ruidiaz’s aggressive runs that push back a defense and create those spaces.

In seven matches with Ruidiaz in the first eleven, Seattle has never been shutout, and they have scored at least two goals five times. By moving back the defensive line, Ruidiaz allows the rest of the Seattle offense more room to operate. This is essential to unlock the potential of guys like Cristian Roldan and Harry Shipp. Both are good players, but when forced to play with their heads down they become limited attacking contributors. More space means it’s easier to escape pressure and scope out longer passes, and that has finally ended the Seattle offense’s long hold out.

The Great and Powerful Oz

It is likely not a coincidence that Ozzie Alonso’s longest run in the starting lineup has overlapped with the Sounders’ best results of the season. Along with Diego Chara and Kyle Beckerman, it feels as though Alonso has been breaking up play in midfield since MLS used NHL-style shootouts to decide games. Seattle’s no. 6 covers a ton of ground and distributes with unflagging consistency. He sets the tempo of a match by speeding up play when his team wants to attack quickly and slowing it down when they want to possess and force the opponent out of a shell.

One other thing to remember about Alonso: He will absolutely get rough with your playmaker if that’s the best way to stop them. He did it to Alphonso Davies on Saturday and he’ll continue to live on the edge going forward. Philly can’t be intimidated by Alonso; they must try to get him to commit to one side of the pitch then rotate quickly and attack central space.

As good as the Sounders’ defense has been, the center backs would rather not step out of the back line. Chad Marshall has incredible timing coming out of the back four but Kee Hee does not. Making either one take chances will indicate that things are going well for the Union.

Philly will travel to Seattle and look to break the Sounders’ winning streak this Wednesday at 11PM EST.

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