Jordan Morris bailed out Sounders after 80 minutes of sloppy soccer

Jun 2, 2016, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:26 pm

Heading into their match in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the Sounders had little to be positive about. They had lost to two of the best teams in the league – along with one of the worst – within the last couple weeks, while injuries and international play had left the team short-handed. Seattle still managed to field a solid starting XI without the services of Clint Dempsey, Chad Marshall and others. The match was pretty dire for nearly 80 minutes as sloppy play by both sides produced few good chances, none of which were guided into the net. But the Sounders finally did what I criticized them for being unable to do over the weekend against New England. They found a way to win.

Recap: Morris, Sounders strike late for 2-0 win over D.C. United

A front three of Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris and Aaron Kovar is talented, sure, but it doesn’t exactly strike fear into the heart of MLS defenses. Morris’ first touch of Wednesday’s game was a bit like his season so far in a nutshell: he latched onto a solid pass and made a move towards goal but was easily muscled off the ball by the defender as Morris gazed longingly towards the ref, hoping for a call. Ivanschitz, who has played at least four different positions this season, played fairly well as a left winger but wasn’t able to produce much. He nearly scored a screamer seconds after getting a yellow, but it pinged off the crossbar and out of play. Kovar was far from perfect, but he played his position with discipline and little incidents.

It seems harsh to criticize the team after such a solid win, but the truth is that the Sounders only played well for about 10 minutes. The rest of the match was full of bad passing, little chance creation and an explicable desire to just punt the ball forward at every opportunity. I’m not sure if it was how coach Sigi Schmid told his team to play, but Seattle certainly seemed to relish every chance to play a long pass – mostly unsuccessfully, especially going forward. The Sounders completed just 41 of 83 long passes; nearly every attempt at a vertical pass was unsuccessful. It’s a lazy and haphazard strategy on its own, but with the personnel on the pitch, it’s simply unacceptable.

Aside from little attacking creativity and imagination, the once-mighty Sounders defense almost completely wrecked the team’s chances. Were it not for D.C.’s atrocious play in the penalty box, this match could have ended far differently. Zach Scott gave away the ball in dangerous areas a number of times, and the Sounders were lucky that D.C. did nothing with those opportunities. Tony Alfaro, who impressed in his cameo against New England, came on when Scott suffered an apparent injury. The 2016 draftee wasn’t perfect, but he adjusted to his mistakes and seemed pretty confident and composed on the ball. If Marshall has to miss another match, Alfaro should surely be on the depth chart ahead of Scott despite the veteran’s status as a club legend.

In the end, the Sounders were lucky that their mistakes didn’t bury them, and Schmid made what was probably his best tactical switch all season. He brought on Joevin Jones, who normally starts at left-back but was left on the bench, for the relatively ineffective Ivanschitz. Jones, who often plays as a left midfielder or winger for Trinidad & Tobago, provided the speed on the flank that Ivanschitz lacks. It was Jones who beat the United’s entire right side and put in the cross that was parried by goalkeeper Bill Hamid and poorly cleared by defender Bobby Boswell to fall right for Morris to score. Jones also made a very excellent run to meet Alonso’s brilliant through ball, and his finishing was some of the best the Sounders have had all season. Especially in the absence of a handful of other attacking players, Jones deserves to start in that position at the next possibly opportunity.

There’s no denying that Morris did very well to score his goal. He had two defenders on him and he managed an excellent finish past Hamid. Morris had four shots on the night, all shots on goal. While he could have done better with many of those shots – some were rather tame – Morris did what mattered, and he took his best chance and put the ball in the net. For a team short on goals, Morris continued to show just why the Sounders put so much faith in him. What he does need to do is to show that poaching instinct in every match, and to keep putting himself into positions to take advantage of mistakes and opportunities like he did against D.C. It’s a lot to expect from a rookie, but Morris is the main man for Seattle right now, and he’s already shown that he’s up for the challenge. If he can show consistency, he might just help save the Sounders’ season.

Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.

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Jordan Morris bailed out Sounders after 80 minutes of sloppy soccer