On days like today, it's easy to fall in love with the weather in the Pacific Northwest. Not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze and temperatures hovering around the mid-70s making being outside an absolute joy. In fact, what are you doing reading this story? Heck, why am I writing it? (Note to self: As soon as I'm done with this, go enjoy the weather for a couple of hours before the Seattle Sounders-FC Dallas game starts.)
As you may have heard, the rest of the continent is not quite so lucky. In Dallas, where today's game is being held, temperatures are expected to be hovering around 100 degrees at gametime. But at least it's a "dry heat."
On Tuesday, when the Sounders travel to Monterrey, Mexico where highs are expected to be in the 100s again, only it won't be so dry. Thunderstorms are currently in the forecast, which could make for interesting conditions as the grass Estadio Tecnologico.
The point of bringing all this up? Mainly it's to bring up the idea that we may have to lower our expectations in terms of how much playing time we get out of our starters over the course of the next couple games.
But who exactly are the Sounders' starters right now? When everyone is available, I think it goes without debating that Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez, Osvaldo Alonso, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Kasey Keller will always start. But that's just eight players. As much as we like here like Mike Fucito, we'd be fooling ourselves if we said he is clearly a starter at this point (since that's one decision on which Sigi Schmid refuses to ask our advice). The other two spots seem equally unclear as Brad Evans is bound to get some starters minutes at center mid and Leo Gonzalez seems to be working his way back into left back.
Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Kasey Keller and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado all should be well rested and should probably be fit enough to play in both of these games. Jeff Parke will probably be OK, too, and Fredy Montero has shown an impressive ability to recover. I feel safe in saying those six players should be able to play in both of these upcoming games.
But what about the rest? Given a choice, would you rather go for broke against FC Dallas and chase the Supporters' Shield if it means fielding a slightly weakened side on Tuesday? If so, who are your No. 1s right now? Do you sick Flaco on Saturday because you know Lamar Neagle can't play on Tuesday? Do you try to get two games out of Erik Friberg or are did Evans' performance this week convince you he deserves another shot? Do you play it extra safe, recognize that these are oppressive conditions in which no human should live, let alone physically exert themselves and take it easy? Do you go for broke and just play your starters as much as physically possible?
I know Alan Hinton does not believe in this kind of player management. The question is: Do you?