Roster roulette begins in earnest this weekend for the Seattle Sounders. The big news in soccer today was the resignation of FIFA tyrant/president Sepp Blatter. But in the Soundersphere, the turnover we’re worried about is Saturday’s starting 11.
Injury, suspension, call-ups and the circle of life are all conspiring to shorthand the Sounders. The team will be down 2 players, and possibly 5, this weekend. Brad Evans was called up to the USMNT for friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands. Ozzie Alonso was suspended by the MLS disciplinary committee for “violent conduct that endangered the safety of an opponent” due to a late-game challenge against NYRB. And honestly, Ozzie probably needs the rest. He played 260 of 270 minutes in an 8-day stretch. It showed last weekend, as Ozzie wasn’t his usual dominant self. On multiple occasions he was dispossessed or uncharacteristically turned the ball over on a sloppy pass.
Seattle is in a tight stretch of games and, with an aging roster fixture, congestion means injuries. Obafemi Martins elected to have surgery on his broken nose, and Sigi said there is a “chance he could be out.” Gonzalo Pineda missed the last two games with a tweaked ankle, and still may not be able to go this weekend. Lastly, Clint Dempsey’s availability is in question as his wife is pregnant and due any day now.
The starting 11 is very much in flux, but the position I am most interested in is striker. If one or both forwards can’t go, Chad Barrett will see another start. Maybe even Lamar Neagle could get some minutes up top. After hustling to cement his spot in the selection last season, Neagle only has 2 starts in the last 6 games. He has been playing like slightly warmed refuse lately, and seems rooted to the bench. This weekend may be a very good chance for him to rediscover his quality.
Despite verbally berating him from the cheap seats against Colorado, I am a Neagle fan. His presence makes a difference in the Sounders’ attack. As a hybrid midfielder/striker, he opens the final third. Take a gander again at this image from Pappa’s goal against NYRB.
With Oba pulled back into a more midfield role and Neagle swapped in at striker, the D has to man up on both Deuce and Neagle. Having two dangerous strikers occupying the centerbacks allows the crafty Oba and Pappa to find room and create. No other midfielder, not Rose or Roldan, can seamlessly switch to striker with similar effect. Hopefully Neagle can get his groove back, because when on, he is an indispensable head of the hydra. The big question is…