Clint Dempsey will be making his MLS return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday when the New England Revolution host the Seattle Sounders.
Safe to say, the Sounders are by far the best team in MLS right now. Top to bottom, it seems like Sigi Schmid may have finally figured out how to play a complete game, obviously only time will tell.
The Seattle defense has been holding firm, something that was a major issue last season. Center back Chad Marshall has been astute on the field. His adjustment in Seattle has gone smoothly, following a trade from Columbus in the off season. Defensive depth is truly helping Seattle lately. There seems to be tremendous depth in the rear with the likes of Brad Evans, DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Dylan Remick, and Leo Gonzalez.
Offensively, Seattle looks unbelievably imposing. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins look to have a legendary strike partnership on their hands. The 12 goals between the duo has helped the Sounders led the league in scoring.
Lamar Neagle has also had a very good start to the 2014 season. The 27-year-old has benefitted from the overall attacking chemistry orchestrated by Dempsey and Martins, especially with Eddie Johnson no longer in the picture.
Players to Watch:
Obafemi Martins- Midweek against FC Dallas, Martins showed his great vision with two assists. What is making the forward so dangerous in this offense is his ability to drop back and gather the ball. Opposing defenses have really had a hard time tracking his movements over the field. The partnership with a pure finisher like Clint Dempsey is paying real dividends for the Sounders.
Chad Marshall- Moving to Seattle seems to have been a very good thing for Marshall. The Sounders needed a proven central defender to shore up an inconsistent back line after last season, and the change is noticeable. Marshall is able to maintain structure among the back four for Seattle. His distribution from the back has also been an improvement.
Clint Dempsey- The overall turnaround of Clint Dempsey in the off-season has been a real talking point. After only scoring one goal for Seattle last season, the forward is currently leading the league in scoring with eight goals. Dempsey is averaging a goal per game and is in fantastic form before he likely departs to the World Cup with the U.S. National Team.
Where will Kelyn Rowe fit back in for the Revolution?
Kelyn Rowe looks to be fit for a return this weekend against the Sounders. Questions may arise from his role on the squad though, as the midfielder likely isn’t fully match fit yet.
Rowe is undoubtedly one of the most talented players on a very young New England team. His return to the lineup will be met with much optimism. However, does head coach Jay Heaps change the core of his team when they have been on such a good run of form?
It seems very possible that Rowe can play a role off of the bench, something he has excelled at in the past. Coming on sometime between the 55th and 65th minute would give the Revolution an intriguing dynamic, especially if they concede early.
Is Seattle the Real Deal?
Sigi Schmid will certainly be looking to make a statement on the road in New England.
The Sounders will come up against a team who seems to find a way to win, even if they are being outplayed. However, recent results against very strong Western Conference teams have shown that Seattle’s form is no fluke.
What is so impressive about Seattle this season is the team’s ability to adapt. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso can move the ball well to enter the final third, where he has two talented forwards who will turn back to receive passes, in Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. The short passes and darting runs in the final third, are chaotic for opposing defenses.
When opponents clog up the middle, Alonso can push the ball to the flanks. The speed and creativity from midfielder Lamar Neagle on the outside, has thrown opposing outside backs in a loop. It is really hard to put a wrench in the Sounders game plan.
But with World Cup training camp’s starting soon, the Sounders will be truly tested, with Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey both departing.
Can New England Keep It Going?
Last week’s win on the road against Toronto FC was a huge three points for New England. The team is in a four-way tie for first place in the East, and is finding its moments.
Defense has been the strong point for New England all season, even with an injury to Jose Goncalves, last season’s MLS defender of the year. Seattle will be a huge test for the Revolution though, even at home. Dempsey has been absolutely phenomenal with his strike rate and likely won’t take it easy on his own team.
If defender Andrew Farrell maintains his fantastic transition to center back, then it could have a major impact on Dempsey’s ability to get the ball with space in front of him.
Lee Nguyen has sparked much of the offensive chances for New England this season, and his on the ball presence is one of the best in MLS. If Nguyen can help create an early goal in the first half, then the Revolution will have a chance against Seattle.
The midfield did a good job of breaking up a lot of Toronto chances late in the second half last weekend. They will need to play a very physical game to do that against the Sounders on Sunday.
What Will Happen?
New England has caught a lot of breaks in recent games. That isn’t to say that aren’t a very talented team, but their luck may run out this weekend. Seattle is truly a top-tier team right now and will have a full squad to work with.
If New England can execute a perfect game plan to frustrate Seattle in the midfield, then they could pull off an upset.