The LA Galaxy will be back out on the road Sunday when they take on the Seattle Sounders in a battle between unbeaten teams. To give us a sense of how things are looking for the Sounders ahead of the game, I checked in with my old friend Dave Clark of SB Nation’s Seattle soccer site Sounder at Heart. Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions!
LAG Confidential asks Sounder at Heart:
1. No Jordan Morris, no Nicolas Lodeiro (so far) for the Seattle Sounders, no problem? How have they managed to start unbeaten without two of the best players in the league?
The loss of Morris was expected, frankly. His loan was through the end of the English Championship, and after that whatever happened, happened. Then his injury happened, taking him away from Swansea, Seattle, and the USMNT for probably the full year. That meant Schmetzer switched to a two-forward set to take advantage of Will Bruin’s scoring ability and the depth in the center of the park. Later Garth Lagerwey found a way to get Fredy Montero on the roster, for cheap. Together Bruin and Montero may make up for Morris’s ability to score throughout a season.
Nico is well known for covering ground. Seattle found the answer to his absence in teen now-sensation Josh Atencio. Atencio sits back where Cristian Roldan would be, freeing the elder Roldan up to play in Nico’s space. This actually adds more defense to the central spaces, and further up the pitch. With João Paulo also in the central midfield, the Sounders are able to transition rapidly from defense to attack.
2. It looks like there’s been some changes in the defense both in terms of formation and who’s being selected for games so far back there. Please walk us through the developments.
Brian Schmetzer is running a 3-5-2 with a free 10. The two wingbacks do not flex deep enough to be called a 5-3-2 often. This was primarily done to make up for the absence of Morris, and because there are three strong forwards on the squad. The most intriguing shift defensively is that Nouhou is now a left centerback, where he’s basically perfect. The hype-train might be Snowpiercer long by the end of the season.
A surprise to most of us is that Yeimar is not starting. Last year Yeimar belonged in the conversation for Chad Marshall Defender of the Year. Now he’s on the bench behind Shane O’Neill, yes the same O’Neill that was once a USMNT prospect. Shane’s decent depth, but in a formation that requires so much possession by CBs with a lot of movement most would expect him to be the 4th player, not the third or maybe even second.
3. Again, the Sounders are unbeaten to start the season, but where are they vulnerable at this point, do you think?
If I was coaching against Seattle I would try to use the left side in buildup. The Alex Roldan-Shane O’Neill side should be weaker, mostly because Shane isn’t as good as Nouhou. Using that, they should be able to generate a little bit of joy. From there, utilize the gaps between Xavier Arreaga and the defensive mids. Jamming up the middle was the main thrust of the Loons and LAFC — probably because they thought that they could force Josh Atencio into errors. That was a failed idea, and now Atencio is the latest focus of the Play Your Kids movement.
Both did see a bit of success via high pressure, hoping to take advantage of sloppy passing. There is potential there, but with the way the midfield is running right now the Sounders could transition rapidly into the attack.
Projected lineup (L-R, 3-4-1-2): Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Xavier Arrega, Shane O’Neill; Brad Smith, João Paulo, Josh Atencio, Alex Roldan; Cristian Roldan; Raúl Ruidíaz, Will Bruin
Both Nicolás Lodeiro and Fredy Montero will be available off the bench as they return from injury.
You can read my answers to Dave’s questions at Sounder at Heart.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.