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Feeding Nkufo - Is a lineup change needed?

How to feed the Blaise? GGet him the ball!
How to feed the Blaise? GGet him the ball!

Blaise Nkufo was expected to dominate MLS play. He was expected to get results, putting up goals and even tallying assists. So far, that hasn't been the case, yet the Sounders are doing quite well since the Blaise era started.

Nkufo is making all the runs that one would expect of a target forward, but his calls for the ball go unanswered.

On corners he is finding himself double-marked, and flat near-post service hasn't even given the team the opportunity to flick it on to the big Swissman.

I want to see runs answered with passes, but it seems that the team as a whole is not seeing those runs. BUT, they are winning.

Should we want to see a change in order to magnify the addition of Nkufo? Or should we, mere fans, want the team to stagnate, and yet win? Is there a change that is a simple answer?

I think the answer is a single swap of two players - Nathan Sturgis to the 18, and Nate Jaqua to the Right Wing. Alvaro Fernandez would need to be switched inside as a box-to-box center midfielder. This of course assumes that all players not on the Injured List are able to play (which may not be the case Wednesday).

With Jaqua on the right wing the Sounders would add another player with good vision, decent passing and the ability to hold the ball up at his feet. James Riley would have to provide width in the attack, as Nate's long passes aren't that good.

But when Nate gets the ball and Nkufo, and Fredy Montero as well, make those runs, he has the vision and ability to make those passes. At least much more frequently than is currently occurring.

Of course, the first response to the thought of Jaqua on the wing is that he isn't the type of player you see there. Which is generally true, but specifically wrong. He played there last October with the Sounders (scoring 2 goals in  matches), and he played there in his time with the Chicago Fire. In fact he said last year that he enjoys being able to face up against the defense and see the play develop.

The Rave Green would lose a bit of defense. Nathan Sturgis isn't bad there. And while Jaqua is pretty good for a Forward, overall the defensive structure would be weaker in the center of the pitch, but a bit stronger on the right (which may be great in a league with some solid left wide players).

Another added benefit from putting Jaqua on the pitch would be that the Sounders would have two big bodies available as targets on corners and threatening set-plays. Having one of Jaqua/Nkufo at the near post, and the other at the far post with Montero in his usual spot annoying the keeper changes the dynamic needed from the corner taker.

No longer would the flat pass to the near post be the sole goal for Seattle. They could instead use passes over the 6-yard box to the far man who could flick it back into the skirmish or on goal. A pass could go just over the near post target into the several runners. And the near post man could still do what he's been trying to do.

But it would be rare for both of the big target men to get double-teamed. If they did either there is one less player able to run the counter, or there is an unmarked Seattle man in a threatening position.

There would really be only two players left who should supply the service on corners with this change - Leo Gonzalez or James Riley. The other would be left back in their safety role, likely with one of Osvaldo Alonso or Steve Zakuani. Either Alonso or Zakuani could restart the offense if the opposing team tries a counter and fails.

Oddly, Wednesday night Zakuani may not be available and the change is even simpler - Flaco to the left and Jaqua to the right. Sure, the speed wouldn't be there, but there would be plenty on the bench with Fucito, Estrada, Montano and Nyassi, but it would leave Sturgis on the pitch. If Zakuani is healthy I wouldn't want to see the Jaqua on the Right experiment against Monterrey as Seattle needs all the defense it can get.

So maybe we see it busted out against Chicago. Either way, I want to see Nate Jaqua get a long run of minutes on the right again. Seattle will have better overall passers on the pitch, be stronger on set-plays and have better forward defense.

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