TUKWILA, Wash. — Right back may be the Seattle Sounders version of the Spinal Tap drummer. Brad Evans was supposed to start the season there but injury, and now a red card, took him away quite often. Now, entering an Open Cup match against San Jose Earthquakes and a road game to Colorado Rapids head coach Brian Schmetzer will have to test a sixth, yes sixth, right back just halfway through the season.
He could select Brad Evans for the Open Cup. There are a few reasons this is unlikely;
- Evans injury history likely means the team uses the next two weeks as part of his healing program.
- It’s only the Round of 16. Seattle usually goes younger for these games.
- The only other available right back against the Rapids needs playing time and experience.
Yes, there is only one available right back. Delem (6 starts there) and Fisher (4 starts at RB) are almost certainly going to be at the Gold Cup. Svensson (2 starts at RB) has to start in the midfield since Roldan (2 starts at RB) is gone. Evans has four starts, all at right back.
The sixth player with any sort of right back experience is Henry Wingo. He has a single start there with S2.
“A big thing for me preparing for a game is thinking about what I’m going against and the role I’m playing,” Wingo told Sounder at Heart on Monday. “So if I’m in a more attacking position, obviously I’m going to think about what passes do I need to make, or how do I need to prepare to get the ball and what my role is. My role is to create in the offensive end. But then if I’m going in as a right back I have to think as a defender first. I’m not the guy who is scoring goals. I’m the guy who is keeping goals out of our net. You visualize things differently; you prepare for things differently; you have to understand that your role is not the same.”
When the UW and Academy product enters a week knowing his likely role, that changes which coach he sees most frequently. On a week like this, he spends time with the defensive group and Djimi Traore. When Wingo is expecting time in the attack, the focus is with the attackers and Gonzalo Pineda.
There has been a lot of styles of right back that have come through the Sounders over the years, but is their most famous at the role who Wingo emulates. “At right back I would say DeAndre, but obviously I’m not that fast,” he laugh, “but I like to get forward and get forward as much as possible. I have a decent amount of pace, but not as much as him, but I probably play closest to him.”
Look for tight interchanges, bursts of speed and prolonged runs with few crosses. You can kind of see that in his midfield play too, where he tries to get to the endline.
“I like to combine with my teammates and make runs in behind to hopefully get chances on goal and create stuff for my teammates.”
S2 also has the rotating right back issues. Ullyse (7 starts), Nana-Sinkam (6 starts), Wingo (1 start) and Ramos (1 start) have all started there. That means that 24% of the 37 players within the organization have a start as the furthermost right defender.
Depth is interesting and important, but someone needs to take over the starting role, and the next one to stake their claim is almost certainly Henry Wingo.
“I think this is a great opportunity for me. We’re playing against a good side, a side that might field something closer to their first group whether it be Open Cup or MLS play. This is a good opportunity for me to show the coaches, with right back options being limited, I can be that guy now and going forward. A good performance from me on Wednesday is key and it is something I’m looking forward to.”