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Just say No to Andreas Ivanschitz in midfield

He's not the CAM you are looking for

Mike Russell Foto

A couple weeks ago, I looked at a 3-man midfield and what kind of players the Seattle Sounders would need to fill in those roles depending on the midfield style.One notable omission from that piece was the role of Andreas Ivanschitz. It's been a popular refrain this offseason from proponents of playing a more classic archetype of the 4-3-3 that he should play as the tip of a midfield trio. Andreas Ivanschitz as a CAM is an interesting idea, but it's extremely unlikely in practice for a couple reasons.

The first and most glaring being that the Sounders have a grand total of three players whose best position is operating in that space behind the main striker. Dempsey, Valdez and Ivanschitz all can't play in the same space and this type of formation would require the trio to interchange at will just to make sure the attack had any kind of width. As we've seen in past seasons though with Marco Pappa and this exact scenario is that the Sounders frequently become very narrow when playing with aggressive interchanges. If it was bad when it was just Marco Pappa and Clint Dempsey clashing for space, imagine how that's going to go over when you add a third player into the mix.

On top of those concerns, add in that none of the current crop of attackers have great positional discipline. While this makes for amazing moments of magic in front of goal it's really bad for orchestrated buildup play. And if your primary purpose in this is putting your best creative player in a centralized role from which to dictate your offense, you've effectively neutered the point of the role before even starting.

While it's definitely possible that positional discipline could arise, the larger concern of "how do you play effective defense" is still an issue that needs addressing. In the 4-3-3 the defensive duties of the midfield essentially call for faster, fitter players as they all must cover more ground when defending in the midfield. While Ivanschitz has shown extremely good positional discipline and tackling ability, what he does lack is pace and speed.In a three-man midfield that's a severe weak point that can easily be exploited, especially with secondary runs.

The other option in this scenario would be to drop the wider attacking players, ie Dempsey and Valdez, deeper and keep Ivanschitz high to press alongside Obafemi Martins. However, removing both Dempsey and Valdez from the forward line severely weakens your press in addition to weakening your defense in behind. While Valdez is an adept tackler, his best abilities are press-dependent and that may be far too aggressive a defensive stance if you're relying on Clint Dempsey to play in what would ostensibly amount to a defensive trio.

Unless Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez are really going to hammer out the wide areas of the pitch as their own and radically develop some defensive positional skills in their thirties, it is likely that Andreas Ivanschitz's best role with this team will be moving in off the wing. He's really not capable of being a true winger but that's not the role you want your best creator to occupy.

From a broader standpoint though, playing Ivanschitz on the wing removes one of Clint Dempsey or Nelson Valdez from your starting lineup every week. And this is probably exactly what each needs given their injury struggles and national team considerations (not to mention Obafemi Martins Olympic aspirations). Giving an aging core a solid amount of rest throughout the season might be the just what the Sounders need to do mitigate the very issues that turned last summer into one hellacious experience.

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