Clint Dempsey says a Sounders goal last Sunday that was preceeded by 21 consecutive passes between 10 players was a sign the team's confidence is brewing
In an odd way, the goal that might symbolize everything the Sounders hope to accomplish this season wasn’t even scored by one of their own players.
Last Sunday, playing the Los Angeles Galaxy, 10 Sounders passed the ball between themselves 21 consecutive times before opposing left back Ashley Cole accidentally booted a Joevin Jones cross in to his own net. But regardles of who actually got credit for the tally, the complete domination of Galaxy defenders by a Sounders team achieving the possession game to near perfection was everything they are supposed to be about.
“When you’re having good possession I think everybody has more confidence everybody’s getting more touches,” Dempsey said after a workout Thursday at CenturyLink Field. “If you’re having sequences where you’re keeping 20 passes or more then you’re only growing in confidence in the game.
It just goes to show you that by keeping good possession — not only in the attacking third but by moving it around in the back and getting teams out of position …is something you can be productive with. It’s good for fans to see and a good style of play to watch. It’s especially the style you’re going to need when the conditions get warmer as the summer draws closer.”
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The Sounders held the ball 58 percnt of the time, made 552 passes compared to L.A.’s 397 and also had an 87 percent accuracy rate next to the Galaxy’s 81 percent.
For Dempsey, it was as good a first half as he’s seen all season and one of the best he can remember during his time with the Rave Green, now 2-3-3 on the season after playing five of their first seven matches on the road.
The insertion of Will Bruin at striker and sliding of Jordan Morris out to the left flank opened the door to plenty of creativity from the attacking four. It’s something Dempsey and the Sounders hope to see more of as they face his former New England Revolution squad on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
Dempsey said he’d felt the attack was starting to come together during the 3-1 homer opening win over the New York Red Bulls. Then, after a break for World Cup qualifiers, he again felt he was coming in sync with Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro during a loss to Vancouver two weeks ago and especially in the L.A. game.
“He does a great job of holding the ball up for us and that allows us to keep posession sometimes when we have to keep it long,” Dempsey said of Morris. “But also, just in buildup play, creating chances for people and putting people through. On the one goal that Jordan scored I think the ball was played in to him and he’s the one that got it out wide to (Jordy) Delem, who crossed the ball in to the middle to Nico (Lodeiro) and then to me and then to Jordan.
“So, he’s just being that outlet, being strong with the physical play and also creating chances for others and also himself.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said a key to the 21-pass sequence was the Sounders deciding to “reset” a couple of times by playing the ball back to keeper Stefan Frei when they couldn’t find enought open space to get by Galaxy defenders. It was something the team practiced the week before the game.
“That’s exactly what we trained for last week,” Schmetzer said. “Which was having patience in the final third, keeping the ball in the final third and if it’s not on, let’s reset, go out the other side and start all over again.”
As for Dempsey, who leads the Sounders with three goals and several balls rattled off crossbars and posts, his season has gathered steam in recent weeks since scoring four goals in a pair of World Cup qualifiers with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“It’s a positive,” Dempsey said of the near-misses. “I don’t see it as a negative. You’re getting closer. Getting good looks in front of the goal. You’re dangerous. It’s just a matter of time. I’ve got three goals, hit the woodwork four times and created a goal the last game for Jordan. So, those are good chances that are getting created and I just see it as things to build upon,”
ESPN analyst and former USMNT star Taylor Twellman said in an interview with the Sounders team website last week that he felt Dempsey was “still getting match fitness back because at his age people forget that the week-in and week-out grind of things along with the turf will still have an impact on his body.”
Dempsey on Thursday agreed that, while he feels great, his best has yet to come.
“I think later in the season you feel better and you should be hitting your best form,” he said. “So, yeah, it’s still early in the season.”