Photo by Beth Easterbook/AzKicksIt.com
The writing seems to be on the wall that a tactical shift is coming, but who slots in where is still an open question.
The departure of Fredy Montero has created a rather enormous void, both in terms of production and tactics. As much talent as the Seattle Sounders have on their current roster -- and make no mistake, it's ample -- there is not a ready-made replacement for the player around whom this team's tactics were designed.
So far, coach Sigi Schmid has given little indication that a dramatic change is in the works. It's quite possible someone like David Estrada, Mauro Rosales or Mario Martinez simply slides into Montero's old position just behind Eddie Johnson and there's virtually no change in the team's setup.
Even if that happens, though, there's bound to be some change. There is no player on this team that offers the same skill set as Montero. Estrada is not nearly the playmaker, Martinez seems more suited for wide play and Rosales is far less of a scorer. Other players would offer even more dramatic changes.
Which brings us to a recent story on MLSsoccer.com by Matthew Doyle, in which it's suggested that the Sounders' personnel lines up best as a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid. How might that look? Here's one possibility:
This is more of a 4-5-1 and it's missing Mario Martinez. For me, this is a potentially dominant midfield in terms of its ability to win the ball and make it very difficult for teams to attack through the middle of the field. The trio of Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso would be arguably unmatched in it's physicality.
It would also offer a far amount of in-game flexibility. Evans would be able to offer some cover for Steve Zakuani, who would have most of his defensive responsibilities lifted. Tiffert would be free to switch with Mauro Rosales and send in crosses, the offensive area where he most excelled last season. Paired with Evans, Osvaldo Alonso would also have more freedom to get forward.
The danger here is that I could see the central midfield getting stuck, as there would likely be a tendency for all three of them to hang back. For a more overtly offensive look that would play more like a 4-3-3, this is what I envision:
The biggest change here involves Martinez stepping in as one of the wide forwards with Rosales playing more of a CAM. I'd imagine that Rosales would do a lot of cutting to the outside to send in crosses and Martinez drifting more inside and potentially switching regularly with Zakuani as well.
In this set-up, I see Tiffert somewhat paired with Alonso in more of a defensive position. Most of his attacking would come from the wing. The other big changes are at fullback, with Marc Burch providing most of the width on the left and Evans covering for Tiffert when he get farther forward. I would imagine him playing a higher line and getting forward as more of an outlet than as a playmaker.
I can't sit here and suggest I'm a better tactician than Schmid, but the way the team is currently constructed seems to be begging for a formational change.