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Life Without Riley

If James Riley is a hothead I don't know. What I do know is that he was Red Carded, and earned two yellows and fines in the last two weeks for his violent conduct on the pitch. What I also know is that due to the tactics that Coach Schmid employs concerning Riley and Brad Evans, this week's game will lose a player where his replacement will not be similar stylistically in any way.

Unless somehow Evan Brown will go from Reservist to starter. Every other option will force a change tactically, and while there are many directions that the staff could go, each forces different behavior from Brad Evans, Freddie Ljungberg and probably Osvaldo Alonso.

Today we look at Life without Riley, breaking down each option and its impact.

Evan Brown

Brown is probably the only player on roster at this time that is similar in makeup to James Riley. He is the modern wingback running endline to endline with a solid cross. What he isn't is ready to start. At least from any indication the staff has given at this point. One would think that if he is a starter he would have been used as a sub at least by match eight. A reminder, Brown was the first pick of the second round, someone who had been rated as high as a number 10 in the first round. Here is a section from my draft recap.

Hanauer’s description of Brown reads like a classic wingback and describes him as a Frankie Hejduk style of player.

He has a great engine… gets up and down the line… defends well 1 v 1… attacks down the flanks.

Adrian later commented on Evan’s training at Wake Forest.

Coming from a program like Wake is another benefit, as Jay’s [Vidovich] kids are tactically sound. Again, he now needs to put the work in, to be successful at the next level.

Brown would be an excellent choice, after more seasoning.

Tyson Wahl is a smaller faster centerback who has been used in Reserve matches on the outside. He also has yet to appear in a regular season match. This choice would force Evans into the attack more often, and limit the number of men the Sounders would have in attack, remember that Riley has figured in several actions in and near the opponents box.

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is also a fast centerback who could be used outside. Like the option of Wahl this would change the behavior of the offense, and like Wahl would also make a change in the centerback pairing. Using Hurtado as a wingback would likely put Taylor Graham in the starting lineup. This would shift a total of three players roles, and I think would be unlikely for Sigi to do.

Nate Sturgis could be used on either side, but he is currently listed as PROBABLE due to a hamstring injury. This would reinsert Scott into the starting lineup, and while Sturgis gets forward more than Scott, he hasn't been up as much Riley. Likely on Brad Evans would be the only midfielder to change his style. Sturgis is the player who would have the least shifting in tactics of the entire club.

Zach Scott almost the antithesis of the Sturgis move. Scott would have the least ability to get forward of any of the choices for Right Back, but would likely have the strongest defense on the right side. This move would keep Sturgis in his newly earned role as the Left Back. Scott may start at Left Back due to the Sturgis injury. Currently this would be the second most likely scenario as the starting XI would be least effected.

Sebastien Le Toux would be a highly unusual move, but this concept would actually have very little effect on the squad's other players tactically. I have no doubts about Seba's ability to go endline to endline, and while he can occasionally be muscled off a ball and isn't as strong in the air as Riley, Le Toux would be matched up with the Left Mids in MLS, and so this weakness would be mitigated. While Le Toux hasn't played defense in years, he does have some experience, and with the Frenchman's play on the wing being solid to this point he would be the only player adjusting his play against Dallas.

Seba would also add great offense, to the club and find a way to keep him on the pitch as Fredy Montero returns to play. He has been stronger on the right side than the left, and as the right wingback would actually be in an offensive position more often than Brad Evans at Right Mid.

Brad Evans has been used at Right Back with one of the U-20 Nationals by a certain coach Sigi Schmid. Would Sigi dip into this well again? It would force another player into the starting lineup (Le Toux or Montero at RM and the other at Withdrawn Forward), but would take advantage of Evans ability to distribute and transition from the defense to the attack. Coach has raved about Evans abilities defensively, but generally in a central role. Placing Evans in the RWB would mean that he gets forward about as often as he does currently.

This shift would minimize a bit of the Alonso/Evans chemistry, but would be one of only two ways that we see Montero and Le Toux on the pitch at the same time in Pizza Hut Park.

Personally I'm leaning towards either Seba or Evans, as they would only shift a single player's role, would mean that the offense has the most skilled players on the pitch and would have a minimal effect on the defense. Riley is an aerial ball winner, but he is forward so often that Hurtado and Alonso shift right quite a bit.

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