The Sounders plenty of times the past two early seasons held the ball 60 percent of the game or more without doing much with it. What made last Saturday's opening victory a welcome change was the four goals they scored off their 64 percent possession rate.

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A comment by goalkeeper Stefan Frei moments after last week’s season-opening victory over FC Cincinnati epitomizes the more aggressive approach his Sounders are taking early on this campaign.

Frei’s team controlled possession of the ball for 64 percent of the game; a very good statistic but hardly rare for a Sounders squad that for years has embraced the concept of keeping the ball away from opponents so they can’t score. The difference now, as the Sounders prepare for their second game of the year Saturday night against the visiting Colorado Rapids, is what Frei’s team expects to do with the ball beyond keeping it out of its own net.

“That’s one thing that was missing a little bit last year,’’ Frei said. “We would have possession, possession and possession and nothing else. Teams would let us have it because maybe it seemed at times we couldn’t do anything with it.’’

Indeed, the opening half-seasons of their past two campaigns saw the Sounders keep the majority of possession in 18 of 34 games – averaging 59 percent possession in those contests – but they scored merely 25 goals, or 1.38 per match. It was even worse in the eight of those games in which the Sounders had greater than 60 percent possession but scored only seven goals combined.

Contrast that with last weekend’s four goals in just the one high-possession game against Cincinnati and it becomes clear why the Sounders are optimistic this early season will go differently.

Things picked up in both 2017 and 2018 after the Sounders added midseason offensive firepower and had players recover from early injuries. The Sounders both times went on to average 1.53 goals per match overall – even when low-possession games were factored in – to underscore just how anemic their starts to 2017 and 2018 had been.

Now, with the full complement of attacking pieces in place from the get-go, the Sounders don’t want to wait until midsummer to take the game to their opponents. They can’t really afford to this year, with a condensed schedule seeing them play half their season’s games by early June.

A new single-elimination playoff format also means the top-seeded teams could have home advantage throughout while lower seeds would need to win every postseason game on the road.

Frei noted that the Sounders against Cincinnati unleashed an attack that combined possession-based buildup passing, quick counterattacks and long balls sent over the flanks. His teammates seemed “unpredictable’’ in Frei’s mind and gave the overwhelmed defenders too many elements to contend with.

Which is why this upcoming Rapids game is quietly stoking interest as an early season barometer for an ambitious Sounders squad looking to do more than simply make the playoffs for an 11thstraight time. Everyone could see the expansion Cincinnati squad was a bit of a pushover, but Colorado is supposedly improved over last year’s miserable performance and opened its season last weekend with a surprising 3-3 home draw against Portland.

That the game was played in 18-degree temperatures and a raging snowstorm likely helped with the unexpected scoring and outcome. Nevertheless, the Rapids should represent a heightened degree of difficulty for a Sounders squad hoping a strong start to their season helps them grab a rare front-running lead in the Supporters’ Shield race for the league’s top overall spot.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer this week raised the bar by asking out loud why his team couldn’t “lead from the front’’ all season long. Schmetzer said his team’s balance of “raw speed and power versus quickness, dribbling and craftiness’’ is what kept Cincinnati so destabilized throughout the match.

And the Sounders will need to keep aggressively deploying those attributes to take full advantage of what appears somewhat of a soft early season schedule.

“That was a big goal of ours, to start strong,’’ Jordan Morris, who scored twice in the opener, told reporters Friday after the team’s final training session. “We know the importance of the regular season even more, especially now with the new playoff format and wanting to have home advantage in the playoffs.’’

Part of the Sounders’ unpredictable attack involves right wing Morris and left wing Victor Rodriguez combining their vastly different skill sets in tandem on the field.

Part of that was evidenced last weekend when a defending Morris corralled a ball deep in Sounders territory, then sent a 50-yard pass down the field that Rodriguez deftly softened with his foot for an instant and dangerous counterattack. Earlier on, Rodriguez had played a great ball through the box from the left side that Morris easily converted with a first-touch shot.

“I think we’re a little bit different,’’ Morris said. “He’s really good and technical on the ball and taking people on. Me, it’s hopefully using my speed. So, to have different strengths on either side of the field, it’s really good.’’

And it sure helps convert all that possession time into something far more meaningful.