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What we learned and where we go from here

Miguel Montano may not have earned starter's minutes just yet, but he's certainly shown a lot of promise.
Miguel Montano may not have earned starter's minutes just yet, but he's certainly shown a lot of promise.

As much as Bruce Arena would like you to believe that Wednesday's game was essentially a "reserve game" that "doesn't make sense," I'm not at all convinced that it was an insignificant victory for the Sounders.

At the very least, it assures that the Rave Green will be involved in a meaningful game late in the season (currently scheduled for Sept. 1 at Starfire against Chivas USA).

Of more consequence is the continued emergence of some of the Sounders who played vital roles in what really was a thorough dismantling of a team that is much better than Arena seems willing to admit.

Granted, the Galaxy didn't even bother to bring stars Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle on their trip. They also chose to sit some of the players who helped Los Angeles go 3-1-1 during Donovan and Buddle's World Cup absence  -- most notably Tristan Bowen, Todd Dunivant, Michael Stephens and Donovan Ricketts.

Still, what Los Angeles was left with was a team of players with whom Arena had enough confidence to give 43 collective starts -- and the two players with the least number of starts, Eddie Lewis (one) and Clint Mathis (zero), are two of the most experienced players on the team. Their starters have accounted for seven goals, three assists and a shutout during MLS play.

The point being that while the Sounders may not have repaid the favor of Sunday's loss, they didn't exactly beat up on a bunch of neophytes, either.

On paper, at least, the Sounders looked like the team that should have been overmatched. Their starters in Wednesday's game had just 24 collective MLS starts this season and four have not started a game all year.

Three of those players without a start -- Nate Jaqua, Michael Seamon and Miguel Montano --  may, in fact, hold the key to salvaging this season. 

I'm not necessarily suggesting that all three of them earned the right to become starters based on a couple U.S. Open Cup matches. I do think that they have earned the right to show what they can do against top-level competition, even if it's just in extended reserve minutes.

Let's take a look at them one at a time:

Nate Jaqua

What we already knew: A starter for most of last year, he was nevertheless one of the players many fans failed to appreciate despite being second on the team with nine goals and seven assists. His absence, due to an abdominal injury, seems to have made many grow fonder of a player who, while neither gifted with speed or great ball handling, has an obvious nose for the goal. 

What we learned: Wednesday was a near perfect encapsulation of all of that. Jaqua provided an aerial presence the Sounders have been lacking all year, did an admirable job of winning 50/50 balls and holding possession and scored a pair of goals by winning physical battles. On the downside, he missed a couple open chances and didn't make much of an impression with his passing.

Where we go: Taken as a whole, it seems pretty obvious that he belongs among the starting XI if he's fit enough to play, at least until Blaise Nkufo arrives.

What Sigi had to say: "Obviously he can make a difference. He's a different type of forward than what we have. Our injuries for us this year for us have been right down the middle of the field with Nate and [Jhon] Kennedy [Hurtado] in the back and [Brad] Evans and [Osvaldo] Alonso in the middle of midfield and that's the heart of your team, the nucleus of your team. That's not where you want to have injuries. So obviously Nate being back, he's put in a lot of heart and soul in it. It's been tremendous." 

Miguel Montano

What we already knew: The 18-year-old Colombian has some obvious flare. He has a potent right-footed shot. He has great dribbling skills, has above-average quickness and sees the field well. We also know that he's raw and is prone to hyper-activity that sometimes takes him out of the game.

What we learned: Given minutes, he settles down nicely. On several occasions, he even showed a nasty streak and refused to back down when play turned physical. He's also got some real speed to go along with that quickness, as he was repeatedly able to get behind his marks and created several good scoring opportunities.

Where we go: I'm not sure that I feel entirely comfortable starting him. For one, his most obvious starting position would be as an outside mid and I think Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Zakuani still need to be on the field. You could play him at central mid, but I would like to see him worked into a position like that first. One way or the other, though, I think minutes need to be found for him.

What Sigi said: "Tremendous. He was out of gas when he came out but really the first goal was his goal. It was his effort all the way through. Nate put it in, put it over the line, but the second goal was just a great cross to the back post for Nate and whipped it in. On top of that, we also got a really good defensive effort from him. He kept pressure on the Galaxy, offensively and defensively, and that's what you need form your wide guys." 

Michael Seamon

What  we already knew: Of all the players on the roster, the least may be known about the second-round pick out of Villanova. He is the player who was most recently signed, but has made the most of his time. He scored a goal in his first game -- in the friendly against Boca Juniors -- and has slowly worked his way into the 18. He's shown great vision, a good passing touch and a willingness to work track back on defense.

What we learned: I don't know that we really learned anything other than our initial impressions seem to be born out with more playing time.

Where we go: It might be a bit of a toss-up between him and Montano, but Seamon seems to be the more natural central midfielder. I think that gives him the edge in terms of breaking the starting XI first and would mind seeing his debut there this Sunday.

Going forward

The rash of injuries may at least partly explain the Sounders' struggles, but that doesn't mean much.

This team has to figure out a way to remain competitive while their injuries heal and the best way to do that, I think, is to stop expecting different results from the same personnel.

I think this lineup would give the Sounders their best chance for the time being:

Zakuani Seamon Ljungberg
Gonzalez Parke Ianni Scott

By no means am I saying that this is the team that will get us to the playoffs. I do think that it has a reasonable shot of keeping us competitive, while also building toward the future.

Curious to hear what you guys would like to see moving forward.

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