Thursday, May 3, 2012

How will the Sounders juggle the rest of their crowded schedule?

The Seattle Sounders are two games into the most crowded section of their 2012 schedule. They've already passed tests in Chicago and against LA, but they have three more matches by next Sunday, and two more before the end of the month. That includes Seattle's closest Western Conference competitors Salt Lake and Vancouver, as well as Dallas, Philadelphia, and Chivas. The next three games in particular will require some creative roster maneuvers to keep everyone healthy, while still trying to claim the nine points that are up for grabs.

I was somewhat surprised at how many minutes Sigi played the regulars against the Galaxy yesterday. The concern is that there will be some tired legs or an excessive number of reserves in at least one of these matches. The most difficult match of the three would seem to be Salt Lake based on their points per game. The Union are only looking at a single point per match, and will be without coach Peter Nowak for his part in a mid-game fight a few weeks ago. FC Dallas hasn't won in three weeks.

Below is a list of the Sounders that have played significant time in the last two matches.

John Kennedy Hurtado, 180 minutes
Jeff Parke, 180 minutes
Leonardo Gonzalez, 180 minutes
Osvaldo Alonso, 180 minutes
Brad Evans, 180 minutes
David Estrada, 180 minutes
Fredy Montero, 180 minutes
Eddie Johnson, 170 minutes
Michael Gspurning, 135 minutes
Mauro Rosales, 125 minutes
Adam Johannson, 90 minutes
Zach Scott, 90 minutes
Marc Burch, 55 minutes

Alonso has played every minute of every match so far. He needs a day off one of these games. This weekend versus Philadelphia might not be a bad time to do it. The following week in Dallas may be smart as well. Either way, I'm sure Schmid will want Alonso at full fitness against Salt Lake a week from Saturday. He may very well play all 90 minutes in every match this month, but it would seem prudent to be careful with Seattle's most important player, especially when he took such a "shot" early in the Galaxy match. He is the Honey Badger, but sometimes, he does care.

Also in need of a day off are both of our central defenders. I was shocked when both Hurtado and Parke were announced as part of the starting 11 against the Galaxy. Clearly I underestimated Ianni's back injury. Looking at the roster from Wednesday, Johannson and Burch were the only defenders available on the bench. Which begs the question; what does Seattle do if Parke or Hurtado get hurt? Right now, Ianni is Seattle's most important reserve player, and he almost has to play some minutes in these coming games. Our defense will not continue to post shutouts if Partado (TM) have to play every minute.

The situation at forward is more fluid. There is depth, and players that haven't barely spent time on the field. This is a good time to give Cordell Cato and Sammy Ochoa longer looks. Halftime subs in lead situations would give those players some needed experience as the Open Cup approaches while also keeping Johnson and Montero fresh for upcoming games against stingy defenses.

This strategy should also be used in the midfield, as Fernandez returns, Rosales attempts to build on his fitness, and Evans just attempts to stay on the field. Sivebaek should make a start, and an early sub in or two for Caskey would be prudent.

Theoretical lineups:

vs Philadelphia
GK: Bryan Meredith
RB: Adam Johannson
RCB: John Kennedy Hurtado
LCB: Patrick Ianni
LB: Marc Burch
RM: Christian Sivebaek
CDM: Osvaldo Alonso (sub Carrasco)
CM: Brad Evans
LM: Alvaro Fernandez (sub Estrada)
WFW: Fredy Montero
FW: Sammy Ochoa, Roger Levesque (sub Johnson)

vs Dallas

GK: Michael Gspurning
RB: Zach Scott
RCB: Patrick Ianni
LCB: Jeff Parke
LB: Leo Gonzalez
RM: Mauro Rosales (sub Sivebaek)
CDM: Osvaldo Alonso
CM: Alex Caskey
LM: Estrada (sub Fernandez)
WFW: Cato (sub Montero)
FW: Eddie Johnson

vs Salt Lake

GK: Michael Gspurning
RB: Adam Johannson
RCB: John Kennedy Hurtado
LCB: Jeff Parke
LB: Leo Gonzalez
RM: Mauro Rosales (Sub Burch)
CDM: Osvaldo Alonso
CM: Brad Evans
LM: Alvaro Fernandez
WFW: Fredy Montero
FW: Eddie Johnson (sub Sammy Ochoa)

This roster finds rest for every player while still fielding a threatening lineup. This is the last time they'll have five games in such a short amount of time, at least when it comes to MLS play by itself. If Open Cup and Champions League force further congestion, this sort of lineup shuffling should keep the roster healthy.

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