Playing on short rest and without a full complement of players, the Sounders' depth will be tested in the first leg of the Western Conference finals.
Mauro Rosales is still hobbled. Leo Gonzalez is likely unavailable. Marc Burch is suspended. These are just three of the key players that are almost certainly going to be missing from the Seattle Sounders' starting lineup for the first leg of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.
It could be even worse, too. With just two days of rest between the games, it's unclear how much the Sounders can expect from the likes of Eddie Johnson, who played 90 minutes in his last game and is coming off a hamstring/adductor injury.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid has some interesting choices ahead of him, and they will likely say much about their attitude going into this road game.
The most sensible decision, at least to me, is to use a lineup that looks like this:
GK: Gspurning; DF (l-r): Scott, Parke, Hurtado, Johansson; MF: Martinez, Alonso, Evans, Tiffert; FW: Montero, Johnson.
This would give the Sounders are fair amount of balance. Zach Scott would essentially be expected to play conservatively on the left hand side and not spend much if any time overlapping. It's a position he's played as recently as Oct. 24 against Marathon, but one he hasn't played with regularity since 2009. Brad Evans, who seems to be the superior defender, would be back in the middle the way he was in the second leg against Real Salt Lake to provide defensive cover. Christian Tiffert would be expected to take on a lot of the creative work and need to support Adam Johansson on the inevitable overlaps.
There would be gambles with this lineup, though. Johansson has rarely played on short rest and when he has, it hasn't always been great. Leaning so heavily on Johnson may also be a bit rough. This could lead the Sounders to really play for the tie and field a more defensive lineup:
GK: Gspurning; DF (l-r): Scott, Parke, Hurtado, Evans; MF: Martinez, Alonso, Rose, Tiffert; FW: Montero, Estrada.
Of course, there's also the possibility that Schmid will throw us a big curveball and attempt to catch the Galaxy off guard with a more offensive lineup. This would be far more of a high-risk, high-reward situation, but wouldn't be the most shocking thing in the world.
GK: Gspurning; DF (l-r): Evans, Parke, Hurtado, Johansson; MF: Zakuani, Alonso, Tiffert, Martinez; FW: Montero, Johnson.
That would certainly the some people's attention, wouldn't it? But you don't go into the Dragon's Lair with only a shield.