Right back starter offers tactical options

Zach Scott if by air. Brad Evans if by land. - USA TODAY Sports

Without their starting right back against Real Salt Lake this weekend the Sounders coaching staff will have a tactical choice between a US National Team player and the longest tenured active Sounder.

There's an interesting situation with Seattle Sounders FC. At the end of 2012 they had a right back that was on the fringe of the Swedish National Team, a utility knife and "man marker" (didn't actually man mark). Transition to 2013 and the starting right back is a Home Grown Player that is on the United States U-20 team, the man marker is still here and that utility player just earned nine points as the right back for the USA's senior team. This weekend against Real Salt Lake one of the backups will start there. Each offers different strengths.

WhoScored.com's metrics love Zach Scott as a defender (scroll down, click squad list). He's 24th in the league for overall rating, which probably has to do with his strength in the air, low turnover rate and quality long passes. These all also happen to be among the strengths of the team when compared to all Opta rated leagues.

"My number one job is to keep them from scoring," Scott said to Sounder at Heart after Monday's practice. "If I can help at all going forward then my job is to get the ball off of my foot as quickly as possible finding the playmakers on the team, but number one is to keep them from scoring."

Brad Evans offers different skills to that role, skills he learned from a pro career mainly in the midfield, but stretching back to his time as a youth national at right back.

"They [right backs] have to be able to pass the ball and get us out of situations. He brings that aspect. His ability to get up and back because he has a set of lungs on him that can go forever. His timing when he goes forward, like when he plays midfield and makes those long runs from deep, when he plays on the wingback he brings the element of surprise going forward," defensive assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson said. "He's a decent defender. There's some things that he's got to learn as far as positioning, but that's going to come with time."

Those same skills are why Jurgen Klinsmann chose Evans to fill in for America. His success there earned him every start in the three match Qualifying run. There were mistakes made, but none resulted in competitive goals. All of that film is something Hendrickson will look at if Brad gets the call to start on the backline.

"Sometimes it's not so much in a 1 v 1 situation," Ezra noted about an area that needs improvement, "but where you are in relation to the rest of your defenders that can make or break a day for you." It is about risk mitigation because along the line there will be less help than an defensive error in midfield has. The coach also mentioned that the defensive issues are minor and fixable.

Scott earned the nickname Zach Scott: Man Marker for exactly that. He also knows that he matches up against certain teams and certain players fairly well. Usually that is as an air defense specialist despite his success on attacking set-plays.

The last couple of years I kind of just expect the ball to come to me. -Scott on his set-play offense

"There's definitely better teams, better players that I match up against. I'm honest with myself, I know what type of player I am," Scott smiled as he spoke. "If I can bring an edge back there and win an aerial duel against a team that likes to pump it in then I will do my job and be happy."

Real Salt Lake is weak in the air on both sides of the ball. There may be opportunity to attack there, but the defense will be less necessary. Seattle has issues in the midfield that may require Evans to play there even after he went 90 for the USA.

"That's a decision that Sigi is going to have to make," Hendrickson said. "It's a situation where we might need Brad somewhere else. That might be a case where we go with Zach. Either of those guys are capable of filling in and doing the job. "

The team can have confidence that which ever choice is made the player will play within their quite different games.

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