Clint Dempsey scored the first goal in the Sounders’ 2-0 win over San Jose on Saturday, and Erik Friberg and Jordan Morris were credited with assists.
But Morris never would have received the ball without Aaron Kovar working for possession.
And Kovar couldn’t have won the ball if not for a shot by Herculez Gomez that altered the shape of the Earthquakes’ defense.
The way it reads in the box score — “26’ Clint Dempsey, assisted by Erik Friberg, Jordan Morris” — doesn’t tell the tale.
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“We watched it on tape today,” coach Sigi Schmid said after Tuesday training. “We said, ‘Look, here’s an example of a really good team goal.’ Before it even got wide to Kovar there was already a good team buildup and sequence there. And then the ball pops out, and Kovar does a good job of holding off a guy who was probably twice his size. Then he connects the pass, and we connect the next two. Friberg has the vision to find Dempsey, and it’s a good first-time finish. So it was a really good team goal.”
Kovar used the same phrase — team goal — when describing his role in the play, which was crucial despite not showing up in the stats.
That play and others emphasize how difficult soccer can be to quantify on a stat sheet.
Schmid said the club has access to deeper analytics. He described one that attempts to measure each player’s role in shot creation, analyzing each shot and going back through each touch in the sequence that led to it. But even that measurement skews toward forwards and attacking midfielders, while Schmid stresses that offense can be crucial to goal prevention, just as defense can be crucial to goal creation.
The San Jose match offered another example, although that one led to a shot but not a score.
“We had a really good chance in the second half where Friberg slipped a ball in to Morris, and Morris took a shot into the goalkeeper,” Schmid said. “And that resulted from just good team defending. Two guys closed down the ball — Kovar and I think Friberg — and we win the ball at midfield and got off onto a good counter. A lot of times we try to show them that good defending leads to good attacking.”
Even without the capper of a goal, increasing similar sequences led Schmid to believe the Sounders’ improving record truly indicates improving play.
“I thought we had some really, really good moments,” he said. “…When you look at the overall game, I thought that our ball movement was pretty good — was as good as it’s been all season at times. And we were playing through the lines better than we have been, and as a result we were more dangerous.”
The MLS primary transfer deadline arrives at 10 p.m. Wednesday. After that time, clubs cannot register new players via international transfer or acquire players through intraleague trades until the secondary window opens July 4. … On Wednesday the Sounders will conclude local training for their Saturday match at FC Dallas. … The Sounders U-23 USL team meets Outbreak SC of Southern California in a first-round U.S. Open Cup match at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Panther Stadium at Bonney Lake High School.