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Yes, the contest for 4th centerback is surprisingly important

Usually depth in MLS is limited to three players per position group, but the Sounders will potentially lose two CBs during the World Cup.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

I have to admit, this is an issue related to preseason that I thought wasn’t important. Gustav Svensson is a more than serviceable centerback, so in a normal season that is adequate depth on an MLS team. It would only be a significant issue if both starting CBs were injured at the same time, which can happen (see early 2017), but isn’t something that a team should expend significant resources preparing for.

But readers here have me convinced that the fourth CB issue is something that needs to get sorted out. The World Cup starts June 14 and runs through July 15. Players will leave a couple weeks prior to that and are unlikely to return to club play until a week or more after their final World Cup match.

This means Brian Schmetzer will be without Roman Torres and Nicolas Lodeiro for several weeks right in the heart of the season. Svensson isn’t assured of being gone, but he was a recent addition to World Cup Qualifying for Sweden so chances are pretty strong that he also will be absent. Neither Panama nor Sweden should be expected to play more than a game after the Group Stage, whereas Uruguay could make a run to the Final.

Still, a worst-case scenario is that Chad Marshall and the fourth CB have to start 11 straight games in the middle of the summer (and that’s before the U.S. Open Cup schedule is out). Not only will the fourth CB matter more than ever, so will the fifth man in that role.

The options right now are limited — Tony Alfaro is the only other natural CB on the roster, though Jordy Delem can also fill in that role.

The club is interested in signing another centerback.

While Sporting Director Chris Henderson suggested they still want to sign a center back to bolster their depth and indicated the team is looking at attacking players with their available TAM, there’s simply no outward sense of urgency.

Internally they have three options. Youngsters Sam Rogers or Rodrigue Ele could demonstrate significant strides and step into a role with the First Team, or the club could be convinced that Brad Evans is healthy and able to be a solid contributor in the utility role that earned him fame.

Brad Evans, if healthy and priced right

Evans is a free agent, but there are no rumors about teams that want him. With his injury history it is unlikely that many sides in MLS would be interested in giving him a starting role. But a team that will lack their third DM/CB for up to two months and could use some fullback depth as well makes a lot of sense for him.

Since 2015 Evans has 45 starts at centerback, seven at right back, four at center mid and four at right mid. He also has sub appearances at left back. His versatility would go a long way toward alleviating concerns regarding Seattle’s depth in defense, as long as he’s healthy.

Sam Rogers is just 18

But Rogers’ goal is to make the First Team by May. If he can do that it would go a long way toward helping Seattle during their known crisis in defense mid-summer.

A towering youth with the softest feet in defense throughout the organization, his training at defensive mid helped him understand passing under pressure in ways that most U.S.-born CBs do not. He still needs to learn more regarding positioning and when to just clear the ball, though.

Rodrigue Ele would strengthen the Rainbow Connection

Like Nouhou, Ele is a product of Rainbow FC. He will be 20 when the season starts. The former Cameroon youth national team player is smaller than Rogers, but a bit more sound defensively. He was very good with S2 last year, but likely needs to bulk up before he takes the step to MLS.

Seattle could also sign or trade for someone

This makes sense, and is possibly something the club should do as well. There are plenty of senior roster spots open. If an American (or green-card holder) wants to join the club in a role similar to Evans, there is no harm in adding someone. Up to 56 games are possible in 2018 (MLS, MLS Cup Playoffs, CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and — if miracles happen — Club World Cup). A more reasonable expectation is somewhere in the upper-40s for games played. Rotation and depth will be vital.

Readers of Sounder at Heart have convinced me that Seattle needs at least one more centerback, and probably two of them.

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