Although our biggest cross-country rivalry seems to be fading slightly, I still managed to get some digs in against the Seattle Sounders as we exchanged three questions with Sounder At Heart.
B&RU: Seattle started the season with two losses, but has now gone undefeated in their last six games. What changed?
I don't know that a lot really changed. Seattle had the run of the game against the Los Angeles Galaxy and one bad pass led to a great strike by Juninho. And while they didn't beat the Houston Dynamo, they dominated everyone but Tally Hall. Seattle continues to be a possession team, strong in defense that peppers an opposing keeper with shots. Sometimes the keeper dominates, sometimes those shots aren't well placed, but the opportunities will continue to be there.
B&RU: How are the Sounders adjusting to the losses of Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White?
That's a work in progress. Last week we saw Seattle in a 4-diamond-2 with the midfielders basically being central types. The game against D.C. United will probably see the return of Mauro Rosales providing speed and crossing ability to the right side, but if that doesn't happen the Sounders will be slower than you are used to creating threats from the dribble rather the sprint. Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero are paired up top again, and you may remember those two being effective in 2009.
B&RU: What color uniforms will the Sounders be wearing? Insidious black? Sedimentary brown? Anamorphic gray? Oxidized bronze? Cold-rolled steel? Magnanimous orange? Maybe a blend of all of the above?
The dominant color will be Rave Green on the tops, with some disgusting silver straps that remind me of a GI Joe character's jet pack straps from the mid-80s. Some people see bra straps, but I guess their youth was different than mine. The poor people of Columbus will get to see the nearly black Shale Grey with silver straps.
S@H: Can Charlie Davies scoring from the spot really be an offensive game plan?
As much as selling tickets is a game plan towards winning trophies ... United's offensive game plan is somewhat in flux. They seem to be unintentionally transitioning from the possession-oriented style that won them trophies in the past to a quick countering attack that utilizes United's speed on the wings and up top. Many of their goals (and their penalty kick attempts) have come off through-balls behind their opponents' defenses. If D.C. can solve this offensive identity crisis, their attack could be lethal, especially against older and slower defenses.
S@H: What has happened to Andy Najar? I feel like United are missing what he can add. How has he gotten pushed out of the lineup and can he, Chris Pontius and Santino Quaranta and Charlie Davies all play at once?
Najar wasn't playing at his 2010 level early in the year, and when United gave Fred da Silva a chance on the right in his place, the Brazilian excelled. Of course that was against Toronto FC, and he hasn't done much since. With two matches this week, I'd expect Najar to start at least one. And as long as Pontius continues to play at a high level, he'll be starting on the left for the duration.
S@H: Recent performances say that United has serious defensive issues, but they did OK to start the season. Which is the real defense and why have the recent games been so poor?
United's defense might be the youngest in the league, especially when you factor in 20-year old starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The veteran is 26-year old Marc Burch. With so much youth, inexperience, and unclear leadership, we haven't really been surprised to see the defense make a few mistakes. If they can minimize mistakes, cut out the ugly ones (Cam Weaver's goal Friday night), and see their goalkeepers occasionally bail them out, United's defense should, on average, be somewhere between the one that did well early in the year and the one that's given up 11 goals in their last three matches.