2014 Season Preview - The Attack

Pappa leads Route B when the team is at full strength. - Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle's offense is different than it's been in the past. After a couple of seasons of "cross first" the methodology is shifting due to the personnel on the field.

One of the things that a major roster rework does is it forces a re-evaluation of the tactics that Sigi Schmid will employ. He's been hesitant to label what Seattle Sounders FC intend to do, basically saying the following things will be true;

  • Two strikers in front of Clint Dempsey
  • Yedlin is going to surge forward leading to a three-back look at times
  • One wide mid will tuck in while the other is more like a winger
  • Forwards will need to make more inside out runs
  • Cooper is going to play in the space between Dempsey and Oba, for the most part

Around Sounder at Heart that's being called an Asymmetric Diamond. There are things that are classic Diamond. There are things that are 3-5-2. There are elements of the old Arrow. X-X-X notation is not going to tell the story.

Key Attacking Players Out: Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales, Steve Zakuani
Key Attacking Players In: Marco Pappa, Kenny Cooper, Barrett/Bowen/Okoli/yet-to-sign trialist (whoever emerges)

Route A:

Whereas the last two seasons, this was a cross-to-Eddie's-head-based offense, things are different now. The team is going to be built around Clint. He will do stuff. But he wasn't here for preseason so some suppositions have to be made. While he will be in the hole where a CAM would be, he is almost certainly going to be using that space in the way Montero did. He will be a shooter and a provider.

Many of those shots will be from a bit of distance. If Dempsey's "shit" can get him free of the league's defensive mids, he will be in a space from 14-20 yards out and letting loose. He's a strong finisher from range, so seems like a decent plan. If he can't get free for that kind of shot, he'll have both Oba and Cooper to slip through or work in quick 1-2s.

In this space, with his kind of talent, he can put up numbers like 10-15 goals and 7-10 assists.

Route B:

Marco Pappa is not the same type of winger as Rosales. He can serve the ball, probably best from set-plays, but his path to goal, or as a provider, will start wide. He will then either cut inside above the elbow of the 18 or shoot below towards the endline. From there he has a few choices. Three men will be in a danger area. He can slip it to the near two, pop it up for the far one, or shoot. Pappa likes to shoot.

His last few seasons in MLS he's been in the 5-8 goal, 2-5 assist range. He hasn't had this level of talent around him before. Those assist numbers should be higher.

Route C:

The third option in past seasons varied. It was either set-play success (2009 Jaqua, 12/13 EJ) or individual magic (2011 Alvaro/Mauro/Montero).

You guessed it, 2014 is different. From within the fields of Seattle came an amazing talent in DeAndre Yedlin. His 2013 was great. It was a pleasant accident. This season the attack will include a lot more Yedlin. When he rushes forward, look for quick interchanges with Evans or Dempsey to rip him free along the touchline. His improved crossing skill will be his primary asset. Those long passes will target Oba/Clint/Kenny, probably in that order. Sigi also recently told Softy on KJR that DeAndre's left foot is rapidly developing. He can still cut in parallel to the goal mouth to pop off a shot or work the ball with the scoring trio.

Other:

Set-plays - look for Chad Marshall to get forward for these. When Scott plays he will of course be a target. Kenny will get some attention defensively, but can still knock a couple into the net. In fact, this is the scenario where he plays big.

Individual Magic - Obafemi Martins and Clint can create something out of nothing when all alone against a couple defenders and a keeper. Alonso will continue shooting from distance and may just score a few.

When the three primary routes are that diverse the absence of a player that fuels one of their successes can be overcome with a bench that has Lamar Neagle at forward and mid, a bruiser like Barrett (maybe Weaver?), young technicians like Okoli (Parsemain, Periera, Arroyo?) and the left flank can always get the red mushroom boost from a speedster like Remick or Kovar.

This is what you can expect from the 2014 attack. It's different; it's fluid; and it is going to produce goalz. One site says third most in the league.

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