Upcoming Issues to Tackle at Sounder at Heart

First big ups to Jeremiah for holding down the fort as I was without the internet for more than 24 hours. Posting from a smart phone is fine for snippets, but posting the type of thing I like to post from a phone is nearly impossible. Thank you for your patience. It did give me the opportunity to take a few steps back and just think, without posting.

So here's a list of things I am going to explore in the next few days on top of our normal news, analysis, etc.

I want to establish a bit of baseline on the offensive issues on the club. Below the jump I will be looking at the players competing for the that spot as the 11th starter, I will be assuming a 4-2-1-3 with the largest need being for the 3rd forward. Evans will appear on this list.

Second, I want to establish a trendline of play for the season based on performance by half. Just a simple scale which would represent that an average MLS side would finish with a 10-10-10 record.

Third, we will look at the offensive players that were available to an MLS side this past off season and see whether they would be an improvement over the players on the roster at this time.

Fourth, we will look at teams with high churn and see how they are doing as compared to teams that had a more stable approach. Is there any evidence that these two techniques have a significant difference? I have asserted that the Sounders offense would improve through regression and that a majority of teams in MLS would swap there five best offensive players for the Sounders straight-up. I still feel that is true, but let's look at the numbers again.

Fifth, and I think this is the simplest issue we'll look at the differing skill sets of Ianni and Marshall. This will explore who should start and why.

Lastly, I would remind everyone that in Major League Soccer every single team has significant holes. The Sounders are not alone in this. Ok, maybe the Galaxy don't have a significant hole, but every other team does. Having a complete side for an entire season in MLS is unheard of, and to hold Sounders management to that standard ignores issues with signability, salary cap and roster restrictions. Twenty-one year old players with large upside don't stay in the league for 5 or more years. They move on, nearly always. Landon Donovan is a huge exception, but the fact is that players with long careers in the league are average players, and good players leave.

Now, onto the baseline for the players who were on the roster to start the season and competing for the spot at the Right Wing in either the Arrow or the 4-3-3.

First let's look at each of the possibilities that were on the roster as training camp closed. These were the options as the seasson started and will be our baseline as we continue to look later at who would have been better, and available to the Sounders.

For the players from college I have used their entire careers in college and had to estimate minutes played based on starts and appearences. For Levesque and Nyassi I used USL Sounders performance where appropriate (thanks to Seattle Pitch). For Montano and Nyassi their play prior to coming to the USA was not included as the statistics are even less available. 

Player

Goals

Assists

Minutes

PP90

3yr PP90

Brad Evans

1

1

606

0.45

0.30

Nate Jaqua

0

0

0

0.00

1.10

Pat Noonan

0

0

215

0.00

0.75

Roger Levesque

0

0

248

0.00

0.70

Mike Fucito

1

0

19

9.47

1.89

David Estrada

0

0

88

0.00

1.05

Miguel Montano

0

0

0

0.00

0.00

Sanna Nyassi

0

0

148

0.00

1.43

What we notice here is that of course this season's snapshot is small, and that only Jaqua has a solid bit of MLS experience that indicates that he could be the answer. In fact if he was healthy he would be the 11th starter, and the discussion would be very different. With those small sample sets though we need to also take into account some scouting type data.

Player

Age

Trend

IQ

Technique

Physique

Brad Evans

Peak

stable

8

5

5

Nate Jaqua

Past Peak

up

7

4

6

Pat Noonan

Past Peak

down

6

6

5

Roger Levesque

Past Peak

down

6

5

5

Mike Fucito

Pre-Peak

up

6

6

7

David Estrada

Pre-Peak

up

4

7

7

Miguel Montano

Development

unknown

4

8

7

Sanna Nyassi

Pre-Peak

unknown

4

5

8

Now obviously these are my estimates. The tools borrow from www.3four3.combut use the 5 as the center point of an MLS starter.  I'm willing to discuss these as I think that scouting by masses is more effective than a singular look, but think that these are reasonable, if a little high across the board. Physique includes height, strength and speed, but is also the least important of these tools, probably half as much as each of the others. To accurately reflect Sigi and the team's thinking I may have needed to slot in a "veteraness" ability, but I wouldn't find that useful in the long term.

A completely heathy set of offensive players would likely not have placed the Sounders in the sad state they are in concerning the standings. Randomly scattering just two more goals throughout the games played this season would have wound up with more four or more points easily, and the discussion shifts. The focus would not be on Seattle being a team in need of help just to make the playoffs, but a team with a bright future that will make a late season push for a trophy. Just two goals would be the difference.

But injuries struck this team, and fairly hard. With both Jaqua and Fucito out for significant periods of time. Noonan seems plagued with nagging injuries that hamper the team's ability to use him as a full time player. Roger Levesque is a player that is "off form" at this time, in fact he had two missed sitters that would have given the Sounders exactly those two goals himself.

The baseline entering the season was not one that required panic. The baseline was one that enabled the Sounders to carry a few players that were clearly for depth and development while the veterans on the club enabled the offense to regress to improvement. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but the Sounders offense as a whole last year did under-perform its level of talent.

If we just focus on the offense right now, this team likely should be in the second tier of teams alongside the Dynamo, TFC, San Jose and Salt Lake. It isn't there, and a shift clearly needs to be made. That shift almost certainly involves more than just settling on the 11th starter, it likely requires getting a certain center forward to perform at his own talent level.

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