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All Cross-Eyed

Saturday's loss against San Jose reflects Seattle's failure to replace key creative personnel. Sounders changes over the course of the game only increased unproductive behavior in attack - channeling the ball to the flanks and speculative crosses to outnumbered attackers. With the absence of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, the Sounders need further changes to offensive style, or more creativity from the deep roster.

The whole world rests on your left foot.
The whole world rests on your left foot.
MikeRussellFOTO

CrossEyed1

Measuring the depletion of a lineup by the absence of a player (3 DPs) or minutes played is often the easiest way to track the impact of injury and suspension. In the case of the Seattle Sounders, such a simple measurement is a drastic understatement. Taken together, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Clint Dempsey, and Obafemi Martins account for roughly 46.7% of the open play passes on the team, when they play. Each of them tend to have an above-average share of touches for their respective positions on the field, and any attempt to replace their production in the same offensive strategy (or similar) depends on giving those touches to a fundamentally different kind of player - there aren't many comparable players in MLS overall, let alone resting on Seattle's bench. The average MLS starting midfielder dealt roughly 10.4% of his team's open play passes in 2014, and the average starting midfielder about 6.4%. 13 more passes out of every 100 come from these 4 players than would be typically expected from their positions.

The San Jose loss may be broken down into 4 game states, divided by 3 key events, and the chart above depicts which players were responsible for distribution compared to the 2015 average.

State 1: 1-28' - San Jose's opening goal

State 2: 29'-45+1' - Halftime, Brad Evans subbed out

State 3: 45'-73' - San Jose's second goal

State 4: 74'-90+4' - End of game

Even in the first phase of the game, Seattle's distribution was unusual by 2015 standards. At centerback, Brad Evans accounted for 20% of passes in open play. Although some differences should be expected from the formation change, the Sounders nevertheless played a customary 4 primary attackers (wings + forwards, with Andy Rose standing in for the withdrawn forward) and a relatively offensive deep central midfielder (Cristian Roldan). Whether you assess the top 4 ("offense pass share") or top 5 most offensive players, the pass share was well below the season average throughout the game. We can pull out some of the key differences more clearly below:

CrossEyed2

The red dash lines represent the 2015 season averages. Even after Zach Scott replaced Evans on the field, the pass share of that role remained relatively high. Marco Pappa's share began near normal, but declined over the game (as should possibly be expected from his recent struggles with illness). The pass share of the 4 primary attackers was persistently low, and the team was more reliant on crosses than normal (despite fewer potential targets in the box).

Chad Barrett's impending return from injury may allow Seattle to return to a two-forward setup, but playing him and Lamar Neagle up top will not account for the missing touches in the attack half. If healthy and available, Pappa can possibly take an increased share... but the team inevitably needs another midfield attacker - whether it's Thomas, Pineda, Roldan, or Aaron Kovar - to step into the creative hole.