Just as Eddie Johnson was declared fit to at least play in Thursday's Western Conference semifinal, doubt was cast onto the availability of Mauro Rosales.
One step forward, one step back. That seems to be the status of the Seattle Sounders' health these days.
If we're looking for nuggets of positivity, it would be tied up in the idea that the Sounders are probably slightly better equipped to deal without Rosales than they are without Johnson right now. As good as the Sounders were at creating chances in the first leg against Real Salt Lake, a big part of why I was encouraged going into Thursday's game was the hopeful presence of Johnson. I have to imagine that if the Sounders are able to create opportunities like that with him in there, a few more are likely to find the back of the net.
Of course, I was also assuming that Rosales would be there serving in crosses.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves -- and Sigi Schmid was hardly declaring Rosales out -- but it's at least worth looking at the possible replacements if the Sounders' leading assist man is out.
There are several interesting options. To me, the most likely is inserting Steve Zakuani on the left and moving Brad Evans over to the right. That gives the Sounders a bit more speed to possibly exploit one of the other weaknesses of RSL's defense. It also plays somewhat to Christian Tiffert's strength, as he seems to like floating out to the right to send in crosses. Evans would be there to slide over as cover.
If the Sounders want to keep things as similar as possible, giving Mario Martinez his first MLS start would probably be the way to go. Even though he's left-footed, Martinez is perfectly comfortable on the right. We haven't seen enough of him in a Sounders uniform to know how effective he can be there against a team like RSL, but we know he has tons of talent. That would also allow the Sounders to maintain most of what they do otherwise. Tiffert could still float over for the occasional cross, as Martinez would be perfectly comfortable occupying the center of the park, and Evans is still on the field for any defensive help.
There's also the possibility that Schmid could get more creative. We know that David Estrada and Alex Caskey could handle the wide midfielder spot and maybe their seen as decent option. Maybe Tifffert moves to the right and Andy Rose slides into the middle if the Sounders want to go with a more defensive look.
What say you?