From day one of the 2013 regular season, Seattle Sounders FC were hit with injury, national team call-ups and other issues that would again test the depth of the squad. Heading into the final match, Head Coach Sigi Schmid has repeated a lineup only once in the club’s 38 competitive matches this season.
Depth can be measured in many ways. One is to look at how many absences a team has during the season and compare that to the record. It surprises few when the three clubs with the most absences are going to finish at the bottom of the league table. But the group of the next four are playoff teams, including Sounders FC. Missing key players throughout the season and still winning games, in three cases competing for the Supporters’ Shield in the last month of the year, is a sign of depth.
To just compare two clubs like Seattle and the LA Galaxy you can see a different look at depth. Bruce Arena’s squad has three players with 30 or more league appearances. Sigi Schmid’s side has just one. Continuing to look down at the variety of players used it is apparent that the top end of the two rosters have some differences in availability.
Even though Landon Donovan took a break at the beginning of the year, he and Robbie Keane both came in with 20 starts. Seattle’s anticipated starting forward tandem at the beginning of the year of Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson come in with four less starts than the Galaxy duo. Lamar Neagle’s emergence as a scoring threat mitigated the reduced playing time from the international stars. Neagle’s eight goals match the Galaxy’s next two highest active scorers after Donovan and Keane.
Similarly, the backlines of the two teams show that Schmid goes one deeper with seven players who could finish with 10 appearances in defense on the year. The Galaxy have just six. In the midfield, Seattle again goes deeper in player usage, particularly when including Mario Martinez and Servando Carrasco, who are no longer on the squad.
Despite using more players and a wider variety of lineups, Sounders FC sits merely one point behind the LA Galaxy and are in position to finish as high as second in the conference standings. While top end talent gets the focus of league and TV advertising, sometimes it is the lesser known players that pop in to and out of the starting lineup that make the difference. When compared to the league as a whole, Seattle’s roster depth was tested throughout the year and on the season they passed.