Middle Men: Finding the Right Balance
Posted by: Mike Ferris
With the recent influx of midfielders to an already quality group, head coach Sigi Schmid has plenty of options from which to find the right balance.
The goal scorers and shot stoppers may get most of the attention, but the midfield is the engine room of the team. And with the recent influx of midfielders to an already quality group, head coach Sigi Schmid has plenty of options to choose from. Now, with a full arsenal of weapons, it’s about finding the right balance.
Just over one third of Seattle’s 29 players are true midfielders, with another three who can play multiple positions, including midfield. With so many options for the four midfield spots, Schmid is still trying to find the right combination.
“We are still looking for the right mixes in the right places,” said Schmid. “It’s now about making sure we have the right balance on the field of attacking players and defending players.”
The attacking group is led by Mauro Rosales’ 10 assists, just three shy of tying his club record set last season. Alex Caskey is second with four assists and youngsters Andy Rose (one goal, one assist) and Cordell Cato (one assist) have also made a positive impact from the midfield.
Overall, seven of 33 goals in league play have come from the midfield compared to 33 of 54 goals in the league-leading 2011 season. Although the scoring numbers are down, the service has been on point as the midfield group has contributed 22 of the team’s 36 assists.
The scoring production from the midfield across all competitions is significantly better at 34-percent, yet still nearly 30-percent less than last season’s output. However, the midfield has added several game-changing goals this year. Of the 19 goals scored by midfielders in all competitions, seven of them have been winners, just two fewer than the forward group, and all four U.S. Open Cup victories were won by goals from the midfield.
Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans have helped shore up the defense and can also add to the attack. Alonso brings his phenomenal work rate and ballwinning skills to the pitch, leading all Sounders FC players with 2,382 minutes played in all competitions. Evans has shown his creativity as a wide player in recent weeks, occupying both outside spots and serving a well-placed assist in Seattle’s 2-1 over Vancouver.
The club has added three critical pieces to the midfield group over the past month, beginning with the reemergence of Steve Zakuani, the signing of German midfielder Christian Tiffert and the loan for Honduran international Mario Martinez.
“We have Tiffert here and he’s played some games now,” said Schmid. “We’ve got Mario Martinez who we are trying to work in here, as well…It gives us options. The interpretation of the position is a little bit different...but it definitely gives us options having players that can play different positions.”
With 23 different lineups in 24 league games this season, Schmid won’t hesitate to try new mixes to find the right combination.
“It might be a little bit of a hybrid type of a team. Sometimes we will look like a 4-4-2. Sometimes we might look like a 4-3-3. Sometimes we might look like a 4-2-3-1,” Schmid noted. “I’ve got certain ideas. I’m not going to throw them all out right now.”