Seattle v. Colorado: One Big (DP) Thing and Several Smaller Ones

Speaking as a Portland Timbers fan, goddammit. Speaking as a U.S. Men’s team fan…I’m sorry. Dropping the blasphemy is the best I can do right now. I lost money on this thing (you don’t want to know) so it’s going to take some doing to get over the bitterness.

Hell of a win for Seattle, obviously, as most 4-0 wins are. What impressed most was the slow strangulation of the Colorado Rapids – something that goes double after an opening 10 minutes that saw a number of Seattle players cough up the ball (Djimi Traore, Osvaldo Alonso, etc.)

One thing I noticed, though: this team is fucking addicted to heel-flicks. MLSsoccer.com typically posts a sort of “best plays” compilation (example): I imagine it’s going to be lousy with Sounders highlights.  I blame Clint Dempsey. Speaking of…

The Big (Obvious) Thing
Clint Dempsey owns his DP label in 2014. And in a very, very complete way. He’s dropping toward midfield to facilitate possession, riding challenges, dishing passes (2 of every three coming off one of his heels) and he’s getting kicked for his troubles, often. See: Mari, Jose (though it wasn’t as bad as Kasey “Shameless Homer” Keller made it sound. Useful as that can be, Dempsey’s also unlocking defenses with those same showy (admittedly entertaining) moves. (Still, fuck him.) The way Marco Pappa continued his run into the box on the way to Seattle’s second goal testifies to his teammates’ faith in Sir Clint’s ability to play out of trouble. Dempsey appeared completely closed down – two defenders closing around him, with two more between him and the goal – but he popped the ball free (with the heel, natch) to Pappa, who shot toward a mitten-handed Clint Irwin, who bobbled it for, yes, Clint “Goddamn” Dempsey to clean up. More troubling still (for the rest of us, anyway) is the way Dempsey took the set-up role from Obafemi Martins, who has ably filled that role for the past couple games.

Bottom line, Seattle pinned Colorado into their defensive end and just ran at them and ran at them and ran at them. The Sounders did it with enough ease to make it seem like they’ll be able to do this against any team they can pin back. Sigh…and oh my gawd. The thought of Seattle-ites with another reason to feel smug does turn the stomach.

Other Smaller Things
– Keller got one big thing right in this game: Colorado passed Seattle the noose by giving the Sounders second and third chances. And Irwin had a terrible game, coughing up rebounds readily and often as a 20-year smoker coughs up phlegm. By contrast Stefan Frei held on firmly to the few shots he faced. It mattered.

– Similar contrasts defined this game: Consider Dempsey versus Edson Buddle; Martins v. Gabriel Torres; DeAndre Yedlin v. Chris Klute; Alonso v. Nick LaBrocca. The Rapids won only one of those match-ups by my count – I put LaBrocca over Alonso and by some distance – and maybe they punched even with Klute v. Yedlin, but the forward comparison was elementary school versus college. Torres did nothing and Buddle did little more than give up the ball.

– Bottom line – and I think it’s pervasive – Colorado doesn’t have much for final third game. They’ve thrived on PKs, but even those (or at least two of them) came from through-balls that originated fairly close to midfield – typically through the absent Dillon Powers. Might have mattered last night. It’s fair to assume that the Rapids would have fared better with a little more control up top. It’s fair, even if you don’t buy it.

– Several Rapids players had good games; that’s the weird thing. Drew Moor might have got beat on a couple scrambles, but he also cleaned up a ton of mistakes. Mari was good and LaBrocca very good. (I won’t lie; I’ve always liked LaBrocca; he does bald men proud.) It just wasn’t enough with everyone else not quite there.

– Finally, that sweater Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni wore? Totally DP-caliber.