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Filling the Creative Hole

There is a creative hole where Fredy Montero spent so much of his time. The ideal XI does not look to have a creative central midfielder in that space. How can Sigi fill it?

Obafemi may look to thread the ball at times, but not often.
Obafemi may look to thread the ball at times, but not often.

Teams are going to face choices on how to defend the speedy duo of Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson. It gets even more complex due to Steve Zakuani sitting on one flank. Sigi Schmid says the Seattle Sounders will need to react to the open space as it is given.

"Do they want to play a high line? Do they want to take that risk? Do they drop off a bit more because they respect the speed?"

Responding to the highline for a team with this much speed will be easy. The ball will be going up and over, or through, that line when it is offered. In some cases this will mean more direct play. In others it will require a long low ball from dozens of yards out, as happened often enough in preseason.

But when that line sits deep the club will need to find that same type of creativity that Montero displayed often enough to earn him 43 all competitions assists in just four years of play. The choices to fill that hole are intriguing. All will cause a bit of weakness in other aspects of the game. Each is a significant change in style for the team.

One thing that does not make sense is putting Steve Zakuani into that space too often. Sitting out on the wing he is already generating more chances (key passes plus assists) than any other Sounder. He is not doing that from traditional crosses, those balls are coming from Rosales and Yedlin.

What then are the options from the XI that Sigi seems to be preferring at this point?

Mauro Rosales - He is a great crosser and a decent passer in tight spaces. With Yedlin playing high and on the flank this is the man Seattle has most often used in that space, though some of that was because he was playing as the withdrawn forward. Of his four key passes on the season, only one comes from the middle, and that was from deep. He has threaded two throughballs from that central position into the box. He is suitable for the role, but it will reduce his ability to cross if he is central more often and it will expose him to more defensive players bumping him throughout a match.
This is likely to be the most common man we see in that space.

Obafemi Martins - He is not really a passer. If he's in that space it will be to dribble or layoff and then burst through the defense. Martins can also use his powerful foot to shoot from that space. That was the other thing Montero did so well there. Of course if he fills that space often enough it compels a higher line in response and he, Eddie and Zakuani then get the counter opportunities back.
We will see this happen.

Eddie Johnson - His time with the US National Team shows a greater ability to pass than he displays with Seattle. He could thread it more in the Rave Green and that wouldn't be a huge shift. Give and go opportunities between he and Martins should be expected. Both have burst speed without the ball that makes this an expected move. But pulling Eddie further from the net removes what made his 2013 so great - his ability to head the ball in traffic.
It will happen, but not often.

DeAndre Yedlin - This is where people think I'm crazy. He is a less effective crosser than Mauro and both play on the same side. At this point their interchanges are often releases of Yedlin to the endline for a cross. Those crosses are not creating chances. Neither is his play centrally, except when he shoots it himself, but he also is not central in the attack often. It is counter-intuitive to most systems, but with the impending arrival of a second defensive mid the counter against would be a bit less effective. This would reduce the late runs into the box from the central midfield, but those are not a part of the offense at this point in 2014.
When Rosales and Yedlin work together off the right elbow currently if Yedlin springs Rosales to a crossing zone the young right back almost stays static. There is an opportunity for him to flash to the middle more often to receive the 2 of a short 1-2 when Rosales does not have the crossing angle. This will but DeAndre in spaces that he occupied in youth ranks, spaces from which his ability to slip the throughball will be maximized.
You won't see it much, but maybe you should.

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