Sounders U-23s flip out in 1-0 loss to Portland
In front of a crowd of 1,129 at Tumwater Stadium Sunday afternoon, the Sounders U-23s and Portland Timbers U-23s battled to a scoreless draw for the 83 minutes before the Timbers’ Zack Foxhoven’s gathered a pass in the box from Nick Palodichuk and buried a shot past Sounders goalkeeper Zac Lubin to score the game’s only goal in a 1-o Timbers victory. It was a hard fought game between two of the best teams in the PDL’s Northwest Division but was marred a strange tactic that the Sounders U-23s employed many times throughout the game.
Sounders U-23 midfielder Michael Harris first rolled out his flip throw-in about 15 minutes into the game to the gasp and cheer of the unsuspecting crowd. Harris took the ball, did a forward tumble putting the ball on the ground over his head, tumbling back up and releasing a long throw into the box when he was back upright. It’s a play in soccer that is something to see, something to behold and got the crowd, primarily made up of Blackhills FC players and parents, excited.
But Harris and the Sounders U-23s did it again and again and again and again. In fact, in the first half I counted ten flip throw-ins from Harris and though I stopped counting, I estimate at least another ten in the second half. And while the throw-ins looked cool and sometimes resulted in a throw-in from a better position (inevitably another flip throw-in), most of the time there was nobody on the other end of the throws and the trade off was that the Sounders never kept possession in the midfield for any amount of time. It was an all or nothing strategy that turned out to be nothing in the long run.
It was a strange strategy that felt like a cheesy gimmick after the first few times. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it felt like I was watching Loyola Marymount basketball in the early 90’s or Grinnell College basketball but instead of taking the best shot available every ten seconds, they just lobbed it into traffic in the paint and hoped it would hit off their center’s head and into the basket.
This was the first Sounders U-23s game that I have seen this season so I’m not sure if it is a strategy that head coach Darren Sawatzky has employed in previous games or not, but it struck me as a lack of confidence in the ability of his midfield. I honestly can’t remember even one time when the ball went to the midfield and they strung a handful of passes together or backed it out to the midfield or back to the defense. Everything was over the top passes or long flip throw-ins and that was it. It resulted in 11 shots but nothing particularly tough for Timbers keeper David Meves.
Eventually the pressure of never having possession got to the Sounders and resulted in a 1-0 loss that snapped their three game winning streak and dropped them to 3-3-1 on the season, six points behind the first place Timbers.
Image courtesy of Sounders U-23s Facebook page