HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 19: Joel Lindpere #20 of the New York Red Bulls battles against Alvaro Fernandez #15 of the Seattle Sounders FC during the game at Red Bull Arena on March 19, 2011 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Friday evenings double fracture to Steve Zakuani's leg left the Sounders community with a huge loss. His presence is defined as much on the field as off, and as in most major injuries the first priority must be on the injured man, not the team. The 1-0 win felt much more like a loss, but as the loss of Nkufo, this is now a fact. Surgery was successful, a tribute is being planned and now there is a game Saturday and the lineup will be forced to shift.
Sigi Schmid has two layers of options. First, does he want a lineup and tactics that are as similar as possible to how it was with Zakuani with a speed guy with technical ability and offense as their strength, or does he go with the most talented player with maybe some more defensive nature, slower whose success comes from footwork and passing.
This would be the easiest for the rest of the team, as they can pass and position themselves in ways similar to how they do with Zakuani on the pitch. It would also mean that the fastest player on the team is not the target forward. There are three options on this list all younger, but one stands out from the rest.
Mike Fucito - Fucito, Zakuani and White were clearly the preseason fastest players. Get any of them chasing a long ball and they will blaze right by the defense. Zakuani can use his burst and footwork to create his own shot or pass, and Fucito's experience at left midfield both in college and in 2009 as Zakuani's cover in practice shows that he can do similarly crossing the ball onto head or at the feet. While Fucito has also had success in CCL play as a proxy for Fredy Montero, his origins with the team are as a wide player. Using Fucito here would also keep a significant offensive threat on the pitch, something that Seattle will need to discover without Zakuani. Fucito also offers service on set-plays unlike most on the team, being the primary kick taker when he's on the pitch.
More options and a poll after the jump
David Estrada - Estrada is another collegiate forward who has played more as a wide player in Seattle. Not as fast as the other players listed here, he is still someone who is similar in that he uses speed to create space. His lack of first team experience is probably why he won't make the short list of Sigi and company's options.
Michael Tetteh - The young, future left back has experience playing both as a defender and a midfielder with Seattle, and using him now as Zakuani's temporary replacement would likely delay his learning curve to become the left back of the future, but Seattle may already have a plan for that anyway.
There may be better soccer players here, but it would be a significant tactical change. Seattle's backline could not use the long ball to dump it to a running wide player, but instead use a more methodical, patient build-up hoping to create space through dribbling skills and quick passes. The Sounders may have a slightly greater defensive posture, as the left midfielder would not be in attack as often.
Alvaro Fernandez - The writers here love El Flaco's skills, if a little frustrated by his usage pattern by Sigi. The Designated Player now seems to be back in favor and was the replacement at Colorado on Friday evening. This would also mean that Seattle's attack is dominated by South Americans in the band of 3.
Erik Friberg - He offers nifty passing, if sometimes a bit risky as he's seeing things that his teammates are not at this time. The Swede serves some of the best dead balls on the team, particularly long balls into the box. Still a bit lacking on defense on the team, like Fernandez he struggles a bit with the physical nature of MLS.
Miguel Montano - The young Colombian has dribbling skills that could make a juggling video. During his limited opportunities for play, we saw a unique partnership between he and Montero with little sombrero passes and back heels. The rawest of the talents that could be considered, it would be a surprise move to see him in the starting lineup, but he should get a few more shots in the 18 and on the pitch.
If Sigi shifts Mauro Rosales, Seattle has a few options in Lamar Neagle and Roger Levesque as well. This is unlikely to be seen in the starting lineup but bringing on Neagle late would boost the offense, while a late Levesque sub adds to the defensive posture.
It should come as no surprise that my preference is clear for Fucito to get the start against Toronto. His speed, nose for goal and ability to serve the ball in a set-play improve three areas where Seattle would be lacking without him. The advantage of his play being both at a high level, and similar in ways to Zakuani make it easier on the rest of the team to adapt. Now healthy, this would be the opportunity for Sigi to show why a fringe player in 2010 was protetcted in the expansion draft and take those shots and convert them to goals.
Who do you want to see start this weekend against Toronto FC?
Mike Fucito (197 votes)
Alvaro Fernandez (190 votes)
David Estrada (5 votes)
Erik Friberg (51 votes)
Michael Tetteh (11 votes)
Miguel Montano (48 votes)
Other (seriously, you have to tell us) (6 votes)
508 total votes