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Sounders attacking band is a tactician's wet dream

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Between three Designated Players, a former Austrian international, and the newest USMNT striker, the Sounders have an embarrassment of riches up front

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Sounders are in for a shift this year. From Sigi Schmid and the coaching staff to Garth Lagerway and the front office, they've primed the team and the narrative for a shift away from the familiar stylings of the 4-4-2 the entire offseason.

Whether that's 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, the most serious change is going to be how the Sounders midfield is structured. That structure has serious knock-on effects in how individual player roles impact the attacking and defensive bands. Fortunately for the Sounders, once that main question is sorted out, the attacking set is a tactician's wet dream.

The role of Obafemi Martins is the most static. He's arguably the Sounders' best player and when kept high, his holdup play and on-ball skill are both good enough to go 1v1 be successful against any center back in the league. As if that weren't enough, they also have Nelson Haedo Valdez who is also easily capable of filling that role should Martins go down as his aerial ability and holdup play are equally adept.

Where Valdez's value shines is with his speed and defensive ability. Those two attributes should take him to spaces both farther wide or deeper giving the Sounders a potent weapon in the zone between the midfield and the strikers. While Valdez has definitely shown a propensity toward the right side, he'll also likely be deployed on the left.

Clint Dempsey fills the same space between the midfield and striker band as Valdez but rather than offering a more defensive option, he offers the classic withdrawn striker role to the Sounders. Capable of dropping deep and interchanging with an advancing midfielder, moving wide (preferably left) and playmaking from either wing, or moving high off the main striker to attack the opposition's back line, Dempsey gives the Sounders a forward thrust to their offense.

I've made my feelings on Andrea Ivanschitz playing in midfield known and I feel that he's a better fit for the Sounders playing wide off the main striker. He playmakes well from wide spaces, can easily tuck into the middle under the striker, and offers both a solid defensive and offensive presence. He offers more control for a possession-based approach than Dempsey and coupled with his skill on dead-ball situations might be immeasurably valuable when approaching an opponent with a solid defensive game.

With those four varied, potent offensive threats, the fact that the Sounders can toss Jordan Morris in as a wildcard almost seems unfair. The 21-year-old still has a lot to prove, but when you look at the positions above, it's hard to see a place he doesn't fit in. He's played as a support striker with playmaking ability in the academy system. He's played as a winger, both traditional and inverted, at multiple levels. He's demonstrated acceptable hold up play for the US national team. Whether it's Martins, Dempsey, Valdez, or Ivanschitz, Morris offers a depth player at every position in the Sounders attacking band.

All together this team has a plethora of attacking riches for Sigi Schmid. There is no best starting lineup here. Just the best options to isolate and attack each opposition's weakness and the depth to ensure that when one or two players are unavailable via injuries, national team call-ups, or suspensions that the Sounders have the depth to keep chugging.