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Sounders will deploy five-man backline against Toronto FC

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All three Designated Players were left behind in Seattle in the hope of having them ready for Sunday’s game against Timbers.

Waylon Francis will make his return tonight.
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Visiting Toronto FC for the first time since last year’s MLS Cup final dismantling, the Seattle Sounders will be sporting a very different look. The Sounders will deploy a 5-4-1 formation tonight — with Waylon Francis and Jordan McCrary as wing backs — according to a story in the Seattle Times. This is believed to be the first time in their MLS existence that the Sounders have not started the game with a four-man backline.

“We’ve been toying with it in training a couple of times,’’ Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told the Times. “I can take that same set of players and … we can change into a 4-2-3-1 fairly easily without having to make a sub.’’

Just as notable as the formation is who won’t be in it. All three Designated Players — Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso — have apparently been left in Seattle in order to maximize their fitness and likelihood of playing in the match against the Portland Timbers on Sunday. Lodeiro is recovering from a fractured toe and is, at best, questionable for the Timbers match. Dempsey and Alonso are simply being rested, rather than having them fly across the country and potentially play in three games in eight days. Additionally, Sounder at Heart has learned that Kelvin Leerdam traveled to Toronto and will be available off the bench.

In their place, the Sounders will deploy a group that will surely be looking to defend first and catch TFC on the counter. The backline will be anchored by Chad Marshall, Gustav Svensson and Tony Alfaro. The midfield will essentially be two blocks of two, with Cristian Roldan and Jordy Delem sitting behind Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Handwalla Bwana. Will Bruin will, once again, play as a lone forward.

If all goes according to plan, this could morph into a 3-4-3 going forward. McCrary and Francis will almost certainly be relied upon to provide the width while Eikrem and Bwana basically sit in behind Bruin and are expected to do the playmaking.

Against a TFC team that is dealing with their own injury problems, it’s a setup that seems to have some potential, at least.

But essentially telegraphing the lineup to TFC nine hours before the game — and giving Greg Vanney a chance to prepare for it — is an odd choice, to say the least. It seems doubtful that the Sounders would purposefully release the lineup this way, but sharing it at all will surely be second-guessed if the result doesn’t go their way.