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Sounders at D.C. United: Three Questions

Guessing the lineup for this midweek 5 PM game on Q13 prior to a two week break is nearly impossible. We try to do it anyway.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday evening's match between D.C. United and the Seattle Sounders ends the first portion of the season. With a short break for the Copa America granting teams a couple weeks to train and re-evaluate their progress the 5 PM game offers a final chance to get three points without their best players, recover from injuries and for players to show their coaches that they deserve minutes. In their second three game losing streak of the 2016 season the Sounders do not have many options for change. It is possible they only have a six-man bench.

Ben from Black & Red United answers Three Questions.

SaH: Which team's slow start surprises you more and why?

B&RU: I think Seattle's slow start surprises me more, with D.C. United having to replace their entire central midfield and starting the season without Bill Hamid. That combined with D.C. United's typical style of play and the fact that Bobby Boswell has been inconsistent makes has made their slow start a reality. Well, all of that and an inability to score any goals, which is something the Sounders know well this year. Losing Obafemi Martins was big at the time (and even bigger in hindsight), but I thought that Jordan Morris was going to be able to fill more of the gap and that Clint Dempsey wouldn't have fallen off so much.

SaH: How is Lamar Neagle doing with United?

B&RU: Lamar Neagle is a key starter for D.C. United right now, one that Ben Olsen tries to always find a way to get on the field. In the first game of the season, that meant starting as a striker in place of Fabian Espindola. Since then, he has found himself on both the left wing and the right wing, as Ben Olsen likes to invert his wingers from time to time. He has scored the team's most recent penalty kick, after some very bad attempts by other members of the team. He fits perfectly into D.C. United's hard-working system, and I am very glad that we were able to pry him from the Sounders before they realized that they still needed him.

SaH: Will the Sounders be able to score against the Birnbaum-less D.C.?

B&RU: If Bobby Boswell has one of his down games, then it is possible. The United captain has been very up and down so far this year, and when he is down, United loses.

That said, all of that was before the best goalkeeper in the league, Bill Hamid, returned from injury. So the task just got much tougher than two weeks ago

Projected lineup

Bill Hamid, Sean Franklin, Kofi Opare, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Lamar Neagle, Jared Jeffrey, Marcelo Sarvas, Nick DeLeon; Luciano Acosta, Fabian Espindola

★ ★ ★


B&RU: How much of the Sounders struggles to began the season have been the result of the late sale of Obafemi Martins?

SaH: Most, but not all of them. While the downfall of Clint Dempsey is mostly related to his lack of a dynamic partner like Oba the fact is that several other attacking weapons are failing too. Nelson Haedo Valdez is probably the best non-scoring forward in MLS. The thing is Seattle needs a scoring forward now that Oba is gone and Clint is a shell of himself. There are times when Andreas Ivanschitz looks like a competent #10. This year those times are much less frequent. He's now more like a poor man's Mauro Rosales.

Then there was the gamble that the FO took when they dumped Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett and Lamar Neagle. Now the depth players are all youngsters without a history of success, and Herculez Gomez who is no longer a goal scoring threat.

The only bright side in the attack is Jordan Morris.

B&RU: There have been plenty of comparisons made between Chad Marshall and Bobby Boswell these past few seasons, and both are playing inconsistent soccer for a variety of reasons right now. How important is he to Seattle rebounding and is there a plan B if he can't?

SaH: Outside of the penalties against Chad Marshall (an odd not quite collision with Blas Perez and a tug on Ryan Hollinshead during a dead ball) he has been the most consistent Sounder. Not only is Marshall playing near the level when he won his third Defensive Player of the Year award, but this time the Seattle defense is quite good. They're fifth in goals against, about fifth/sixth in expected Goals Against and those both include an absurd four penalties against with two of those being complete fabrications.

If Chad can't go then Seattle will be without their top pairing (Brad Evans and Marshall). Since there is a slim chance that they don't have Evans, though he is cleared, they could start both Zach Scott and rookie Tony Alfaro. So while the defense on the season is quite good, it could be bad against DCU.

B&RU: After all of the hype surrounding his entrance to the league, how would you grade Jordan Morris so far?

SaH: B+

A four-game goal-scoring streak is impressive. That tied the MLS rookie record. He's also tied for the Sounders MLS rookie season scoring record. When he's on, he's as good a non-DP forward as this league has. But, like all kids, and he's still just a kid at 21 with just over 1000 pro minutes under his belt. And, unlike the plan, he's now the first or second scoring option. Rather than growing into game-pressure there is pressure is on his every touch. If Morris doesn't score against D.C. there's no clue as to who else can do that.

If there is one thing that is clear, it's that Jordan has more pressure right here and now than he would for Werder Bremen. He has a month where he is the Seattle Sounders offense. His hometown club is having their worst MLS season and he must be the one to rescue it.

Lineup (4-2-1-3 ish)

Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Tony Alfaro, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Erik Friberg; Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris, Aaron Kovar

Chad Marshall is still questionable and Herculez Gomez doesn't look like he has the legs to start two matches in less than a week.

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