So far in 2014, the Sounders have adjusted formation depending on opponent

Sounders FC vs. FC Dallas

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, April 12; 5:30 pm PT; Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas
TV/Radio: JOEtv (KZJO, channel 22/cable 10); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; THIS-TV (KOMO2, Spanish); ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

The Major League Soccer season is only five matches old for Sounders FC, but already Head Coach Sigi Schmid has deployed three different formations. The tactical changes are a result of personnel availability and a versatile group of players that has allowed the team to shift from one formation to another.

Whether it is the 4-2-3-1 used against Toronto FC, the 4-3-3 that was the favored formation since that match when Brad Evans suffered a calf injury or the 4-4-2 that Seattle’s fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the club’s first five seasons, a lot in the formation hinges on how Schmid opts to utilize Clint Dempsey.

“The way I look at it, the game on Saturday was really Dempsey’s second game with us. Does that work with three up front and him coming off the wing? Does it work better with him being underneath Oba? So we’ve made some decisions there,” Schmid said. “How we play as we move forward, that’s something that we’ll determine this week.”

While Schmid opted for the 4-3-3 to start the match the last three outings, those also came against three teams – Montreal, Columbus and Portland – that have a tendency to overload the midfield, so countering that with Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda and either Andy Rose or Micheal Azira was the best option.

However, the players available have meant more to those formation decisions than the opponents.

“We look more at the personnel that we have. When Dempsey was out and Evans was out, we looked a little bit at the personnel of the opponent,” Schmid said. “That’s always in our minds, but we are really looking at our team first when we determine how we’re going to play.”

In the forward spots, it has meant a combination of Obafemi Martins with Dempsey, Kenny Cooper and Lamar Neagle, while Neagle, Cooper and Marco Pappa have also proven valuable substitutes that can shift the play on the field with ease.

That versatility in his personnel allows for some creativity on the fly from Schmid, as was evident in a 4-4 draw with Portland last week that saw Schmid shift from the 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 and Seattle responded with two goals to come back from a 4-2 deficit.

Now facing a red-hot FC Dallas team that plays out of a 4-2-3-1, Seattle will have a difficult task ahead. However, Dempsey thinks this match can go a long way toward determining the long-term formation on the field for Sounders FC.

“We have to think about ourselves and continue working towards what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re still trying to figure out what our best team is and what our best formation is. There were some good things and some bad things from the last game and it’s about us improving each game,” he said. “We’re a team that has quality and it’s about getting that out and figuring out what our best formation is. It’s a good test going down to Dallas to get that.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at 5:30 pm PT, with television coverage on JOEtv (KZJO, channel 22/cable 10).