MLS Analysis: The Seattle Sounders

By Hernán Romero Carpio

28-May-2021 on Analysis

10 minute read

In this tactical analysis, Hernán takes a close look at the Seattle Sounders, one of the most successful clubs in Major League Soccer over the last five years. 

 

For the last four seasons they have finished in 2nd place in the Western Conference, missing out on winning it by no more than a few points. In 2016, they won the MLS Cup for the first time, a feat they repeated in 2019. This season, they are currently sitting at the top of the table with zero losses.

 

Could this be their year? Over to Hernán...

A Solid 3-5-2 Formation

 

Coached by the American, Brian Schmetzer, Seattle have stood out from their peers in MLS this season with their 3-5-2 game system, consisting of 2 wing backs and a sweeper on the back line, 3 central midfielders, 2 running the wings and 2 center forwards.  

 

Formation seattle sounders

 

Using this fairly unique formation, the Pacific Northwesters have climbed to the upper echelons of the Western Conference and haven’t lost a game so far this season.

 

The Build Up

 

From a goal kick, Seattle try to pull the opposing strikers forward by playing short balls between the keeper and sweeper. At the same time, the left and right backs push wide to create a path out of defense.

 

Seattle Sounders Buildup

 

Faced with high pressure from the opposition, Schmetzer’s team continue to push up on the outside thanks to the positioning of the two wingers. Additionally one of the central midfielders will drop back to support the push forward.

 

Seattle sounders fc buildup

 

So far this season, Seattle’s build-up play has shown their intentions to control the game from the beginning, mainly by seeking to find the free player between the lines of the opposition.

 

seattle sounders build up 3

 

Differing Playstyles

 

Seattle play in a combative style. As well as taking full advantage of the spaces behind the opposition defense long balls thanks to the speed of their wingers, they are also able to mix it up and attack in different ways.

 

They are often able to reach the opposite area in possession of the ball, playing with several players in the center but at the same time positioning the wingers wide and long, seeding confusion and doubt in the minds of the opposition defense when in the last quarter of the field.

 

seattle sounders analysis

 

Similarly, when the game warrants it, Seattle are able to make full use of their resources when the opposing team leaves spaces at the back, especially on the wings. Left winger, Brad Smith, has the speed and ability to turn a game down that wing, creating many dangerous attacks from that area.

 

brian schmetzer seattle sounders

 

Smith has proven himself to be a defining asset to the team and is the second top scorer so far in the season, chalking up 3 goals. The Australian is often the key to to overcoming the opposition in the mid-low block.

 

seattle sounders champions

 

Cristian Roldán: The Axis of the Game

 

Another key player in Seattle’s midfield is Cristian Roldán. Versatile enough to play in the heart of midfield or as part of the attack, it is seldom that he isn’t involved in a Seattle build up. His awareness when positioning himself in space between the lines allows the team to progress up the field and get into scoring positions quickly.

 

critian roldán seattle sounders

 

His participation doesn’t end with the build up, however. The American player has a great understanding of the game which allows him to take full advantage of certain situations such as positioning himself in the rebound zone in order to pounce and score.

 

cristian roldán seattle sounders mls

 

seattle sounders midfield

 

Raúl Ruidíaz: The Key to Victory

 

After seven games, Raúl Ruidíaz is currently the second top scorer in the league with 6 goals. The Peruvian is second only to Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who currently has 7 goals to his name.

 

seattle raúl ruidíaz

 

The movement Ruidíaz makes in order to have the time and space to score stands out. Before receiving a cross, he’ll tend to put the brakes on to stop short of the defensive line, giving him the positioning and space he needs to receive the ball and score.

 

seattle sounders center forward

 

attacking moves of seattle sounders

 

High Pressure in Defense

 

Before the opponent has the opportunity to start their build up, Schmetzer’s men like to apply very high pressure, trying to recover the ball high or force the opposition to split.

 

high pressure seattle sounders

 

Depending on which side the opposition tries to build up on, it’s usually Ruidáz who is the first to apply the pressure, supported by the central midfielders and the winger from the appropriate side.

 

5 Defenders in the Low Block

 

Understanding how their opponents attack, Seattle have also proven themselves very effective when defending in their own half. So far this season, they have only conceded 3 goals, second lowest in the league, just behind Orlando City, who have conceded 2.

 

The defensive formation of the Washington team consists of the three defenders narrowing the corridors on the inside whilst the wingers drop back to close the wide routes. The three remaining midfielders drop back slightly to plug any gaps that might appear.

 

seattle sounders low block

 

They combine this with the ability to swivel rapidly from one side to the other in order to block balls coming in from the wing.

 

defending seattle sounders

 

Their defensive organization, often with 5 defenders in the line and 3 midfielders a little further ahead, has been one of the most important elements in the Seattle’s continued success.

 

seattle sounders defensive formations

 

Conclusion

 

Without a doubt, the Seattle Sounders have been able to translate good play into good results. Being able to adapt to different situations when attacking and, at the same time, keeping a watertight, defensive line have been the keys to their success.

 

At the moment, the Washington team look odds on to reach the finals for the third time in consecutive years.

 

This tactical analysis by Hernán Romero Carpio was completed using Nacsport video analysis software and KlipDraw telestration tools. If you would like to see the power of Nacsport for yourself, contact us through our website or download a free 30-day trial today.

Thanks for reading!

You may also be interested in these...

Report: New England Revolution

16-09-2021 Written by Hernán Romero Carpio
8 minute read Read more...

5 South American Soccer Coaches to Keep an Eye On

06-04-2021 Written by Matías Navarro García
18 minute read Read more...

Share this

Did you enjoy this article?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive a monthly compilation of articles, interviews and Nacsport tips for video analysis.

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!

Once a month, we'll send a compendium of our best articles, interview and advice, straight to your inbox. Enjoy!

X
×

Are you enjoying this article?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive a monthly compilation of articles, interviews and Nacsport tips for video analysis.

Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!

Once a month, we'll send a compendium of our best articles, interview and advice, straight to your inbox. Enjoy!

Cookies are small text files that are placed on your computer when you visit our website.
They are used to save your activity history in our website so when you visit it again, we can identify you and configure the content based on your navigation habits, your identity and preferences. Cookies can be accepted, rejected, blocked and deleted. You can do this in the following options available in this window or by configuring your browser.
Further info in the Cookies Policy of this website.