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The shapeshifting role of leading Seattle's attack

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Without Seattle’s stars, the creative responsibility turned into a team effort against San Jose.

When Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro are both with the Seattle Sounders, the creative focus is on them. There is support from Osvaldo Alonso as well, who despite being a defensive midfielder carries much of the burden for passing and dribbling. Dempsey, Will Bruin, and ideally Jordan Morris, are the scoring threats on the team. But the creative responsibilities are on the two players that occupy one of the wings and the central attacking midfield position.

They are top two for key passes. Lodeiro, who is a modern 10/central winger type is also top four among Sounders for dribbles and passes per game. Alonso and Joevin Jones are also on that list.

Top Creators

Season Average Rapids OG United Quakes
Season Average Rapids OG United Quakes
Key Passes Key Passes Key Passes Key Passes
Lodeiro (RM,CAM): 2.4 Bruin (F): 4 Lodeiro (CAM): 5 Jones (LM): 4
Dempsey (LM,CAM): 1.6 Dempsey (LM): 3 Jones (LB): 2 Svensson (DM): 4
Roldan (DM,CAM,RB): 1.2 Several: 1 Roldan (DM): 2 Roldan (CAM): 3
Jones (LB,LM): 1.0 Bruin (F): 2 Nouhou (LB): 2
Dribbles Dribbles Dribbles Dribbles
Jones (LB,LM): 1.8 Kovar (RM): 2 Roldan (DM): 3 Nouhou (LB): 3
Alonso (DM): 1.6 Lodeiro (CAM): 2 Several: 1 Jones (LM): 2
Roldan (DM,CAM,RB): 1.2 Several: 1 Roldan (CAM): 2
Passes Passes Passes Passes
Alonso (DM): 72 Lodeiro (CAM): 49 Lodeiro (CAM): 71 Svensson (DM): 45
Lodeiro (RM,CAM): 62.7 Frei (K): 30 Torres (CB): 61 Nouhou (LB): 43
Roldan (DM,CAM,RB): 57.2 Svensson (DM): 26 Svensson (DM): 61 Delem (DM): 36
Jones (LB,LM): 47.4 Delem (RB): 25 Marshall (CB): 55 Roldan (CAM): 35
Data from WhoScored Dave Clark

With all three DPs missing, the creative focus didn’t fall on their replacements, nor does the focus transition to other players. Instead it was distributed throughout the non-CBs. Looking at just the win over San Jose Earthquakes, you see that similar position groups are the leaders in these statistical proxies for creativity, but at a lower rate. Now, it is important to note that Seattle did not lead the possession battle in that match, unlike in most of their 2017 season.

Even as a share of their lesser actions, the team leaned on players around the field.

Over the three-match winning streak, you can see the creative burden move through the lineup. Against the Colorado Rapids it was the DPs, Jones (at left back) and an effective Will Bruin. Against D.C. United the creative burden was on Lodeiro and a handful of his teammates.

It was against the ‘Quakes when the team became the star, with all due respect to Cristian Roldan.

Roldan was the scoring force, but he did not take Lodeiro’s role, despite occupying much of Lodeiro’s space on the pitch. Jones occupied Dempsey’s space, but it would be silly to think that this was a like-for-like, at lesser quality, switch. Svensson was the Alonso analog and Nouhou Tolo replicated Jones’ typical role.

It took more than the top four to replace the missing DPs. Brad Evans, Aaron Kovar, Jordy Delem and Kelvin Leerdam all contributed. It wasn’t so much “Next man up” as “Together we are stronger.”

Now, the Sounders are entering another phase of weekly matches. Depth concerns are less important than they were in the first half of the season. The experience of the past three games was a big boost for a team that is clearly in the playoff hunt in the midst of a season that’s seen at least 22 different players start a match.

Brian Schmetzer will have quality that doesn’t even make the 18. He will have players who know they don’t have to replicate the role of players capable of winning end-of-season awards, they can just be themselves—and still win.