Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SOUNDERS FC: Stacked midfield

Steve Zakuani
It is well known that a huge problem for the Sounders this year has been the shortage of goals. This being said, it hasn’t been for a lack of opportunities. In fact, the Sounders set a team record with 15 shots in the first half against Houston, and 26 for the game. They tied the mark of 12 corner kicks in a match.

A large part in creating scoring chances can be credited to the Sounders midfield. It seems no matter what lineup Sigi chooses at midfield, it is strong. With that being said, there are only a certain amount of spots and too many quality midfield players. While this is definitely a good problem, it has forced Sigi into making some tough decisions early on. As the season plays out I’m sure the midfield will be much more solidified, but until then, here is a look at how I see the midfield shaping up.

To Continue...Lets start with the obvious players…

Steve Zakuani: He is lightning quick on the outside. His ability to take the ball to the touchline while creating separation from the defense is dangerous. There really isn’t any question that as long as Zakuani is healthy, he is a starter. He does have the Sounders only goal of the season.

Osvaldo Alonso: He is as close to a sure thing as you get. Rarely does he have an off game. His work as the defensive midfielder is solid, constantly winning balls in the middle and distributing them forward. He has started all three games so far for the Sounders and I don’t expect this to change.

Now, to discuss the players who are still battling for midfield positions….

Alvaro Fernandez: At the beginning of the year it seemed Fernandez had the right-mid spot locked up. His play hasn’t necessarily been bad, but I feel the energy he brings has been lackluster at times. Perhaps the real problem isn’t with what Fernandez has or hasn’t done, but possibly how Erik Friberg has played.

Erik Friberg: Against Houston, Sigi chose to bench Fernandez, starting Friberg in his place. While at first I was surprised by the decision, Friberg was impressive. He seemed to always be around the ball, and was a big part of creating chances in the first half. I could see Friberg eventually moving back into the middle where I feel he fits nicely.

Brad Evans: I will start out by saying that I have never been sold on Evans. That being said, I was impressed with him against Houston. My main gripe with Evans playing in the center has always been his ability to keep possession of the ball long enough to distribute it. On Friday, he showed he could be effective in doing so. Sigi has always liked Evans, which could go a long way in ultimately deciding whether or not he remains in the starting lineup. Although, to me Evans is still better suited as an outside midfielder.

Mauro Rosales: The minute he entered the match Friday, there was an immediate spark. Rosales work rate was insane and he won many challenges. I was extremely impressed with his hustle and style of play. If Rosales could play with the same kind of energy for a large portion of the match, I believe he would start. However, he might be better suited coming on as a substitution to provide that spark that is often lacking in the later parts of the match.

For now, Sigi is happy with the battle unfolding between the midfielders.

"It's good to have competition, you know?," Schmid said. "It's a matter of whoever's playing best is going to go out there and play. In the last game I thought Evans and Friberg did a good job. Both of them. Obviously Fernandez is a quality player who's scored some big goals for our club as well and he's a guy who can play there. Rosales is coming on.”

The Sounders will look to get their first win of the season this Saturday as they face the San Jose Earthquakes in Santa Clara. Match time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be shown on KING 5.

Reach Ryan Kinney at