Spurring good discussion and bumped to Front Page
I just got done watching the Sounders FC video wrap up of the Red Bulls game, and like he did in the broadcast, Arlo continued raving about Brad Evans' work rate. I can't disagree with him. Brad was all over the field and did a good job putting pressure on Ream every time he touched the ball. It was like having a great defender playing up front. That's the problem...
I've read this blog for a while and definitely agree that the team aspires to what Dave Clark has referred to as "Sigi's Game" in previous posts. The basic philosophy is that the team is to always on the attack. Attack the ball, and when you get possession attack the goal. Over the last three games, I feel like Evans has proven that being at forward is not where he fits best in "Sigi's Game". I can't count the number of times a counter attack had developed and it came to him, but rather than pressing forward, he passes back. He doesn't have the skills to lead the attack. Zakuani, the Fredian, and (most recently) Nayasi have shown the creative skills necessary to receive a counterattack pass and continue pressing forward towards the goal.
Evans has shown pretty clearly that he does not have the touch necessary to lead the attack in the final third the way these other players do. In the last three games I don't think I've seen him try to "juke" or "fake" anyone with the ball at his feet in an attempt to create a shooting opportunity for himself or someone else. Thinking back on his 3 goals as a Sounder (maybe it was 4?), he relies on the creativity of others in his attack. This is not meant to be a criticism of him at all. I'm just trying to understand where he can be the most productive for the Sounders.
All I'm saying is he can't (or doesn't) lead the attack. However, he has proven that he can feed the attack very well. As a defensive-mid, he's proven very effective at immediately turning a stolen ball into an attack opportunity. The critical value to "Sigi's Game" he does an excellent job at is feeding the attack. He and Alonso are equally effective in this role. His assist in the New York game was an example of his ability to feed the ball forward with devastating quickness. Remember that he was back in the midfield when he did that.
Interestingly, Vagenas has previously been ineffective as an attack feeder, but is getting better as of late. With Noonan, Jaqua, Fucito, (and most recently) Montero taking turns being unavailable in the front 3 (or 2), I believe Sigi has moved Evans forward to fill in until we have at least 3 true attack leaders available. This has opened up Evans' previous spot for Vagenas to grow into (and grow he has). The question I have is whether Evans will still have a starting spot there after he's no longer needed as a stop-gap up front.
If we stick with a 4-3-3 (which feels like a natural evolution of "Sigi's Game") then I believe that Evans, Alonso, (and most recently) Vagenas are the best fit for the two defensive-mid positions. Ljungberg has been very vocal about how well he fits in the attacking-mid position (I totally agree here). In the front three, Sigi needs to find the right combination of Zakuani, Montero, Nayasi, Jaqua, Fucito, and Noonan. Noonan might also be a good backup for Ljungberg.
Other possibilities... Maybe Evans is not a stop-gap and this represents a long term departure from "Sigi's Game" where the coach puts a more defensive minded person up front (Montero has been lacking in this area). Maybe people think I'm wrong about Evans and he's actually a great attacker with excellent touch on the ball and I just don't see it.