The Colorado Rapids shredded the Seattle Sounders FC defense during the first half Saturday but were mostly forced to nibble around the edges in the second half.
What kind of magical changes did the Sounders coaching staff conjure up during halftime?
Not much, as it turns out.
“The halftime adjustments against Colorado were just reminders — just reminders of how we (play) defense,” first assistant Brian Schmetzer said Tuesday after the team’s 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 (our players): ‘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.”
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Whatever it was, it worked. The Rapids took 14 shots, put seven on target and scored one goal in the first half. In the second, Colorado kept firing away — 13 shots — but only two were on target, and neither went in. The Sounders won, 3-1.
“(Our halftime) message,” coach Sigi Schmid said, “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 being forced) down the flanks, and we need to get tighter to people at midfield. … 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.”
Even though the adjustments were simple, they weren’t the kind of thing that could be effectively shouted to the team while those first 45 minutes played out.
“Sometimes while the game is going, to try to make changes you can say those things,” Schmid said. “But for some reason, it’s tough to get the message to everybody at the same time. Sometimes the game just has this life of its own, and it keeps going.”
That makes adjustments tougher for soccer coaches. They can see the problems, but transmitting the solution to 11 players can be difficult without the timeouts or natural stoppages common to other sports.
But even at that, Schmetzer and Schmid agreed that the timeouts would hurt the beautiful game.
“It’s a more cerebral sport because they players have to be able to think and adjust on their own,” Schmid said. “… It’s speed of thought, which is different from most other sports. Basketball, when they’re in the flow and going down the court, yeah, it’s like that. But most other sports, you’ve got time to set it up, reset the buttons: ‘OK, now let’s do it for five, six seconds,’ and then reset again.”