Seattle is in need of points. The games in hand mean nothing if they drop those matches, and while the league is on a near full slate the Sounders could handle getting one or three against a relatively down Philadelphia Union side. Both teams are stock full of players that should score goals. Of the collection of EJ, Oba, Casey, Le Toux, McInerny, Zakuani and more only one is among the top 16 in MLS. It is a situation that is not likely to be true at the end of the year, but these teams meet now. The early start (1 PM Pacific) could cause typical Seattle to Eastern Time Zone troubles, though those are not as strong in MLS as in the NFL.
Previewing the match is Scott from the Brotherly Game.
SaH: Philly's defensive four are stable, but giving up goals at a high rate on the young season. Is the fault with them or the keeper?
tBG: It's part on Zac MacMath and the defense, but mostly upon incredibly poor midfield play. The backline is solid. It's not going to win this team any games, but it will keep the Union in most of them in MLS. The problems stem from an inability to hold possession and prevent opposing teams from capitalizing upon their own possession. Brian Carroll has been played out of position all year, Keon Daniel has displayed little creativity or forward thinking play as the CAM and the outside midfielders/wingers have fluctuated all year. Beyond that, head Coach John Hackworth believes that Danny Cruz is the team's best midfielder and most creative one. There's quite a gap between the forward pairing of Conor Casey and Jack McInerney and the Union defense. MacMath has been questioned by fans and media alike for some time now, but he and the defense can't be constantly asked to make up for a lackluster midfield every game.
SaH: Brian Carroll is not a "name" CDM in a league with many of them. How does he handle those duties?
tBG: Carroll isn't a name CDM, but when employed as an anchor CDM, he's probably the best in that role in the entire league. All he does is break up passes and attacks. That's his thing and he's done it for years at a very high level. However, he hasn't played out of that position all year. The Union have pushed him forward a lot and asked him to play almost an Ozzie Alonso role. Anyone who has seen the two play knows that they couldn't be more different in their approaches to the game. As I mentioned in the previous question's answer, Carroll out of his natural role has caused the Union many problems in the midfield and it has also highlighted the fact that he's in the down turn of his career. It's sad, because Carroll last year was one of the few bright spots during a horrible season.
SaH: Why isn't Seb Le Toux a regular starter this year?
tBG: Simply put: he's no longer good. His goal to open the season was a great start, but he blew an even easier chance that would have sent the Union ahead 2-0 against Sporting Kansas City. Instead, Le Toux missed and Philadelphia went on to lose 3-1. From then on out, Le Toux was ineffective as a forward. More recently he's been deployed as a midfielder, on the outside, and as people in Seattle know, Le Toux is awful when not up front chasing down long balls. McInerney is in great form, Casey is Casey and Le Toux has been pushed out of Hackworth's thought process in terms of starting 11 selection and substitutions. At this point in time, he's pretty much the fourth string striker behind super sub Antoine Hoppenot. The Union re-acquired him to save face in terms of public relations, but that move has turned into a nightmare financially.
Predicted Lineup: (4-1-3-2)
1-1 tie. I don't see either team pulling out enough in this game to gain the full three points.
SaH: It's all about finishing. Seattle is about league average in creating chances. They defend as well as any club in the league. They are a strong passing team. The Sounders just don't finish.
Part of that is due to absences and injuries. Unfortunately that will continue throughout the year. When Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins are on the field together they should be a strong forward pairing. It has not happened enough, and likely won't this weekend. Instead the "other" forwards will need to come through. If Seattle gets goals the win. They just aren't getting goals to this point in the young season.
tBG: Steve Zakuani recently went in for blood tests. What's his status for Saturday?
SaH: His blood test will not block him from playing. His groin might. The key is to realize that Seattle is playing with one wide mid as a pure attacker and the other as a more box to box guy. So whether he starts or not the style of play will be similar.
tBG: How will the Sounders handle Jack McInerney? The New England Revolution thwarted his goal scoring efforts by throttling a weak Union midfield. Can Seattle replicate that strategy successfully?
SaH: If Jack Mc's success is dependent on service he won't have success against the Sounders. The Seattle midfield will likely feature all three of Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph and Brad Evans. The worst of the bunch is a fringe US National Team player. Alonso replaced Joseph as the consistent D-Mid in the Best XI.
Seattle has done a decent job of owning the midfield. They are structured for it, They also have some pretty good centerbacks and a great keeper. When forwards beat them they have to be creative or step out of the zone of what they normally do.
Scoreline prediction and possible starting 11?
Gspurning; Gonzalez, Traore, Hurtado, Yedlin; Alonso; Zakuani, Joseph, Evans; Neagle, Johnson