Sounders considering formation change to highlight strikers

By: TIM BOOTH

Updated:

SEATTLE - When Sigi Schmid goes to map out the lineups he'll put forth this season for the Seattle Sounders, the names Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez will be at the top of his list.

Four strikers with unique talents and world-class skill. The kind of depth at the position that makes other teams envious.

Only in the rarest of occasions this season will it be likely that Dempsey, Martins, Morris and Valdez will ever be on the field together at once. And if Seattle sticks with its typical formational lineups of past seasons with just two strikers, two of those stars are likely to be on the bench when most games begin.

Call it the downside of being so stacked at one position, leaving Schmid with the challenge of figuring out how best to deploy such talent without leaving Seattle vulnerable in other spots.

"Having too many good players is never an issue. You can't have enough of them, at the end of the day," Schmid said.

One of the biggest questions facing Seattle in the opening days of preseason camp is how Schmid will balance the four forwards, and will the Sounders move away from their traditional formation of the past few seasons and go with three strikers on the field at once?

They must strike a balance between putting as much offensive punch as possible on the field and having enough defense in the midfield. It's something Seattle must resolve with less than a month until its CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexican power Club America.

"We'll take a look at it and see. As long as the tactics are right, as long as we're playing well and getting chances with it, it will be good," Dempsey said Wednesday. "But it's how you play it. If you don't play it right you can get punished. Just have to make sure we work at it in preseason and see if it's something that will work for us."

When healthy and on the field together last season, Martins and Dempsey formed a dangerous tandem. Dempsey had 10 goals and 10 assists in 20 games, while Martins had 15 goals in 21 matches. The addition of Valdez last summer gave Seattle another option with significant international experience who could be paired up front with Dempsey or Martins.

The wrench in those plans to rotate the three strikers for the 2016 season — in a good way for Seattle — was the signing of Morris, the burgeoning U.S. star who spurned offers in Europe to sign with his hometown club last week. Morris would not have bypassed opportunities overseas to simply ride the bench with Seattle. He also brings a youthful punch of speed that Seattle needs on an aging roster.

Also factoring into Seattle's decision will be how often the Sounders may have their full allotment of players. Factoring in the potential of international duty for all four players could play a major role in the tactical decisions made by Schmid and his staff.

"I don't think you can get all hung up on that and get too bogged down with that either. I think what teams are looking for is to try and counteract other teams being successful in terms of their position with the ball," Schmid said. "So then the question is, teams are possessing the ball better so where do you want to give them possession? Is it in the middle part of the field? Is it on the wide channels? Those are the decisions that you make and put guys out there and create a system the complements the strengths of your players."

 

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