Our various writers here had a little discussion about what lineup changes we'd want to see. The thought was to make a lineup card for you that would show a Sounder at Heart preferred lineup and a Real Salt Lake likely lineup due to the injuries to Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers. With Jason Kreis not sharing the status of those two besides the decision being held until tonight their side of the card would be incomplete. The lack of consensus within the staff made picking which direction to go difficult on the Seattle Sounders side of the card.
There is a bit of a guide from past games where Seattle has done what it must do at a minimum. In four games they won by three or more goals - against Toronto FC, the Columbus Crew, DC United and Comunicaciones. Starting in all four of those games were only two players - James Riley and Fredy Montero. Two others took the pitch in those four - Alvaro Fernandez and Mike Fucito. A full 18 players made appearances in two or more of those matches. Needless to say, the lineup was only one of many issues on Saturday night and it won't be the solution in Leg Two. At least not on its own. Everyone that takes the pitch must be better.
Staff here agreed on one change. Fucito needs to start, while Sammy Ochoa returns to the bench role where he's done quite well. The addition of speed and greater physicality will help, whether Fucito scores or not. This move also adds a left foot to serve the ball on corners and free kicks, another area where the Sounders had issues. Fucito started 3 of those games and was the first sub in the other. He netted 4 goals and assisted on two others in those blowouts.
Nearly unanimous was a desire to see Tyson Wahl. His on-ball defense may not be as strong as Leo Gonzalez, but the general thought here was that his greater offensive prowess is more needed than the on-ball defense, particularly when RSL is likely to sit back until forced to push forward. But, it would leave the Sounders more vulnerable to the counter. Giving up one goal before Seattle grabs at least two ends any attempt at this miracle. Wahl started 3 of those 4 games.
Opinions start to diverge here. The debate between which two of Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans and Erik Friberg starts to address what we saw as the biggest issues that crushed Seattle on Saturday. Those that through possession and passing were the biggest problems want to see the a return of Evans and Friberg in joint CM/RM roles. This was the formation used in the Toronto game, a game where Evans would net two goals and gather an assist. But it would also miss out on Neagle's ability to have a goal explosion, a feat that the Crew know too well. Evans had 3 starts in those games, Neagle had two starts and a sub appearance and Friberg 2 starts
Mauro Rosales will certainly be missed. He was great in blowouts as are needed this evening. In his two starts and appearance as the first sub he helped the team with a goal and three primary assists. To do without his dribbling, vision and passing ability will need a group effort from Seattle. Alonso will have to return to the player he is over the full season, not one game. The same goes for Fredy Montero and Alvaro Fernandez. Those three had 3 goals (all Flaco) and 4 assists among them. Whenever one of the Latin stars goes down, the pressure is on the remaining ones to be even greater.
If you think the lineup decision is going to fix everything, you're probably wrong. Does just the lineup help get one or two goals on its own? Probably. But the fault was not all on Sigi, so the solution is not all on him either. The stars need to step up. The supporting cast needs to step up. Everything must be perfect in a game just after one where nearly everything was wrong.
If you want a lineup card, here's last week's projection. But tonight isn't about a lineup, or shape, or tactics. It is about everything.