OK, fine, what if we do get JPA?

The prospect of adding Juan Pablo Angel certainly seems intriguing.

As much as Dave and I hate writing about rumors and innuendo, I think both of us will admit that this idea of swapping Freddie Ljungberg straight up for New York's Juan Pablo Angel has the whiff of intrigue and might even make for an interesting deal.

The Red Bulls end up with a playmaker who has already worked with their new toy, Thierry Henry. The Sounders get a brand new strike partner for their new toy, Blaise Nkufo

Salary-wise, the Sounders would end up spending about $350,000 more than they would have otherwise, but the two players are an even swap in terms of a cap hit. 

From the Sounders' perspective, this might make a little bit of sense. It's no secret that FL10 has been unhappy, at least on the field this year. He's only contributed three assists, so it's not like the Sounders are going to immediately feel a loss from a production standpoint.

In fact, it's hard to argue that this wouldn't be a net positive production wise. Without doing a hardcore look at the numbers, I'm going to go ahead and say that there hasn't been a more productive scorer in MLS since JPA joined the league -- after a reasonably successful stint at 7500toHolte's Aston Villa.

JPA has scored at least 12 goals in each of his previous three seasons and is currently on pace to equal his career high of 18 goals (he has nine through 15 games). Simply put, he's probably the best pure scorer in MLS. 

Combining him with a classic target forward like Blaise Nkufo (the kind of quality player he's rarely had a chance to play with in New York) could yield some interesting results.

If this ends up being the thing that forces us to accept FL10's departure, I think we can all rest easy that we are probably better off in the equation, and the very least aren't losing much.

The question, then, becomes how does the rest of the team look with JPA and Nkufo as the obvious forward combination?

I think it's pretty safe to say that the Sounders would continue in some version of the 4-4-2, and most likely continue to line up in a similar way as they are now with a 4-1-3-2.

If I'm filling out the lineup card, this is how I do it:

Nkufo     Angel

Zakuani         Jaqua        Montero

Alonso

Gonzalez       Parke       Ianni        Riley

Keller

I'm sure the thing that jumps out to you is Nate Jaqua being stuck in there as a sort of CAM. Admittedly, his career is pretty much devoid of examples of him filling this particular role.

As Dave argued in his player-by-player analysis at the end of last season, maybe CAM is a more efficient use of his skills anyway. After all, Jaqua does not possess a lot of the classic target forward skills -- he's as much distributor as scorer -- and this lineup does do a good job of getting all our best players on the pitch at the same time.

The arguably more obvious choice to fill that CAM role is the player currently occupying it, Mike Seamon. I don't have a negative thing to say about the 22-year-old, but the acquisition of Angel screams "Win Now!" and I think that means you roll the dice with the lineup that offers the most upside.

The one thing this group lacks offensively is a player to stretch the field on long balls. Really, though, I don't know that's such a problem.

With two extremely capable ballhandlers on the wings, the ball is going to move up the field just fine on the ground. 

Zakuani and Montero, in fact, are probably the two biggest beneficiaries in this lineup.

Montero will finally get to play entire games facing the opposing goal. While he's done a wonderful job recently of scoring goals with his head, I don't think you'll find many people that can effectively argue that he's been playing his ideal position this year.

Zakuani, suddenly the fourth or fifth option on offense, would draw far more favorable matchups and would finally be able to use that speed that so often seems to be wasted. He probably won't get as many touches, but the ones he gets will probably be in far more space.

Nearly lost in all of this is the fact that Brad Evans is eventually going to be back. I would imagine that he'd immediately start vying for time in the CAM role, and I think there's a very real chance that he'd be able to thrive in this kind of lineup.

He's probably the Sounders only real box-to-box midfielder and a lineup like this would seem to set up perfectly for someone like that. His offensive contributions would be pure bonus and he could be free to roam all over the field just giving the opposition headaches. 

Will this deal come to fruition? I really don't know. I have yet to see a credible source in all of this. Until people in the know start openly discussing it, I'll assume it's just fun discussion board fodder. But it is fun, isn't it?

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