The injury/absences situation continues to brutalize any chance the Seattle Sounders have at victory. It’s for no lack of trying. The Next Man Up theory is working about as well as it can. Brian Schmetzer continues to tweak the formation, trying to get the attack to be even average.
He’s tried the typical 4-2-3-1 (going 1-4-2 -4), the 5-4-1 (1-1-0 +0), and lately a 4-1-4-1 (0-1-0 -1). Will Bruin was the stalwart up top until he went down with injury, and now it’s Clint Dempsey’s turn there.
There may be no better symbol of injury-meets-trying-to-fix-things than right mid/wing. The following players have a single start there in MLS play: Handwalla Bwana, Cristian Roldan, Harry Shipp, and Henry Wingo. Nicolas Lodeiro started there twice and Magnus Wolff Eikrem has four starts there.
Left wing is a bit more stable. Alex Roldan has five starts and Bwana has four. Shipp started once on that side. Even the great controller has no stability. In the formations using a central attacking midfielder, four players have received the nod, with Lodeiro leading the pack (just three starts), Dempsey second with two, and both Cristian and Wolff have one.
The unsettled chaos in the attacking band will not end soon. Lodeiro is gone with Uruguay. Victor Rodriguez is (still, again) injured.
But an attack is equal parts individual greatness and chemistry. Player chemistry is near impossible with that much change. It may be time for Schmetzer to settle on less than ideal personnel in one position in order to increase the relationship in his attacking band, whether that’s two (wide), three, or four players.
The anchors of that have to be Dempsey and Wolff. That’s a DP and a TAM player who have both been brought in to create. With the state of the offense it likely makes sense for Cristian to be the third player in that band. If they go to four, whoever of Shipp, Wingo, and Alex are healthiest.
Yes, this leaves a massive hole for the solo forward. Everything is a poor choice there. As we’ve seen Clint can’t do it there any more. Rather than weaken multiple roles, it’s time to just weaken one.
It’s time for Felix Chenkam.
Starting the kid is no more risky than flooding the midfield with HGPs and draftees with just as much professional experience. The thing is, it only weakens a single cog. For the past few weeks Schmetzer focused on small weaknesses everywhere. That’s not working.
Felix crowds the box, that’s where he scores his goals. His forward passes are rare, because he’s high enough that there’s no one in front of him. He can create — a bit — with three key passes at S2. He does tend to look to his right more than his left. Chenkam applies defensive effort.
Seattle does not need to count on him for more than that. Have Dempsey and Wolff ping the ball off of him, just as Olsen-Estrada do centrally and Hopeau-Hinds do from the wings with S2.
Will Chenkam score? Almost certainly not, but that’s not a change from the current options at forward. Getting Clint and Wolff into their best places to succeed is the only way the Sounders can succeed in the attacking end, at least until Lodeiro and Rodriguez get back and the white whale (DP) comes in August.