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The Double and what it does to Lineups

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Many of you may have already read the FanShot concerning what next, if you haven't do. The Double creates both opportunity and danger fo Sigi and the Sounders. It is the forced opportunity to test the depth on the team. It is the danger to force untested players on the pitch and to drop points versus two very beatable teams.

To quote Ljungberg

 "It’s great for people to get some playing time but at the end of the day we need to get the points. So we will see afterwards if it is a good thing or not. It’s great for the guys to get playing time. Mike Fucito, I talked to him before, I love his work ethic, the way he thinks and stuff. I am very, very pleased that he scored and hopefully he will get more chances."

Let's ignore that bit praising Fucito for a bit. Let's focus on how Freddie makes note that it is not the playing time that matters, but winning points. Keller also looks at the opportunity to win, while making note of depth.

" ...We just need to concentrate and do our job. It’s a rare occasion and we just need to make sure we are ready for it. Like I said, we have a good squad. We’ve got guys who are ready to step in if some guys are a little banged up or a little fatigued. [. . .] I feel very good in our prospects in these two games."

There are hundreds of possible lineups, especially if formations start to shift, but let's look at this thing I call the Arrow as a 4-2-3-1, and then let's look at it from several different angles. Below are the thoughts from some bloggers from around the SounderSphere that you may/may not know and their thoughts on how to handle the Double. I had originally asked them about just the first game, the one at Dallas, but several addressed both.

We'll lead off with Steve Clare of ProstAmerika and MLS Examiner.

Sounders have two quick games and must use their resources carefully. In that respect, they are lucky because the drop off between the less strong parts of the starting line-up, and the top of the reserves is small.
 
I have taken a lot of flak from readers for my defence of Pete Vagenas. But I do think that a fully fit Pete will eventually win over the fans and here's why. A side needs to balance experience and youth. Sounders are a very young outfit, which many do not notice because Ljungberg has done it all. But he has done it all elsewhere, and his MLS naivety makes him more like a learner than an old hand sometimes. Other than Marshall and to a lesser extent Riley, there is little MLS nous in Sounders FC's outfield line. Nate Jaqua and Blaise Nkufo won't change that. Sometimes Pete Vagenas and Pat Ianni seem to have the majority of the club "pitch sense". By pitch sense, I mean the ability to charm refs, calm down colleagues, infuriate opponents without getting caught, foul without being carded, etc. Sounders FC need more of that, and to stop blaming referees for their lack of it.
 
Mike Fucito is too young to be blooded in an away game as a starter. Let him acquire more minutes at home and in the US Open Cup, before subjecting him to MLS road games. Same with Stephen King. All learning is good, but let them learn the art of playing against hostile crowds gradually.
 
For the first game, I might be tempted to give Ianni a start. He has Texas experience, and I like the idea of only playing Marshall in one of two games close together. Let him play in Toronto, where he knows every blade of grass.
 
 
Dallas:  Keller; Riley, Hurtado, Ianni,, Gonzalez; Alonso, Vagenas, Ljungberg, Zakuani; Noonan, Montero
 
Toronto:  Keller; Riley, Hurtado, Marshall, Gonzalez; Alonso, Vagenas, Ljungberg, Zakuani; Noonan, Montero

I'll continue by bolding the changes from last week

malcontentjake in the Fucito saved ... postputs forward the following ideas

Lacking the ability or impetus to do cool lineup graphics, here is my modest proposal for a Sounders starting XI for this Thursday night at FC Dallas (showing outfield players, Keller in goal, of course!):

 

_____________FUCITO_____________

ZAKUANI_____LJUNGBERG_____LEVESQUE

____________EVANS____________

____________ALONSO___________

GONZALEZ_________________RILEY

__________HURTADO__IANNI_______

 

first off the bench (barring injuries or ejections): Vagenas, Noonan, either Estrada or Nyassi

 

Yep, I'm giving Montero the night off.  I'm not going to want to play Ljungberg the full 90, so I pull him for Noonan; either Estrada or Nyassi will go in for either Fucito or Zakuani to provide spark and energy late, and Vagenas is included here, because while the Supporters may disagree, Sigi is going to want him out there in the late stages of a road match.

later he talks about the match at Toronto

___________MONTERO____________

ZAKUANI_____NOONAN_____LJUNGBERG

______________KING_______________

_____________ALONSO__________

GONZALEZ __________________RILEY

________MARSHALL__HURTADO_____

 

first off the bench (barring injuries or ejections): Levesque, Vagenas, One of the Kids...

 

Yeah, that's right, Stephen King!  You know, the guy who scored two Open Cup game-winners last year, barely sniffed the pitch in League play, and might just provide some spark in the "Evans" role that could help us to a big road win.  Let's give him a run-out over Vagenas, who is essentially a second holder alongside Alonso...

Except, lets face facts, the Supporters and the Coaches fundamentally disagree on Vagenas.  Talk to Steve Claire at Prost Amerika about it, please don't complain to me.  In an atmosphere like BMO (or whatever the hell the pitch in Toronto is called) Sigi is gonna want "Pass-Back Pete" in the starting XI (which is why I have him in as a sub, and Evans left out)... If you ask me, I will rage all day and all night that Stephen King needs a chance in central midfield, except I don't think it'll necessarily happen this match, it'll probably be Vagenas... lets just get on with it...

Read the whole thing, as he has more detail than I've quoted.

The ideas keep coming though. Next I talked to the people at The Seattle Offside. People? Yes, Laurie is on her way out on a much deserved sabbatical, and her new replacement may not have even written yet.

Here's Laurie she stuck with the match at Dallas as originally requested

Okay, my lineup, let's go with some iteration of a 4-4-2.

In back:

-----------------Alonso----------------
Leo--Hurtado--Marshall--Riley 
-----------------Keller----------------

Because if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Central mid with/in front of Alonso:  Evans.  He's been punished enough for the RSL game, and I think his energy (and the goal) re-earned the starting spot.  And Vagenas wasn't noticeably better.  (But Brad?  Please please please pay attention on set pieces.)

LM -- Zakuani.  I still love Stevie Z, but I'm putting in my request for the Zakuani who showed up  vs. RSL instead of the Zakuani vs. KC.

RM -- Okay, what the hell, let's say Ljungberg.  Because Ljungberg has to be on the field somewhere and he hasn't convinced me up top. 

F -- Montero.  Because...uh...  That's where Sigi will put him?

F -- Fucito.  Too much too soon for a bench player?  Should he be on the wing instead?  I have no idea.  I just want more of what I saw last Saturday, however and wherever we can get it.

Taking over in her stead will be Denny

FCD are a tricky team. Inconsistency is not just a factor to this game, for both teams mind you, but a key factor. The one thing FCD have been consistent with is underperforming. Two draws and a loss thus far puts them at the bottom of the table, but those numbers are deceiving. A draw in a derby and against Columbus are actually worth more than the one point they earned, and the one loss so far was to a suddenly resurgent Juan Pablo Angel in a shiny new soda can.

To be effective against this fast and streaky team, Sigi will likely field two anchor men in a 4-2-3-1, much to my dismay. I think the obvious starters will see their usual spots. Leo looked fresh against KC, so I feel better about Riley’s worrying performance. JKH and Tyrone will have to step it up a notch to a light jog if they are going to contain Atiba Harris and Jeff "My Pants Are On Fire" Cunningham.

There will be a number of Colombians out on the field, too many to count. Clearly the one with the most pressure will be Fredy Montero, and he’s going to have to bring it in the first 45 if he wants to protect his spot. Michael Fucito won’t be challenging him for the start anytime soon, but he’s sending out flares for signals. Fucito showed his grit at the end of last season, and his first ever goal on Saturday screamed determination. Oh, and keep Pat Noonan on the bench. He needs more time to fill his slot. Give Fucito the start underneath Montero, as I think he’s ready. He’s paid his dues, and he’s constantly barking like a puppy ready to run off a cliff.

Ideally, I’d like to see a 4-4-2, with Zak and Ljungberg feeding Montero and a pulled back Fucito. We need a bulldog up top who can actually get dug in.

David Falk who we all know from www.GoalSeattle.com and Seattle Soccer Examiner sees the same lineup in Dallas with the shift entirely occuring at Toronto.

I actually think the TFC match is more-likely to see an experimental line-up. I think Sigi will play Montero on the grass and pull him Sunday.
 
Toronto starters:
 
Fucito Noonan
Zakuani Alonso Ljungberg Evans
Gonzalez Hurtado Marshall Scott
 
I'd like to see Noonan and Fucito on Sunday, together. That's a pretty smart, driven tandem to give a go up front. Keep Ljungberg in because of his goal last year at TFC. Pull Riley and let Zach Scott start at right back. Evans is back in to help on offense. Vagenas can play Thursday in Dallas. Levesque can be at the ready for both matches.

Often blogging over at www.GoSounders.com yamsmos sees more changes for Toronto than Dallas as well.

working under the assumption that there will be some shuffle in starting line ups given the close proximity of the two games, i expect that it will be the toronto match that will see most of the mix up. dallas also last played on saturday, and they don't have a game this weekend, so they will look to make it 3 points at home with their strongest line up. 4 points out of this road trip would be a great result to head back to seattle with and you always want to get the 3 points (of the 4) in the first match.
 
i am going to say the line up only for the dallas game only has one change... i see evans lotting back in for vagenas in the middle. this pushes noonan back to the right, and freddie playing behind freddy.  more of a 4-4-1-1.
then comes toronto... where i think we will see the bulk of the changes. if fucitodoesn't start on thursday, and i don't think he will, i think this will be his chance to get the nod and noonan will find some time on the pine. i think vagenasmay again start in the middle for evans, and i am going to go out on a limb here and say we are going to see either rogerup front with one of the fred's, or wahl in the back for leo. what evidence to i have that either of these may happen? ZERO, but i like bold predictions b/c people laughing at me doesn't bother me, and in the off chance i am right.... well i look like a genius ;-)
 
no matter the line up changes... 4 points is the target with 3 points in dallas the immediate goal.

Our own BayAreaRefugee, responding via smartphone while in transit, reads a lot like Mr Clare did at the start of this epic post, with the changes being in substitution patterns, not starters.

i liked last weeks starting xi and would like to see it again on
thursday. only change id make is bringing in fucito earlier and for
ljungberg, bringing evans on for vagenas earlier but only if we need
offense and using final sub on levesque for zakuani around 80.
on sunday, id like to see fucitostart for ljungberg and maybe estrada
for noonan. id let play then dictate my other subs, hoping to give
ljungberg and noonan the day off. i might start evans, too.
i like fucito on sunday cuz i think his speed will be a real asset.
estrada deserves some time and i think he can provide some punch on
thurs.

With nearly an infinite amount of choices, what we are really seeing is that the Man of the Match from the last home game and Brad Evans are usually inserted, with Patrick Ianni, Roger Levesque getting a few looks. Estrada, Scott and Wahl also get some love.

It means we might have to mix and match the lineup a little bit and make sure guys are fresh for the games that we need to play and just play good soccer

Sigi nails it right there. Mixing, matching, but in the end it isn't about 'blooding' the youth, it is about finding ways to maximize the talent on the team in this key stretch. The Double is wrought with opportunity, and chance, and risk. Opposing coaches, and hometown fans will likely be surprised by the lineups put out over the next two matches. Each will be done not in an effort to give a few young players experience, nor to worry about veteran fatigue, but simply with the goal of earning points against two teams in the bottom five for the SBN power rankings.

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