Steve Zakuani Image

Sounders attack in 2013 more varied than in years past

With more speed on the pitch the Seattle Sounders FC attack should be more varied than it was in 2012. Expect more midfielders in threatening positions, more throughballs and more route one while the tried and true cross to the head of Eddie Johnson remains.

In 2012 the Seattle attack featured two main threats. Each used separate paths to get the ball in threatening spaces and each used the man to open up their chances. The first path to goal was based on some right-sided interplay to get Mauro Rosales space to cross to Eddie Johnson. It was simple, precise and quite effective. The next most common path would be again with Rosales as creator, but a bit narrower as he and Fredy Montero would string some short passes to free Montero for a shot from distance or into the space that would be cleared when Johnson would drift wide.

When two double-digit goalscorers are on the pitch at the same time it makes sense for those two to be the primary paths to goal. Each path put the individual player in the space where they could maximize their talent. Of course they collected goals in other fashions, and other players contributed as well.

With Montero loaned away, the health of Steve Zakuani, the ball skills of Mario Martinez and usage of David Estrada up top 2013 will have more variety. A four-year 10+ goal scorer is gone.

“It changes us a little bit. Some might think it changes us positively from the standpoint of maybe we get a little more speed up front, maybe it’s a situation where we can be a little more direct at times when that’s called for,” Sigi Schmid spoke about the shift in the offense. “It also hurts us a little it because Fredy provided us with really good hold-up play and allowed people to get forward and allowed us to act as a group, and was a player who could score some goals that not a lot of people could score. It’s going to take Zakuani coming back into form and scoring goals. I think we’re going to have to see more goals from our wide players this year than we saw last year, and getting more goals from midfield, as well.”

It even trickled down into the bench players who got long runs in the final two matches of the Desert Diamond Cup. Long balls to Lamar Neagle streaking down the touchline were common. Often called route one soccer, a variation caught Salt Lake defenders on their heels as David Estrada brought the punt under control, slipped it to Sammy Ochoa who split two defenders when he tapped it over to Alex Caskey for the winner in the Desert Diamond Cup Final. The throughball was more prevalent in the tournament as well. Whether long throughballs from Rose, Evans and Alonso, or sneaky passes like Ochoa’s the offense found new paths to create threats on goal.

There is a former 10 goal scorer on the field again. Zakuani can offer not just a target for the punt, or a speedy timed run sprung by a throughball past the defender, he also offers that burst of speed from a standstill that can beat any fullback in the league.

Mario Martinez showed that his opportunistic volleys can replace a bit of what Montero did at those times when the patterns and sequences seem broken there is still a chance to pull magic out of the air and inject it into the ball.

In fact there are several players who can help replace the absence of the leading goalscorer in the club’s short history. The midfield is as deep as ever. Central mids like Evans, Rose, Alonso and the newly acquired Shalrie Joseph can help ease the pressure on the wide mids and forwards with late runs that challenge the shape of the opposition and cleanup rebounds and blocked shots.

Seventeen goals and 13 assists in all competitions are gone, but they do not need to be replaced by just one man, nor does the same path to goal need to be followed in 2013 that was so common in 2012. As with any goal, there are plenty of routes to reach it. Seattle will discover some new ways.