Good news: Ozzie Alonso should be back soon!
Bad news: With the signing of Victor Rodriguez, there is about to be a logjam in the midfield and some players are going to miss out on minutes.
The Sounders are soon to be healthy, and with the Gold Cup successfully concluded, they will have virtually all of their players back and able to contribute. Which means Brian Schmetzer is going to have do some serious managing to keep everyone happy and in the spots they are most effective. Unfortunately, we know that is much easier said than done if not nearly impossible. With that in mind, I have a solution (DISCLAIMER – there are actually quite a few different possible solutions to this midfield issue, but the following is the one I like the most). My solution is really bad news for two players in particular. It surprised me when I started looking at the stats, but Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris need to start producing. Otherwise, they could see their minutes significantly reduced.
Jordan Morris has two goals and ZERO assists in MLS league play. True, he had a fantastic Gold Cup, scored three goals, was a main attacking cog for the team, and played quite a bit. There could be a Gold Cup “bump” coming based on confidence gained (like what we’re seeing with Roldan), but he still has some work to do in terms of final product. Jordan brought pace and the ability to counterattack off the bench against the Galaxy, however his one “shot on goal” was a left footed cross that went straight to the keeper.
Nico has three goals and seven assists, but the reality is he had a nice April in which he scored two and assisted three. Since then: three assists in three months and a silly red card. Nico was huge for the Sounders in their run to MLS Cup glory last season, and he will need to regain that form if the Sounders want to successfully defend their title. Currently, I see him being wasteful in possession all too often, and not getting into dangerous positions in the final third.
Which leads me to this…Ozzie should be back soon, and as the best defensive center midfielder on the team deserves his starting spot. But whose minutes does he take: Svennson or Roldan? The answer is, actually, neither. Both are playing at a high level and have shown they can tactically cover for each other and backline defenders when they make runs forward*. So the answer is to play Ozzie next to Svennson and move Roldan forward.
Against San Jose Roldan showed he can run off Bruin very well, pop up in dangerous positions in the final third, finish with quality, and supply his teammates. Roldan has been great wherever he’s been asked to play, and this move makes for some serious lineup decisions, but it also creates competition in which certain players are going to have to step up.
So, who does Roldan displace? Asked another way, what is Schmetzer to do with all these attackers in the midfield?
Some simple solutions first. Evans can be moved to back-up right back. It’s a little bit cold, and sucks for Evans, but it is what it is. Evans off the bench will be vital late in games to supply solid play and versatility (I almost wrote calming influence, but those random red cards man…). Jones can go to starting left back. Nouhou has been great, but Jones is dangerous no matter where he plays and can still get assists from the back line. In fact, I think it makes him harder pick up running from the back line. Also, I don’t see his transfer being an issue. It isn’t until January. Jones had to know he’s been leaving for a while now, and he’s been good all season.
However, there is still Dempsey (you can argue he’s really a forward, but in a 4-2-3-1 I am going to treat him as an attacking midfielder since that’s where he lines up and spends most of his time on the field), Lodeiro, Morris, and (probably) Victor Rodriguez.
Dempsey could move to the bench, and he will at times, but other than to rest his aging body, why? He is still producing. He’s increased his SOG/Shots ratio lately and been accepting of a potentially diminished role. He’s not a 90 minute every game guy, but he can still score goals. He should probably start, then be subbed if he needs a rest.
Rodriguez? Let’s assume he is going to get minutes. Otherwise, why was he signed?
This leaves Lodeiro and Morris as the two that are producing the least (maybe Morris can go up front, but now you’re taking out your leading goal scorer and Bruin can’t really play elsewhere. Barring a reduction in goals and reduced quality of play from Bruin, I don’t see this happening yet). Lodeiro though, has less versatility. He needs to get his assist numbers up, and add in some goals. Otherwise I am not sure there is much evidence to support his inclusion in the starting eleven every game.
At the end of the day, this solution requires some serious assumptions. Mainly that everyone stays healthy** and is on board for the good of the team***. It creates some welcome problems, though. There is competition for spots at a time when you want players digging deep to bring their best, and the bench just got a lot more experienced and deep****. So Schmetzer has some choices to make, but if Lodeiro and Morris don’t start producing goals and assists, the choices won’t be too difficult*****.
*I am mostly looking at you Torres.
**Looking at you again Torres…And Marshall and Alonso.
***Looking at you Evans and Jones.
****BUT NOT AT CENTERBACK AND HOLY CRAP THIS STILL SCARES THE POOP OUT OF ME!!!!!!
*****The reality is that Morris and Lodeiro are probably not going to see their minutes significantly reduced. But it’s my solution and my time, so I chose to write about it! So there! Take that!! But I’d love to hear what you all think should be done instead. Or what will most likely happen. Make some comments and/or hit us up on twitter @FloundersBTeam. I take this somewhat seriously, but I am always open to better suggestions and the hottest of all hot takes