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Sigi Schmid Faces Tough Lineup Choices

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Andy Rose has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 2 games. How much time will that get him in the Open Cup Final?
Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
Andy Rose has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 2 games. How much time will that get him in the Open Cup Final? Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Wednesday's 6PM US Open Cup Final is just another lineup challenge for Sigi Schmid in a year that has seen the Seattle Sounders play on short rest several times already. But this is the first time in 2012 when those choices literally have a Cup on the line. The Sunday night lineup was not weakened in order to rest anyone. It was basically an "Ideal XI" of those who have trained for more than a week with the team.

In fact, that lineup featured all three Sounders with more than 2,000 all-competitions minutes in 2012. There is little doubt that Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso and Jeff Parke could go 90 on Wednesday. Looking at past Open Cup games, there are five players that played in the previous four matches. Of those, Cato and Ochoa seem unlikely to feature since the uber-hot tandem of Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales will almost certainly not be benched. The other three offer interesting opportunities. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Zach Scott are rested. They are both more defensive players than the ones they are replacing. The other is Andy Rose. Let's get to that in a bit.

Lining up on the left would seem to be Marc Burch. Though Leo Gonzalez had a strong performance, Burch has 600 more minutes than Leo. Michael Gspurning is healthy and his leadership seems to be a strong reason for the team's defensive success. At this point nine slots seem quite likely.

The final two slots are the most interesting as all four players played against the Galaxy. Those players for the two spaces feature the most role flexible player on the team, who also happens to have played the 4th most minutes on the season. Brad Evans, like Rose is best as a central midfielder. But there's this new DP here who is also best as the non-Alonso midfielder. The last of the four just happens to be energetic Alex Caskey, who hasn't logged many minutes on the season, but did start the last three matches across all competitions.

It is the choice as to who starts on the left and in the middle that will most define the Sounders' attempt at the historic fourth Open Cup in a row. If Christian Tiffert is judged to be ready for a full 90, which there seems little doubt about, the question is even simpler - who starts on the left?

Many of their skill sets are similar. All are good short passers (Caskey, Evans and Rose all complete between 62-65% of passes in the offensive third). They occupy space well defensively. All are right footed. Rose and Evans are good headers and tacklers. Caskey has the best long range shot. Evans is the best PK taker on the team. Rose is the best opportunist.

Caskey has 2 goals and 6 assists. Rose has 4 goals and 4 assists. Evans has 3 goals and 1 assist. None are likely to be the goal scorer that makes the difference, but all are capable of offensive support.

Sporting Kansas City, on that side of the field, will use Kai Kamara as there forward, so Burch will need help defense at times. Graham Zusi is in a kind of left center mid role, so the left mid will need to help pressure his service. Michael Harrington is a right back that likes to get forward.

It's a tough choice for Sigi. There isn't a backup left mid at this time. The natural left mid on the team is a rookie. The hottest scorer on the team not named EJ is also a rookie and has more training time at centerback than he does wide. Then there's Evans. Oft-maligned by fans, he's played in the most big games and is a coach on the field. His perception of spacing is as strong as can be at this level. He's started on the left only once according to Football-Lineups.com.

Here's a best guess at the lineup along with their all competitions goals and assists. Left mid is blank. Call it a cop-out, but the data seems to indicate too many directions or none.

Johnson (11/2)

Montero (9/7)

Rosales (1/10)

Tiffert (0/0)

Burch (0/3)

Alonso (5/3)

Scott (1/1)

Hurtado (0/1)

Parke (0/1)

Gspurning (0/0)