It could have been much worse for the Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday night in Leg 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series with the Portland Timbers if Osvaldo Alonso had not scored a late goal to bring Seattle within 2-1.
They are still very much in this series but face a tough task in needing to get a win at Jeld-Wen Field on Thursday night. That task will be difficult but could be a little easier with the continued fitness improvement of right back DeAndre Yedlin and forward Obafemi Martins along with the return of goalkeeper Michael Gspurning from suspension.
Yedlin’s presence was clearly missed in the first leg as Zach Scott could not match the pace of Portland’s Rodney Wallace. Scott is also a more defensive minded player so he did not push into the attack on the right side as much as Yedlin would do. Scott is questionable for the second leg as he was diagnosed with a cracked rib that was sustained in the second half — he would eventually be subbed out for Mauro Rosales.
The return of Martins to the lineup would be very nice for manager Sigi Schmid who will need to find a replacement for Lamar Neagle. Neagle picked up a yellow card in the 47th minute, his second of the postseason, and will be suspended for the second leg in the Rose City. Schmid could also put Mauro Rosales up front if needed though Rosales is used better in a service role on the wing.
If Martins is not fit to play, Schmid should really consider using a 4-2-3-1 type formation. With the players that it looks like he will have available this may be the best tactical formation to use that will utilize his players’ best attributes.
The back four would consist of Leo Gonzlaez/Marc Burch on the left, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traore in the center and DeAndre Yedlin on the right. According to Schmid, Gonzalez has been dealing with a nagging injury which could propel Burch into the starting XI. Both of those players have excellent crossing abilities and have shown that they like to push forward into the attack when it calls for it.
In the midfield, Osvaldo Alonso and Adam Moffat would occupy the two defensive midfield positions. Having these two players in this position of the field will help the central backs in dealing with Portland three forward attack. If Alonso finds space to more forward into the attack then Moffat will be able to cover the spot Alonso left and vice versa. If the Sounders are needing a goal late then with this formation they can bring in a Shalrie Joseph for Moffat. Joseph gives them more experience and also more size which helped set up the only Sounders’ goal from the first leg.
The attacking midfield spots would go to Mauro Rosales on the left, Clint Dempsey in the center and Brad Evans on the right. Dempsey likes to play off the strikers in the space around the top of the 18-yard box, and this formation would still allow him to do that with Rosales and Evans both in their comfortable positions on the wings. This would leave Eddie Johnson up front alone as the target man; he has the strength and pace to play this role very effectively. This formation allows for lots of positional switching that can lead to confusion along the Portland back line.
Seattle has a good history in the second leg of knockout competitions with a record of five wins, two draws and three losses. And if they want to continue their run to MLS Cup they will need another second leg victory against their hated rivals on enemy turf.