Coach Sigi Schmid stirred his Sounders soup a little differently last week.
He stationed Peter Vagenas and Osvaldo Alonso at midfield, moved Freddie Ljungberg just above them as an attacking midfielder, then spread Brad Evans, Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani across the top.
Presto: a 4-3-3 formation that seemed to work wonders on the pitch, if not the scoreboard.
“Offensively, I thought it was our best output of the season in terms of being able to get behind defenses and play well,” Schmid said. “It allowed us to get Zakuani into more different parts of the field: It allowed him to get into the middle more, which I think helped him. He got the goal from there. We’ve got to get him not being a straightforward winger all the time, so I think it was helpful that way. Defensively, I think we solved most of the problems that we needed to. And now we just have to work on our cohesion.”
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Zakuani’s goal came in the fourth minute – the earliest ever by the Sounders and well before Columbus seemed to fully grasp Seattle’s shift from its more typical 4-4-2 look.
However, despite several other good chances, Sounders FC didn’t score again in what became yet another frustrating result: a 1-1 home draw with the unbeaten Crew.
Still, the Sounders took consolation in their 15 other shots, along with their ability to regularly get the ball to teammates running behind the Columbus defense.
“I think it confused them for sure,” said Evans, who started at forward alongside Ljungberg in the previous game at Toronto. “We watched the video again (Monday) and it was just dominance in all parts of the field: midfield and forward. And talking to their guys afterward, they didn’t know what to do.”
Schmid explained that Vagenas’ presence at midfield allowed his wings to push forward confidently without worrying they would have to make a fast U-turn if the ball was dispossessed.
Meahwhile, Ljungberg told SoundersFC.com that the formation places him exactly where he thinks he can contribute most.
And goalkeeper Kasey Keller said the extra Seattle forwards made Columbus work harder to get the ball out of its own end.
“It’s a lot easier to score goals when you win possession on their third of the field,” Keller said. “The more pressure we can put on teams on that side of it, the easier we’re going to get countering and scoring goals. Hopefully, that will continue to improve – and I saw a lot more improvement on that side of it in the last game out of that formation.”
Schmid said the downside of the formation can come on the flanks if wingers are caught too far forward when possession changes.
However, he didn’t think that was a problem against Columbus.
And he gave every indication that some version of the 4-3-3 will be in place again Saturday when the MLS-leading Los Angeles Galaxy visits Qwest Field.
“It’s pretty flexible,” he said. “We can always drop into a 4-4-2 out of that. Those are all number things, anyway. It’s a matter of trying to get guys to use their talents as best as possible.”
Schmid implied that Evans is nursing a leg injury that could force him into a reserve role against L.A. He also indicated that Pat Noonan (hamstring) remains questionable. Meanwhile, Michael Fucito’s mysterious knee injury is improving, but probably not enough for him to see action this week. ... Once again this season, the Sounders are involved with the Nothing But Nets campaign, which is devoted to ending malaria in Africa. This week, the club announced that a bobblehead doll featuring entertainer and minority-owner Drew Carey will be part of the effort/ The doll is for sale ($30) at the Qwest Field Pro Shop, with proceeds going to the campaign.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer