It's been a long time coming but it seems as though Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid will have all of his key pieces available for the club's vital Western Conference showdown with the LA Galaxy on Saturday night in Carson. Said pieces being the likes of Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Mauro Rosales, Ozzie Alonso, and possibly Brad Evans. Not to mention the defense that has been in commanding form lately, only allowing one goal in its last five matches.
So it goes without saying that Sigi has some decisions to make ahead of the trip down south to California.
"It’s a good problem to have because you have options," he said. "The team’s playing well, so obviously there is going to be disappointment in whomever is not in that lineup."
To help him out, we asked a number of the local Sounders scholars to get their take on the 'good problem' that the German coach has by providing their starting XI, with a brief explanation why they picked the way they did. Of course, this is all opinion and much more goes into the final decision than just writing it down, but it's fun to experiment with the great depth this team has.
Furthermore, we'd love to hear your thoughts on how the Sounders will take the field on Saturday. Leave your XI in the comments or tweet us @SoundersFC using the #LAvSEA hashtag. Let the prognostication begin! [Note: All names are clickable to writer's Twitter account and article pages]
Ask The Experts
Ross Fletcher - Sounders Broadcaster
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Scott, Traore, Gonzalez; Evans, Dempsey, Alonso, Neagle; Martins, Johnson
Explanation: There's no doubt this will be Sigi's best selection problem of the season. There are so many in-form, quality players vying for the starting eleven that there are several possible line-ups and options off the bench. I've tried to balance the Sounders' great form with the prospect of facing an LA side away from home, who won the last encounter 4-0.
Joshua Mayers - Seattle Times
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Hurtado, Scott, Gonzalez; Alonso, Rose, Dempsey; Johnson, Martins, Neagle
Explanation: The Sounders have had 31 different lineups in 32 games this season, and I'll go ahead and predict yet another. As of Tuesday, Brad Evans was yet to rejoin full training, so I'm thinking we might see the 4-3-3 that played essentially the last 15 minutes of last week's win against Real Salt Lake.
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Hurtado, Scott, Gonzalez; Rosales, Alonso, Dempsey, Neagle; Martins, Johnson.
Explanation: I get the impression Sounders feel no pressure rushing Evans back in this week. That puts off the toughest of the decision-making until the Red Bulls arrive on the 29th.
Jeremiah Oshan - MLSsoccer.com
Starting XI: Gspurning; Gonazalez, Hurtado, Traore, Yedlin; Evans, Alonso; Neagle, Dempsey, Johnson; Martins
Explanation: I suspect this will be the game that the Sounders open with a 4-2-3-1. Assuming Evans is healthy, I have to assume he'll start. Otherwise, I suspect we'll see Rose if only because I'm skeptical that Schmid would want to start new acquisition Moffat in a formation his teammates are still learning. The other big question, for me, is in the band of 3. As tough as it is to sit Mauro Rosales, I think Neagle is just playing too well and since the outside mids in this formation act more like forwards, he makes the most sense.
Matt Doyle - MLSsoccer.com
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Hurtado, Scott, Gonzalez; Rosales, Alonso, Rose, Burch; Neagle, Martins
Explanation: I think Sigi will use the exact same XI from the RSL win. That's the type of performance any team - even a good team - wants to bottle and be able to return to, so how can you possibly change it up?
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Hurtado, Traore, Gonzalez; Rosales, Alonso, Dempsey, Evans; Martins, Johnson
Explanation: With the Sounders, there's always the question of how they're going to fit all their dynamic attacking players in the same lineup. The answer, of course, is that they can't. There are just too many of them. In this lineup, Lamar Neagle is the odd man out, but he is a valuable piece off the bench. Having Alonso next to Dempsey in the middle allows the former to shield the back line and cover ground, while the latter can move forward and play the #10 role he prefers. EJ and Oba is a forward pairing that will strike fear into any MLS defense.
Matt Gaschk - SoundersFC.com InsiderStarting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Traore, Hurtado, Gonzalez; Alonso, Rosales, Dempsey, Neagle; Martins, Johnson.
Explanation: There are many different formations and combinations available for Saturday's match. This one makes sense to me because of the form of the attacking players and the match-ups on the defensive side with Traore charged with stopping, or at least slowing, Robbie Keane. It also allows for some versatility off the bench with Brad Evans, Adam Moffat and the also in-form Marc Burch.
Jackie Montgomery - SoundersFC.com Host
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Scott, Hurtado, Gonzalez; Rosales, Alonso, Dempsey, Neagle; Martins, Johnson
Explanation: I went with the same backline as the last match, sticking with Zach Scott over Djimi Traore. Zach is excellent in the air, plus, he's in great form starting four of the last five games and ALL four were shutouts. I went with the Honey Badger and Deuce in the middle with Dempsey playing just behind the forwards. Rosales on the right over Brad Evans because the captain has been playing some great soccer of late, and Evans, who hasn’t played since Columbus almost a month ago, might not be as sharp coming off of that injury. It was tough sitting Bruch who’s been serving up some great balls in his last few games. That said, you have to keep Neagle on the field with the way he's been playing. 3 goals in his last 3 games? C'mon. Up top it's Eddie and Oba. Duh.
Shane Evans - SoundersFC.com Digital Media Manager
Starting XI: Gspurning; Yedlin, Hurtado, Traore, Gonzalez; Rosales, Alonso, Dempsey, Neagle; Martins, Johnson
Explanation: If there was ever a perfect opportunity to implement the 4-1-2-1-2 formation, this is it. With Evans not fully fit, it allows for Sigi to work with two wide players in Mauro (who has been awesome lately) and Lamar (who has been even more awesome). Clint can settle in behind the forwards to work that magic triangle that looked to be having fun against RSL. Furthermore, the formation can easily shift to a 4-3-3 if necessary, or a flat 4-4-2. Lots of options, fluid options...a real bonus for the Sounders and a headache for Los Angeles.