(Note: due to access issues, I couldn't get this article posted before the match. My apologies. However, even after the match, you may find some important details or points to learn about Seattle for the next meeting. Enjoy)
This week, we welcome Dave Clark of the Seattle Sounders blog Sounder at Heart to answer three questions about the Sounders. Below my questions and his answers are his questions and my answers. Let's get started.
The Goat Parade asks Sounder at Heart:
1. The Sounders are in the middle of several competitions, as they are still within shouting distance of the Supporters Shield, are sitting in an automatic playoff berth, are in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup and are in CONCACAF Champions League. Is this team equipped to compete in multiple competitions? And are certain titles or competitions being prioritized by the club?
2. Fredy Montero has been having a relatively quiet season for Seattle. Despite scoring six goals and contributing five assists this season, he no longer seems to have the superstar buzz surrounding him. How would you characterize his performance this season, and what do you think accounts for the lowered expectations about him around the league?
3. Which player that is maybe not on the radar of most Chivas' fans could have an impact in the game on Saturday?
While the offense of the Sounders gets all the attention one mustn't ignore Tyson Wahl. He's converted from centerback to a left back and set-play specialist who can serve the ball during run-of-play as well. While his lateral speed is lacking, he still has the height to help defensively within the box. If he can slow the defender running at him Wahl is a strong defender, but the speedsters can create issues as Wahl can be prone to biting at their moves and getting turned.
Sounder at Heart asks The Goat Parade:
1. Justin Braun is capable of dominating any game, but needs support like most strikers. Whose work supports him best or do they just need more talent?
I think Braun is ideally a support striker, as his consistency is a major issue. He works very hard and has flashes of brilliance, but he just does not look capable of controlling a game. The best situation in my view would be to have him paired with a more dynamic and prolific striker, which would allow him to fly under the radar and surprise opponents from time to time.
2. The Goats are sticking in the Playoff hunt through solid defense, who are the key players defensively?
Despite losing projected captain Jimmy Conrad in the second game of the season to a concussion, Chivas have been able to build a decent defensive record with a great deal of continuity along the backline. Heath Pearce is the key to the defense and has really stepped up in Conrad's absence, moving into central defense for the first time in his career and really doing an effective job. The rookie Zarek Valentin has also played quite well and is an automatic start for Chivas. There have been fewer injuries and international absences among the defenders than midfielders and forwards, so there's been more stability and more time for the defense to gel as a unit.
But the primary reason the Goats have played well defensively is because of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. There have already been a handful of games this season where he has been the reason they got a draw or victory, and the fact that he has bailed the team out on several occasions means there will need to be some upgrades on the defense in the future. I know most teams in the league tout their goalkeeper as the best, and while I'm not willing to put Kennedy as the number one guy in the league just yet, I think a very good case could be made that he belongs in the top 5 this season, and could very soon become a world class 'keeper.
3. When the NY Cosmos closed Cosmos West Chivas USA was given first rights to those players. Already one of the better teams at developing young talent is the planned future of a So Cal based squad made more real through that move? How will Club Tijuana's expansion into Southern California effect those plans?
I suppose it probably won't make much difference, although if one player brought into the Chivas USA academy becomes a star with the team it could alter the club's fortunes significantly, and conversely if the Xolos snap up a star in the making away from Chivas it could really represent a missed opportunity. There are many players in the Southern California youth soccer system and so no team can corner the market on quality players, but obviously Chivas will need to make a case to players interested in playing for Tijuana that MLS and Chivas are worth it. With Jurgen Klinsmann evidently renewing U.S. Soccer's focus on Latino players, along with the good work the academy has had recently, Chivas can certainly remain players in a competitive region.
As for the plan to make the team primarily composed of players from Southern California, I think it is a long way from happening, if it ever does. Despite the high number of soccer players from Southern California, a policy like this would be even more binding competitively than the situation of Chivas' sister club, Chivas of Guadalajara. The Guadalajara club only voluntarily restricts its player pool to the country of Mexico, and occasionally Mexican Americans. The Chivas USA plan would limit the club to players from one very small region of an entire country, which makes winning seem incredibly and unnecessarily difficult. Plus, the team backtracked from the announcement almost immediately after making it, so I don't think it is really on the horizon.