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Estrada's Absence Shifts Roles

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Of possible David Estrada "replacements" no man played more minutes than Cordell Cato during the MLS break. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Of possible David Estrada "replacements" no man played more minutes than Cordell Cato during the MLS break. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Normally when getting three questions the answers I submit seem like things our readers already know. But yesterday, one of the questions was about David Estrada, his injury and how his loss would affect the starting lineup. And that gets kind of intriguing, because while Estrada isn't a "starter" he starts a lot and is nearly assured to get minutes in which he doesn't. He's an Energizer Bunny who played the 3rd most minutes on the team so far racking up 1197 minutes in the three competitions so far in 2012.

He's done it while playing multiple positions. Whereas at the beginning of the year it was thought he would be a Levesque-lite playing in five roles (WF, RW, LW, CM, RB) as a sub and non-MLS player, instead he's been a Levesque-heavy starting as the high forward, the withdrawn forward and both wide midfield positions. He isn't in the "Idea XI" though, and as the team is mostly healthy right now he would only be a spot starter now.

His new role would be as a super-sub and to provide rest. Just as trades and injuries gave Estrada his opportunity, his injury will provide opportunities, but not to just one man. Here the depth of the team can pop out during the tight schedule.

Ideal XI - Estrada starting spaces in bold


Johnson

Montero

Fernandez

Rosales

Evans

Alonso

Burch

Johansson

Ianni

Parke

Gspurning

Target Forward - While Estrada didn't play as a target, he did play as a high forward as we analyzed ages ago. Sigi Schmid really only has two options that make any sense here. Roger Levesque can play up there has a high forward more like an Estrada than a Target. He'll aggressively press the opposition's backline, provide some far post height and can knock in the poached goal. Sammy Ochoa is a traditional Target type. He's big, broad and passes decently with his back to the goal. When Eddie Johnson can't go one of these two will get paired with Fredy Montero. Each provides a shift in tactics, but neither provides the speed that Estrada did.

Withdrawn Forward - This is Fredy Montero's home, but Estrada has paired with EJ as the more withdrawn forward and ball handler. Here may be the biggest fall-off tactically. While players like Cordell Cato and Christian Sivebaek can slot here there are large questions about how either would work. Both are fast, more technical than many fans thought they would be, but they don't have the vision or experience with the Ideal XI to fit into the role. Oddly, the answer for when Fredy sits may be to slide EJ back a bit have either Levesque or Ochoa as the higher man.

Wide Midfielder - Estrada's worked both sides when either of Alvaro Fernandez or Mauro Rosales are out. And only those two are locked into a single side in their typical usage. Cato, Sivebaek, Levesque and Alex Caskey all could start here. Each has a different unique skill. Caskey provides the most technical ability, Cato the most speed, Sivebaek some crossing ability and Levesque the energy. Which of those men start likely shifts based on which DP isn't available. It is here where the cascading effect of Estrada's absence will be felt most.

Estrada's talents and strong grasp of opportunity will not be replaced by one man. His role flexibility could be solely replaced by Levesque, but this would be unexpected. Instead fans should expect even more varied lineups. It won't change what we should expect to see against the Montreal Impact. In some ways the two Open Cup matches and the Reserve Game gave the men getting those opportunities just played in significant minutes.

Minutes

Cato

189

Caskey

180

Ochoa

143

Levesque

127

Sivebaek

81

By that measure the players we should see the most of are Cato and Caskey. A wild card will be the fitness level of Steve Zakuani. If he can go as a sub during this stretch, it would be as a withdrawn forward, where he is the most Estrada-like player in that role. He still has burst speed, touch and vision. While his passing and shooting aren't at Montero's level, he knows the role and his teammates as well if not better than other bench players do there.

Guessing starters in late June's run may not be that hard with Estrada out, but if you are playing prop bets on substitution patterns be more prepared to lose money than normal.