Tactical Analysis: Understanding Roles to Set Expectations

Fredy Montero is always at least lurking in the background in the Sounders attack. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

A couple of weeks ago I asked Dave what I should write about next on the tactics front, and he answered "asymmetry." I didn't get around to it -- this being a common theme in my life -- and the next time we saw each other Dave pointed out to me that Jonathan Wilson had just written the article he wanted me to write (well, not THE article, but you should get my point).

Which takes us to this week, not wanting to let another Thursday go without a tactics piece, I was determined to bunker down and pound one out. I once agin posed the question to Dave, who once agin suggested I write about asymmetry or the Fernandez role on the left.

The only problem is, I feel like I've been there and done that. I have talked about the "W" nature of the defense and defined the "hidden layer," and it shouldn't be difficult to comprehend that "balanced, but asymmetrical" means that 3-man top defensive layer (Burch/Gonzalez-Alonso-Johansson) can still be perfectly intact but at a diagonal.

In fact, I have seen very little tactically that could be said to be unexpected or particularly innovative. Faced with an injured Mauro Rosales and Adam Johansson, last Friday's win over Houston Dynamo saw a right side of Roger Levesque and Zach Scott. While the two certainly bring their own qualities to the table, what they are lacking in is creativity, and as a result the overall quality of the Sounders suffered. But then again, Friday was about grinding out a result against a side which is known for doing just that themselves.

If anything, the closest thing to a "revelation" has been the reality that we once again have the luxury of applying the "lazy" moniker to Fredy Montero, as his strike partner David Estrada has taken Sounder-land by storm. "Lazy" is not often a term applied here, and even then with some nuance.

I am told that there are still pockets of Sounders fans who don't much care for Montero, and the most common adjective attached to his name still seems to be that virtually cliched "L-word." This includes the supposition that Fredy is too lazy to be the captain.

These tidbits are rather stunning to me. The living, breathing proof of Fredy's shortcomings is allegedly to be found in Estrada, who runs hard after every ball and who has been rewarded with his name filling the scoresheet.

Let's set aside the reality that Fredy has managed to win us an Open Cup and Cascadia Cup last year and play the "what have you done for me lately" game. We still must overlook the fact that we are comparing apples and oranges, as Estrada is a striker and Montero most definitely is not. Yes, you read that correctly.

As I've discussed before, in the myriad terms we use to describe the people who occupy the positions in the top layer of a team's formation, I think it best to think of "strikers" as those types who primarily use runs into space off the shoulders or through the seams of the defenders, often after through-balls played from midfielders or fullbacks. Running is a key element here, as is management of space.

More often than not someone needs to create that space. Additionally, in most contemporary versions of the 4-4-2 (or 4-4-2 derived formations) the "playmaker" or "#10" role has shifted to the "2nd striker." Of course, the very idea of THE playmaker is increasingly obsolete, as in the Sounders' own case our literal and figurative "#10" operates from the right wing. Montero is, indeed, a trequartista. When he hangs back and lets Estrada do the running, he is not being lazy, he's doing his job.

Both League matches this year were examples of matches where Montero was "off" and "disappeared." Both matches have been used as evidence of his "laziness." Both matches he has been criticized for not being able to create space despite close marking. Both matches he has drawn in defenders to create space elsewhere. Both matches he has still provided great moments of creativity if you watch closely enough. Both matches the Sounders have won and Estrada has been a central figure. You can be pretty sure Estrada really appreciates the work Montero has put in so far this season.

We all know that Fredy will have his day -- for all we know it could be this Saturday against San Jose -- but it may also be worth our time as fans and Supporters to maybe give the guy some credit for what he does when he's not just scoring goals.

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