If you asked 10 different people to script the ideal starting 11 for Sounders FC, you might get 10 different answers. With as deep as this 2014 roster is, there would definitely be some variance in what some view as the best lineup for Sigi Schmid’s squad.
On Sunday against the Portland Timbers, the starting 11 was as close as Schmid has come all season to having every player available, and the cohesion within the team showed the potential for great things the rest of the way. However, even the Seattle Head Coach was reluctant to call it his Best 11.
“What’s a first choice lineup? You always have little aches and little injuries,” he said after the match. “It was a lineup we were very happy putting out on the field.”
Certainly Schmid has options when he has his full arsenal available. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are among the league’s top goal-scoring tandems. Marco Pappa has been an MLS All-Star on two occasions and has shown the creative ability to set up his teammates. The central midfield pair of Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda has the smash-and-dash ability to slow the opponents and start the offense for Seattle. Chad Marshall is having a Defender of the Year caliber season, while DeAndre Yedlin has unmatched flare at right back.
It’s not just the guys who open the match, as Seattle’s potent bench has contributed in different ways when the need arises. On Sunday, it was Chad Barrett scoring his seventh goal of the season, but players like Lamar Neagle and Kenny Cooper have also shown a knack for goal-scoring in their respective careers. They offer different strengths to help the team press for late goals, while others have the abilities that would allow Seattle to hold on to a lead.
Having those options late in a match is an encouraging element for Sounders FC, but also helps keep the team sharp in training, pressing for starting roles and valuable minutes with each session.
“Over the course of the season, everybody’s going to get games. Each player goes through ups and downs, so it’s about player management, who the opponent is, the stretch of games. Everybody’s seeing time, which is great,” said midfielder Brad Evans, who started on the right side of midfield for the fourth time this season in the win over the Timbers. “Being successful during the year eases the mind that if you’re not starting in games, that the team is being successful and everybody has contributed at some point and will continue to do so. It’s all about being ready and pushing the starters and being hungry.”
That depth will come in handy in upcoming matches as Seattle will again face stretches of short rest and need to be able to rotate players in some roles. This Saturday, the Sounders will meet the Colorado Rapids, then turn around and face Chivas USA on Wednesday. Between September 12-27, Seattle will play five matches and have the longest road trip of the season that will include the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship match in Philadelphia on September 16.
“We’ll see what team we can put out against Colorado, but then against Chivas it all changes again,” Schmid said. “If everybody’s healthy and everybody’s there, I have an idea of what it would be, but right now we haven’t had that situation so I haven’t had to make those final decisions.”