New Way Forward

EFE-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle's attack is significantly broken. It is generating chances, but not generating goals. Much of this is due to injury. Until Martins and EJ play a few games together they need a new way forward. They need a new forward.

Yesterday's Crunchy Power Rankings showed that Seattle is not a broken team. Even with all the injuries and call ups the data shows that the Sounders should be an average team and likely with health could even be good. But there is a major problem. The numbers show it. Your eyes see it.

The team is not scoring goals at an acceptable rate.

Diving deeper into the CPR and you find out that Seattle is the 5th worst at generating shots in the box. Shots in the box are more likely to be on goal and thereby more likely to score. Sammy Ochoa is getting plenty of minutes, but his best asset is hold-up play, not goal scoring. He can poach some, particularly in the lesser competitions, but the current offense does not need more Ochoa. Estrada is still out with a type of eye injury.

What can be done to fix the offense?

Quite possibly the answer is what we saw in the draw to Santos Laguna. Steve Zakuani flubbed his chances. Yes, that is part of the pattern of play for the Seattle Sounders these days, but goals are rare and luck influenced. Being in the right spot and being prone to shoot on goal are skills that project to strong future years. Zakuani has those skills, particularly in the attacking third.

Again, he did not have a good night. It is almost as if his very limited time as a forward was on the left rather than the right. The ball came at him in different places than he's used to seeing. More practice should solve that.

Zakuani actually has a strong history of putting shots on goal. He is right in the same SOG/90 rate as former MLS stars Brian Ching and Carlos Ruiz. Unlike the tops of that sortable chart he did that as a winger. As a forward he should get more chances - more big chances. He would still have his strong short passing skills that lead him to being one of the best chance creators in run of play in the league despite playing fewer matches than his competition.

There is also tight competition for playing time in the midfield. At this point Sigi shifted to using one creative mid (Rosales, Martinez, Zakuani), one box-to-box wide mid (Caskey, Evans) and a double pivot centrally (Alonso & Joseph). It is a defensive structure that creates higher turnovers, more throughballs and better opportunities to find space in transition. It needs two forwards that can take advantage of that.

Ideally that would be Johnson and Martins. Both are going to miss time this year. The competition at the creative mid will also miss time. Steve Zakuani can and should slot into both of those roles as needed. Right now that means at forward.

In an alternate universe Steve had a hattrick on Tuesday night and Seattle made history again. That alternate world is not too different from our own. The Akron/London product was in the right place, at the right time and in situations where he can and has finished those shots in the past.

Maybe that alternate world starts at forward Saturday.

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