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Sammy Ochoa v Mike Fucito Tactical Decision - Case Study Real Salt Lake

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Mike Fucito drew red cards against Real Salt Lake both times the teams played this year. Might he be a better starting option than the red-hot Sammy Ochoa?
Mike Fucito drew red cards against Real Salt Lake both times the teams played this year. Might he be a better starting option than the red-hot Sammy Ochoa?

After Sammy Ochoa's Pemco goal against Chivas USA last week it seems like the Seattle Sounders have a bit of a battle for that second forward role. Just a week ago the case was made that their roles are different enough that the start v sub decision should be more about tactical options than one player being "better." In the MLS Cup Playoffs the most important game is the next one (well, in the two-legged round one could say they are both important, or just one long game). Let's look at Real Salt Lake's backline, their strengths and weaknesses and see if there are indications as to which style of player causes them more trouble.

From just the games between the Sounders and Real Salt Lake there are indications that the team struggles with Mike Fucito in particular. He got in Jamison Olave's head and eventually on a breakaway could only be stopped by getting pulled down when he would have been on goal one-on-one with Nick Rimando that was just outside the penalty area, but did draw a red card. In Seattle he was taken down by Robbie Russell also earning a penalty. Salt Lake isn't just likely to concede the penalty because of Fucito, they've conceded 7 total penalties on the season when the per team average is 4.6. They've also been shown nine red cards.

But Fucito hasn't scored against them, and Ochoa has the hot touch right now. He's putting up strong performances as a frequent sub and seems to amplify the strengths of Fredy Montero a bit more than Fucito does. Sigi described Ochoa's game as a typical target man after practice yesterday:

Sammy is a better hold-up player, who likes to back into people as a target. He connects passes a little better and around the goal he likes to put things on frame. If you look at the things he's done not just the goals ... he's been around the goal.

That opens a bit more space for Montero than Fucito's speed threat forces the backline to be more cautious. But when Salt Lake loses, what style of play is it to? Taking all losses in all competitions this year there seems to be certain weaknesses to what is a strong defensive pairing.

Team

Score

Style

Timbers

0|1

Set-play

Seattle

1|2

speed/run

Crew

1|2

Set-play

United

1|4

speed/run

Chicago

0|3

speed/counter

Galaxy

1|2

tech/counter

Whitecaps

0|3

speed/counter

FC Dallas

0|2

speed/counter

Saprissa

1|2

tech/run

Monterrey

0|1

tech/counter

None of their losses are to a team that is particularly dangerous using a target man in the run of play or on the counter. Though a relative weakness on set-plays may be exploited by by the much larger Ochoa. His strength in passing in the offensive third probably fits a technical style more than Fucito's. Sammy's current form is hot, he's on one of those streaks.

Salt Lake though is weaker in the final third of the game. As they tire out, they have given up 16 of their 36 (44.4%) league goals in the final 30 minutes. Seattle has scored 26 goals (46.4%) in that same stretch. Schmid described Fucito as well:

Obviously, Fucito is a tough character who likes to bounce off of people. He's got the speed. He's dangerous, got a quick release on his shot. He's got a good shot. He's got a shot from distance. He's got power.

Not only does that description seem to be what is most effective against Salt Lake, the substitution pattern seems to have helped Seattle succeed late in games as well. Sigi isn't giving hints at who is going to start and that may shift in later rounds. Right now though he says both guys figure strongly in his rotation:

They each offer something a little bit different but they are both players that are going to be very important for us in the playoffs.

The numbers and weaknesses of Salt Lake seem to indicate which should start, but since both are late game goal scoring threats who can weaken a backline through different methods who starts should shift style, but not result.