Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart gives his two cents on two big questions facing the Sounders on Thursday. With Mauro Rosales questionable and Eddie Johnson coming back into fitness, what's Sigi Schmid to do?
1. If Mauro Rosales isn't available, how will Seattle cope in attack?
There are so many ways this could go because there is no straight like-for-like replacement for Rosales. Mario Martinez would be the most similar in playing style. But Martinez was away on international duty as often as he was in training(being a two time Olympian will do that). His skill set is great dribbling, decent to good crosser and he loves to take the long distance shot - think of a hybrid of the styles of Rosales and Montero. Steve Zakuani could start out left with Brad Evans shifting back to the right. This would tweak left-right balance of the formation and would lead to more low crosses to the feet rather than heads. Or Sigi could go for a stronger defensive lineup putting rookie Andy Rose into the center mid and shifting Christian Tiffert to the right mid. When Rose plays in the middle the lineup is more 4231 like. This posture would also be the best at set-pieces.
Right now we're all just guessing, but a majority of Sounder at Heart readers want Martinez. He has 48 total MLS minutes.
2. Is Eddie Johnson as crucial as is sometimes made out? What does he bring to the side, especially in a playoff game like this one?
Johnson this year is not the Johnson of the past. He may actually be the perfect man for the system Sigi uses. Many MLS target men are just large. Eddie is fast, strong, can leap like an NBA dunker and has converted himself into menace inside the penalty area. He has the more single season goals via his head than any other player in MLS history (think about that... McBride, Ching, etc). If Seattle is going to be right sided cross dominant again Eddie is vital. He also opens space for Montero in ways that only Jaqua '09 did. Lastly, his speed is not to be overlooked. Olave doesn't often face players as fast and strong as he is. It's the rare times he struggles (Fucito in 2011). Johnson can do that while also being a central threat.
Seattle went 12-5-7 +16 GD when Johnson started. That would mean 3-3-4 +2 without him.
As an added bonus, here are my answers to Dave's two questions.
1. Injury status and thoughts about how RSL's health will change the second leg?
There are, as far as I know, no new injuries for Jason Kreis to be concerned about at this point. Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave are both recovering and should be ready, while all else seem to be at or very near full fitness. As such, I don't see too much changing in this regard, but for some, 120 minutes might just be too many.
2. If it comes down to penalty kicks are you more confident in Rimando v Seattle players or Salt Lake players v Gspurning? Why?
It's hard to say. Nick Rimando, obviously enough, is a fantastic penalty stopper. The evidence is clear, from the 2009 MLS Cup to the fact that he leads MLS in penalties saved - all-time. All that said, at home, in front of a partisan crowd? It's certainly a favorable outlook. I don't think it will come to that point, but if it does, I give RSL a distinct edge for these.