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Scrutinizing the shapes deployed by the Sounders in 2013

Sigi Schmid adapted to differing cases of form, availability and talent during 2013. That caused him to use four different shapes during the season.

With the amount of lineup and roster churn due to injury, national team calls, suspension and the timing of player signings Sigi Schmid led Seattle Sounders FC through several different iterations of formation and shape. For the most part, the tactics stayed similar while the shapes changed.

Empty Bucket

Asymmetrical Midfield

As injuries and call-ups reduced the availability of the wingers Schmid used one of the wide men almost like a bonus central midfielder. This put even more offensive responsibility on the forwards as only three players help primary attacking responsibilities. Long balls were generally more effective in this shape and it was used from May through the acquisition of Clint Dempsey as the primary shape of the club. 


Unlike other images this one goes from right to left as it was sampled from a road match.

This uses a lot of 4-5-1 principles but within a 4-4-2 shape. One of the forwards regularly drops back into midfield space. Most often this was Clint Dempsey, but when Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson were paired up it would be Martins dropping. 


Late in the season the transition to the diamond midfield came apparent. It was a way to maximize creative touches and freedom for Dempsey while still getting two forwards onto the field. Full backs need to push forward quite often in this shape as the wide midfielders work in ways similar to box-to-box central midfielders. Overlapping runs by DeAndre Yedlin are a key component to making this shape work. Defensively the right midfielder (usually Evans) dropped back to slow use of that space so that Yedlin could get back.

Interestingly all of these graphics come from games against the Portland Timbers via’s average position maps. They were not responses to the opposition, but instead ways for Schmid to maximize available resources. It would also mean that Sounders FC self-defined. The test in 2014 is going to be which primary definition do they use after a season that nearly broke the shape used into even quarters.