The Colorado Rapids shredded through the Seattle Sounders defense in the first half on Saturday, but were forced to mostly nibble around the edges in the second half.
What kind of magical changes did the Sounders coaching staff conjure during halftime?
Not much, as it turns out.
"The halftime adjustments against Colorado were just reminders – just reminders of how we defend,” first assistant Brian Schmetzer said after Tuesday training at Starfire Sports. “We had showed (our players) film of Colorado being very good from the front six. The back four we felt was an area we could get after them with, but they have a very fluid midfield, and so that’s where they were causing us problems. So we just had to remind them, ‘Hey look, stay in your blocks. When one guy goes, everybody shifts. It’s just basically reminding guys, because in the heat of the moment is when they lose focus sometimes.”
Whatever it was, it worked. The Rapids took 13 shots, put eight on target and scored one goal in the first half. In the second, In the second, Colorado kept firing away – 14 shots – but only one was on target, and it didn’t go in.
Schmetzer's take was confirmed by coach Sigi Schmid: “(Our halftime) message was simply:
‘Hey, we’re up 2-1. Yes, they were better than us, but let’s not get too excited and let’s talk about what we need to do: We need to get our lines of four together so we’re defending as a block of eight. We need to get our outside backs inside a little more, because they’re not really going around the flanks (or were being forced) down the flanks, and we need to get tighter to people at midfield,’ and we did that. Sometimes people always say, ‘Well, they’ve got an extra man at midfield.’ But when you look at the tape, Dempsey and Oba are up top, and there are two defenders back with them, well that’s 2v2, and if my math is right, that means we’re defending eight against eight. But all defenders sometimes like to become free: ‘OK, you go mark him, and I’ll be free; and then you can go mark him and I’ll be free.’ It’s like reminding them that when you’re on our end of the field you don’t want to be free, you want to be marking people. You want to get tight to people, and I thought we did that better in the second half.”