The defending 2014 Western Conference Runner-ups are in town to take on an LA Galaxy team that has yet to find their form. The Seattle Sounders, on the other hand, have started the season rather strong and will no doubt be a difficult team to get a victory against.
Dave from Sounder at Heart answers three questions about this plucky Seattle team with more hashtags than trophies.
LAGC: How does losing Pineda effect distribution and the general midfield dynamic?
SaH: It's going to hurt, because he's the best box-to-box central midfielder on the team. There are three options to replace him and each has different advantages and disadvantages. TL;DR version - Azira makes a defensive empty bucket; Rose gives an air threat and decent distribution; Roldan is a rookie who could pierce defenses or fall apart.
Sigi will go for the points, but tends to be a bit reactive to other teams' strengths. That makes me think that he'll put Rose in there to give a third strong target in set-piece situations. Rose is also good at crashing the box with late runs, which will force LA to keep at least half an eyeball off of Dempsey, Martins, and Pappa. It might get a bit crowded, but Seattle excels in crowded spaces.
LAGC: Brad Evans isn't a centerback. Why is he playing centerback? That doesn't seem like a good idea.
SaH: Brad Evans is a centerback, at least according to Jurgen Klinsmann and Sigi Schmid. Why do they see him as such? Because he's probably the most tactically aware player in the league. From the field level he reads plays as if he's watching EA FIFA 15. That's a great skill. B-Rad is also extraordinary at winning balls in the air and over multiple seasons is a strong passer who occasionally fluffs one. He's also rather mobile. If Evans-as-CB pays off it means that Seattle has DeLaGarza with the ability to win a header.
It's a payoff that is worth some early season risk. So far in the early season when he's still learning he had a horrible game against San Jose and participated in three shutouts. He did that without Osvaldo Alonso in front of him for three of the four played. Again, without the best CDM in the league until they faced Houston the Sounders are the 4th best defense at shot prevention, 6th best for tackles per game and 4th best at aerial duels won per game.
Where defense was last year's weakness moving B-Rad to the back has made it a strength.
LAGC: The Galaxy are giving out replica 2014 MLS Rings at the match. Would you like me to get one for you?
SaH: We'll take what we want.
Projected Lineup: Frei; Remick, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Neagle, Rose, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins
SaH: LA's midfield is poor right now. Will Bruce Arena fix it by Sunday? How?
LAGC: That's a good question. You know, the last time LA "fixed" its midfield was in Seattle last year when Bruce moved Landon to left mid and the Galaxy went on to boss the Sounders around the field to the tune of 3-0.
[Youtube link redacted]
Alas, Bruce is still experimenting with the Galaxy midfield and it's going to take some time before he figures everything out. If he would just give me a call, I could tell him exactly which player combinations have been working best for me on FIFA, but Bruce is a stubborn dinosaur and I believe his allegiance is to the old Virtua Soccer engine.
If it were up to me and Fifa 15, here's what I would do. With Villarreal healthy, Bruce can send out the same system he ran last year, assuming he chooses Baggio Husidic over Mika Vayrynen to team up with Juninho. Baggio has a much higher work rate than Vayrynen and is a true box to box midfielder. As long as Juninho's partner is moving forward, there will be central node of passing in the final third and from there everything should fall into place. Keane won't have to drift so far back to receive the ball, and the wings won't be isolated.
SaH: The Galaxy are cross dependent in the early season? Who is a dangerous crosser on the roster and who is the target?
LAGC: Last year, Robbie Keane was our best crosser but his favorite targets were Donovan and Gordon, both of whom know how to get open. Unfortunately, Donovan is gone and (not really unfortunately) Gordinho doesn't start, so we're not seeing Keane drift out wide as much. This is also due to the fact that he's dropping so deep to receive the ball, as mentioned above.
Ishizaki will create the most chances from crosses, but only because he will send in 30, undeterred by the fact that Marshall will win them all. What's so strange about this is the fact that the Galaxy don't have any true number 9 box type forwards in their starting lineup. When Bruce gets frustrated, however, he'll sub in Gordon and Buddle in the last ten minutes or so and with 5 forwards on the field, you'll be treated to the classic WM formation that won Arsenal all those trophies during the War.
Villarreal has sent in some great crosses this year, despite his size, his "ups" and tenaciousness to go for every ball, makes him an X-factor.
SaH: Is the CB pair back to AJ and Omar? If not who is it? Is it going to shut down Clinfemi Marmpsey?
LAGC: If Leonardo is healthy, he'll start next to Omar. People are quite insistent that Leonardo has turned over a new leaf, but these people have just forgotten what good defensive positioning looks like. A.J would start at right back in this scenario.
Leonardo has been injured, however, and didn't train on Tuesday. If he's not healthy than the far more competent tandem of Omar and AJ will be back in action with Dan Gargan at rightback. Now, in terms of shutting down Clinfemi Marmpsey, that's a fool's errand. When they are healthy, you can't shut them down. You can, however, contain them and I think AJ's speed and positioning makes him ideal for containing them. Leonardo's not speed and positioning (usually the wrong one) will struggle.
Of course, the real key to stopping Clinfemi Marmpsey is to push Seattles centermids back and force one of them away from goal.
Significant Absences: Leonardo.
Projected Lineup: Penedo, Rogers, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Gargan, Villarreal, Juninho, Husidic, Ishizaki, Zardes, Keane