Is this the funniest Sounders team?

Seattle – Throughout its illustrious and embellished MLS history, the Seattle Saunders have sometimes played glorious football. But if they were at their best, it is just as often a more pragmatic approach that can sometimes displace the broader ideals they sometimes aspire to.

This was especially true in some of their biggest games. Remember, for example, the 2019 MLS Cup final. The goal was to win no matter what. They did. Mission accomplished. But even the biggest fans admit that in this game a lot of “took what your opponent gives you.”

What is so exciting about this current team is that even in these great games there is almost contagious joy.

And in their biggest game – the Champions League semi-final Kankakaf against the reigning MLS Champions – the speakers were perhaps the widest and funniest.

It wasn’t just a 3-1 score and not how they seemed to control, even after giving up the equalizer in the first half. It wasn’t just a lot of chances. It wasn’t just that their press sometimes stifled. It was all, plus something a little harder to calculate. Sanders looked good doing it all.

“My overall impression now has been an entertaining football match,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told a post-game press conference. “I hope our fans liked it. I did. I liked it. Hopefully, the TV audience liked it. I thought it was a good game. “

While the numbers don’t tell the whole story, they help. The Sanders scored 2.86 expected goals, executed 479 passes (86%) and struck 10 from inside the penalty area. The NYCFC is a team that thrived last year and was able to get through almost anyone’s press, but often struggled to get out of their side against the Saunders.

There were many outstanding individuals. Jordan Morris looked borderline impossible during the first half when he scored one goal, scored another and generally supported NYCFC defenders every time he touched the ball. Christian and Alex Roldan were holy horror on the right, deftly tuning in to each other’s chances deep in the late NYCFC. The trio of midfielders Joao Paul, Albert Rusnak and Nicolas Ladeira, who looked so good over the weekend against Minnesota United, was even better at it, creating overloads and benefits all over the field.

“I don’t think there was a player who didn’t have a great game,” said Rusnak, who finished one of the best goals in the team in recent memory of the Saunders. There were 13 assists in the goal, and 10 players received at least one touch. “That’s what you need in such games.”

Rusnak’s game felt particularly notable, especially after I felt it was a breakthrough performance a few days earlier on the road against Minnesota. When Rusnak joined Sanders, he thought he would play mostly as a broad midfielder and as a deputy at number 10. After all, these were his main roles in Real Salt Lake and a big reason why Sanders ”seemed to want him.

But Schmetzer has shown a willingness to deploy Rusnak a little deeper for most of this year, relying on his ability to cover the ground and connect passes, rather than just working in and around the penalty area.

Playing with Joao Paul and Ladeira, it seems that the sound engineers have discovered some new abilities in Rusnak. Against the NYCFC he made 65 of 68 assists, was 5 on 5 on long goals, made 10 rebounds and even won 3 of 4 fights.

“Albert is a smart footballer,” said Schmetzer, paying tribute to assistant coach Freddie Juarez for vouching for Rusnak’s perhaps neglected skills. “Based on what he did to achieve the goal, based on some of the readings he takes, based on some of the perseverance that Freddie talked to me about that he saw when he coached him in RSL …

“I would probably be offended if someone said that Albert can only play at 10 or as a winger who can shove inside, he has more than that.”

Even better, it can just scratch the surface. It was the first game of the year that the Sounders played with this front six, and logic suggests that they will get better if they improve their understanding of each other. Notably, the Saunders outscored their CCL opponents 12-2 without scoring a single goal from Raúl Ruidias.

“You’re just starting to see the tip of the iceberg when the guys get back to full health,” Schmetzer said. “So that everyone is in their seats now, I think you will see a little bit how this team will look like it is. I think we have a lot of talented players. “

Although it was all exciting, the speakers hurried to hit the brakes to get too far ahead of themselves. The chatter has already begun that they are giving the MLS a better chance to finally win this elusive title, and apparently in Mexico they are even saying that this is a tournament in Seattle that needs to be lost.

Schmetzer had none of that, especially with the massive response the following week. For the NYCFC to overcome that deficit, they would only need to win 2-0.

“I told them in the locker room that it’s not over yet, it’s not over against New York City,” Schmetzer said. “We have to earn every opportunity to even reach the final, and Pumas and Cruz Azul are good teams. Then we talk about the next stage. We are now focused on another game against New York City.

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