Sounders FC strives for consistency. With a midfield that is building chemistry and becoming a force, that consistency in the lineup is giving Seattle results on the field.
In five of the last six matches, Seattle has used a midfield of Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle flanking the central pair of Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda. The result has been more consistent play out of the midfield, both offensively and defensively. In those five matches, Seattle has gone 4-1-0 and the cohesion of that foursome is gaining steam in a portion of the schedule when it will play without Clint Dempsey and likely Brad Evans.
"That is very important. When you're used to playing with someone, each game is better," Pineda said. "You have more confidence between each guy and better communication, and that helps a lot."
The four players are very different, but each plays his individual role and has expanded their responsibilities to also provide flexibility.
Alonso has been among the best defensive midfielders in the league since coming to Seattle from the Charleston Battery prior to the 2009 season. However, when partnered with Pineda, who has 11 seasons of experience in Mexico's Liga MX behind him, Alonso is able to involve himself more in the attack knowing that he has a workhorse at his side. While Alonso is consistently among the better connectors through the midfield, Pineda also adds an element of creation to that, already compiling four assists to four different players this season.
"Ozzie and him get along very well on and off the field, so that obviously has an impact. Gonzo is a playmaker coming out of that midfield position and he's gotten Ozzie involved a little bit more offensively at times when he's sat in and let Ozzie go," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "So right now, their understanding has been very good and their combination play off of each other has been very good."
Out wide, Pappa works well in possession and creates offense through his pinpoint passing, creative eye and long-range shooting. Ever-dangerous with the ball at his feet, the Guatemalan National Team star has also picked things up on the defensive side to round out his game. On the opposite side, Neagle is an active attacker, creating opportunities with his speed and athleticism while scoring opportunistic goals, with four tallies already to his credit through 12 matches.
"Pappa has come back in on the left side. I think it took him a little bit to understand fitness-wise what we wanted from him defensively, but from a standpoint of possession, he's helped us maintain that," Schmid said. "With Neagle, there's been a good balance because Neagle's more of an out-and-out attacking guy. So there's been a good balance in what we have on the flanks."
Yet for all of their distinctive individual talents, the foursome has also shown to be interchangeable, covering for each other when one moves out of his position to join the attack with regularity and fluidity.
That is part skill, but a greater part determination to succeed that is helped by the understanding building between the four players that only gets better as they play more games together.
"I think that we try to do good work. The first thing is the defensive part. We're always talking and try not to give too many spaces behind us," Pineda said. "Pappa is a more offensive guy, but he's doing a good job with the defensive part. Sometimes Ozzie and I can do both and we can cover for each other."