Sounders midfield taking important role at big part of season

The men in the middle really starting to turn things on for Seattle as season hits vital stage.

Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA
July 28, 2013, 8 p.m. PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; Univision Deportes Network (Spanish); La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)

Goals and assists draw the recognition of fans and media alike – measurable stats that can tell you just how well a particular player is contributing to his team’s success. However, there are many other ways to pitch in and the middle of midfield, while decidedly less influenced by the scoring statistics, often have a much greater influence on whether or not the match is won or lost

That’s the nature of the position and is a primary reason that Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid – and others – refer to it as the “engine room.”

In Seattle, Sounders FC has had a strong contingent holding down the middle of midfield throughout the club’s history, particularly with the dominating play and continual evolution of Osvaldo Alonso.

However, this year, the position has been marred by an inconsistent starting group, brought on by injuries, suspensions and international duty, limiting the options available to Schmid as Seattle has used five different players in eight different combinations in the two central midfield roles.

Although it has certainly been challenging to Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Servando Carrasco, Sharlie Joseph and Andy Rose, Schmid said this week that it is just a microcosm of the team’s lineup difficulties all season.

“It’s a challenge for the entire center midfield and for our whole team,” Schmid said. “It’s been a different pairing all the time and when you’re changing that pairing in the middle of midfield, it makes it hard to not be disjointed a little bit because that’s your engine room.”

The most often used pairing has been Alonso and Carrasco with six starts together. No other combination has been used more than twice. Only five times this season has Schmid had the luxury of starting the same central midfield combination and just once did that streak reach three in a row. That came in a three-match winning streak in May in which Sounders FC outscored their opponents 9-2.

However, the lineup in the middle can easily be influenced by who is available on the wings, as Evans is a likely candidate to play in all four positions across the midfield when called upon.

At 4-1-1 on the season, the Alonso-Carrasco pairing can make a case for the top tandem, including a 2-0 win against this weekend’s opponent Chivas USA at the Stub Hub Center on June 1.

Finding that right combination may not solve any scoring issues or prevent scoring chances from being converted on the other end, but getting a consistent pairing in the middle of the pitch is clearly a focus for Schmid and Sounders FC.

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