With Sunday’s Cascadia Cup match between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders coming up quickly, we got in touch with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart to get the low-down on the team from up north. Make sure to swing by SaH to see our answers to Dave’s questions.
On a scale of 1-100, how sure are you that Lodeiro is the real deal? What has made him such an instantly impactful player for the Sounders and will he be able to keep up his current breakneck pace?
Sure, he's burst onto the stage with an impressive goal, three assists, and eleven key passes coming from a mix of crosses, long balls and through balls. But these aren't skills that he hasn't displayed before. He is currently the creative force for Uruguay, who though they had a bad Copa America, are still one of the world's top national teams. With Boca Juniors he was similarly high-quality as well.
Other players with his skills have done this before - Valeri being a prime example, GBS with the Crew being another. Like Diego, Nico comes before the age of thirty. His signing isn't completely unseen territory, nor is his performance.
What is a bit different is that he's carrying the load for a resurgent team that is trying to crash into the playoffs. That's something more like what Jermaine Jones did with the Revs, or Drogba did with the Impact.
Will Lodeiro finish with 3 or 4 goals and 14 assists? Probably not, but if he does you could make a case for him finishing in the MVP hunt, because that would be enough to power Clint and Jordan towards double digit goal scoring years and a playoff berth for the eighth straight season. Teams will adjust to him. He'll get tired during the travel that is more similar to the Copa Libertadores than a league. But, he's young and he has managed to perform well in continental tournaments in the past.
The Sounders have one of the league's worst home records so far in 2016, which is pretty surprising from an outside perspective. What is behind the Sounders' struggles at CenturyLink and should we have seen this coming?
It isn't about the Sounders struggling at home. It's about them being a bad team. They have the eighth worst home record on the season and some of that is boosted by their last three games in the Emerald City (5-0 win, 1-1 draw and 2-1 win). But they also have the eighth worst road record.
Lots of small things happened in many games where the breaks just didn't go Seattle's way. They were probably just an average MLS side with horrible luck until seven games ago. Now, they look like a good team that's getting all the breaks. Maybe that's the way of sports where better teams also get better luck. But the change is clear, luck is again on Seattle's side.
There's also the same issue that Portland has at home - referee overcompensation for crowd noise/influence. This year's penalties against versus penalties for is bizarre, a familiar territory for a Timbers fan. Maybe that's our shared curse due to the size and vibrancy of the crowds.
This will be the Sounders' first Sigi-less Cascadia Cup match of the MLS era, so what has changed since Schmetzer took over? Is it just the arrival of Lodeiro, or have their been other changes to the Sounders since earlier this season that Timbers fans should be looking out for?
The lineup is barely tweaked, with the only addition being Lodeiro. The other recent signing, Alvaro Fernandez, has merely seven minutes played. The formation isn't that different either. It's still nominally a 4-2-3-1 with Clint in the hole behind Morris so they look like a two forward set quite often. This is especially true as either Lodeiro or Ivanchitz slip into the middle to become a central creator.
The difference with Brian Schmetzer is about expectation and attitude. This shows up a few ways. He regularly tells the players that this is their team. It does not and will not succeed because of him, but because of their efforts and abilities. That lays the blame and credit right at the feet of World Cup veterans, regular National Teamers and players that won several trophies while Sounders. He also expects them to not just know their own role on the squad, but what their partner (each roster spot has a pairing such as TF-WF or RW-RB) and even the full force is doing. When you notice your partner doing X there is an expectation that not only do you react, but that the whole team reacts. This is not necessarily new, but the method of communication is different. Players seem to be listening now.
Part of that may be due to the wake-up call of seeing the founding coach of the MLS version of the Sounders sent away. Now, at the back of everyone's mind is a simple thought "if they were willing to do that to Sigi, what will they do with me?" A few veterans whose efforts were doubted near the end of the Sigi era are back to their level of performance that earned Seattle the expectation of being a trophy winner. It may be too late, but at least the run-in should be enjoyable.
Projected Lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristan Roldan; Andreas Ivanschitz, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Jordan Morris