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We fixed the Sounders formational problems, you’re welcome

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Mike Russell Foto

The lack of offense is a bit worrying. There are two DPs, a high priced HGP and a fancy creator all up top, and yet the Seattle Sounders are a rather poor side by actual and expected goals through three MLS games. None of these players are in the spot where they would be best. Ryan and Dave talked through a few ideas and eventually settled on the solution. It's still a 4-3-3.

Dave Clark
I have this theory that a couple of Seattle's attacking players are in secondary or tertiary positions. Mostly, that's Clint Dempsey out wide and how he switches with Ivanschitz, as well as Jordan Morris who's skills probably translate better on the left wing than the right, if he's not going to be in the center.

My concept is to move Valdez to the RW as a target winger, Morris to LW and have Dempsey as the CF who would drop back or be in tight spaces with one of the other attackers as Ivanschitz steps forward or slips out wide when a winger goes into a narrow space.

What's the biggest negative to these changes?

Ryan Cowper
The biggest negative here is that you're taking Nelson Valdez away from where he's most effective. He's an aerial monster and good at hold up play. You move that to the wing and you've instantly unbalanced your formation. Add in that in a 4-3-3, there's little support wide for wide players as the wingers need to be direct. That means either aggressively advancing Tyrone Mears in transition or shift Andreas Ivanschitz or Erik Firberg wide. These options can work but you've opened up holes in the Sounders defense during transition play. Add in the fickle nature of winning aerial duels and second balls and that's committing to quite a lot of risk.

Dave Clark
That's a problem even if they move Morris to the center, as hinted in that Seattle Times article. Moving Morris there seems to be putting him in the most comfortable space while sacrificing both Dempsey and Valdez's best positions. So there are still a lot of guys in their secondary rather than primary roles.

Ryan Cowper
I think it's only a problem if the Sounders design their play around using Nelson Valdez's best skills. They could play him as a prototypical winger, emphasizing keeping the ball low and at his feet so he can stretch the backline, but in that case he's just a marginal upgrade over a guy like Oalex Anderson or Darwin Jones. And Sigi hasn't ever shown a predilection for putting players in roles and situations where their best skills can't shine.

Dave Clark
So is the solution just waiting and having the attacking four figure it out?

Ryan Cowper
I'm not certain that's the best solution, but I also don't think moving Valdez away from the main striker role is a good choice either.

I hate to sound like a broken record after spending an offseason harping on my belief that Andreas Ivanschitz should not be playing the middle, but a serious discussion of revamping this team's attack should start with moving him wide. We saw how effective he was last season moving in off the wing when Dempsey moved high alongside Obafemi Martins. That's a role where the Sounders can use him to great effect and definitely has much greater offensive inclusiveness than shifting Valdez out wide.

Dave Clark
But getting him out onto the wing means moving away from the 4-3-3 or dropping Clint back into the 10/WF. I'm pretty certain they're sticking with the 4-3-3 on an organizational level. Do you have the same warnings about Clint in that space that you did about Andreas?

Ryan Cowper
You can move Ivanschitz into wide space and still play a 4-3-3. The main functional difference between the two is how the wide players defend and where the player under the main striker works. As we've seen this year, the Sounders defend with a three-forward set and use the player under the main striker for secondary pressing. Ivanschitz frequently presses on the frontline, so there's no question of if he can press. So far, I'd argue the Sounders' biggest issue is the relative immobility of Ivanshitz and if you stick him out on the wing, the concern of him moving in and impinging on Dempsey's space is mitigated simply by the limitations he already possesses.

As for Clint, I've harped previously on how the Sounders are going to defend in a three-man midfield and so far they've basically went ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in that department so the main concern I have with Dempsey in that central role is gone. I have general concerns with that approach but if that's the way Sigi wants to play it, Clint can easily slot into that role in the middle.

Dave Clark
My main issue with the Ivanschitz to LW and Dempsey to CAM is that we leave Morris out right. Of all the places he can play that's probably his weakest. He's not a great crosser. His left foot is somewhere between poor to average. So, in Dave's ideal world I want Morris as the CF or LW, where he can cut in on his right. I also want Dempsey in a free role centrally (which happens if he's the CF or the CAM). I guess one could do Ivanschitz as the LW, Dempsey to CAM, Morris to CF and Valdez to RW, but we are again left with Valdez in the weaker of the two roles where he is most suited.

But, he's the only one where that's significant...so maybe that works.

Ryan Cowper
The other option is moving Ivanschitz to RW and Morris to the left. That gives the Sounders a very familiar look to what comes off their bench when they bring on Aaron Kovar and Anderson/Jones. You bring Morris onto the right foot playing as an inverted winger which opens space for Joevin Jones wide to attack the space in behind the fullback when he tracks Morris' run. I tend to like Mears better on the overlap than attacking into open space. You also put this team's best passer onto his best foot for cross field switches. That also serves to open channels in opposition midfields for late runs which is something the Sounders have more aggressively pushed Alonso into doing this year.

Dave Clark
I like that idea. It's sorted. We become the coaches and do this. Hopefully Clint likes it too.