In Clint Dempsey, Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid has a player that can adapt to many different formations and styles of play, but finding the optimum tactics and formations for him can unlock limitless potential for the team.
Through injuries, international call-ups and lineup shuffling since Dempsey joined the team in August, Schmid has sought that optimum style and on Sunday against the LA Galaxy he tried something that proved fruitful for Sounders FC – a diamond-shaped midfield.
“We’re looking for the right combination where we can get Clint the ball and he has options that he can play to, as well,” Schmid said. “So playing with two forwards and Clint in that attacking midfield, everybody seemed a little more comfortable with that.”
The result was an efficient Seattle offense that held possession over 58.9-percent of the match and completed 83.1-percent of its 557 passes. The four players that manned the midfield exemplified that success, with Osvaldo Alonso (88.8% of 89 passes), Brad Evans (82.0% of 61 passes), Adam Moffat (81.5% of 54 passes) and Dempsey (94.1% of 51 passes) all having stellar passing stats.
With Evans and Moffat tucked into the middle of the field more than Seattle’s outside midfielders have traditionally played, it also caused LA’s midfield some difficulties, with Michael Stephens and Robbie Rogers completing only 65-percent and 60-percent of their passes, respectively.
“I think previous games, whether it was formation or personnel, we weren’t able to hold onto the ball in good spots on the field, especially in the attacking half,” Evans said. “With our personnel, what we want to do is disrupt the opposing midfield and connect our passes and, most importantly, find Clint with the ball, find Eddie (Johnson) with the ball and kind of play off those guys. I thought we were able to do that.”
As players like Leo Gonzalez and Obafemi Martins find their way back into game fitness and Mauro Rosales recovers from a busy stretch on the calendar, Schmid may go back to the more traditional 4-4-2 formation that saw Seattle rattle off five straight wins in the midst of an 8-1-3 stretch that ran from July 20 to September 29.
However, he now knows that the team can adapt to a new formation if the matchup or game calls on it.
“We had some good combinations. We want to create a little more and score more, but it was good to have different options and different ways to play,” Moffat said. “Games change and sometimes you have to change formations and it was good to know that guys were on the same page.”
With the players available, though, Sunday was evidence that the diamond midfield just may have been the spark Seattle was looking for.
“I think the change in shape helped our team,” Schmid said. “I thought Clint found the ball more, I thought we had players to play forward, as well, so I thought we put good pressure on them also. It’s a little bit of work for Evans and for Moffat sliding in and out like that, and it’s something they have to get used to and the coordination needs to get better. Overall I thought it was pretty good.”
If Schmid continues to use the formation, the next match to see it will be Wednesday against the Colorado Rapids in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Kickoff for Wednesday’s playoff match is scheduled for 7:30 pm PT, with local television coverage on KONG 6/16, regional coverage on ROOT Sports and a national broadcast on NBC Sports. Playoff tickets are available at www.SoundersFC.com or by calling 800-745-3000.