By Liviu Bird
With midfielder Mauro Rosales out for at least tomorrow’s game against Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders FC has to find a way to replace him without losing any offensive firepower against a team that hasn’t allowed a goal yet this season.
“Obviously, [Christian] Sivebæk is an option, Roger [Levesque] is an option out there. [Marc] Burch has played some midfield. We could move Flaco [Fernandez] over and push Burch up to midfield and play Leo [Gonzalez]. There’s different ways we can look at it.” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid noted.
Levesque came on as a substitute for Rosales in the last 11 minutes of Seattle’s game on Saturday against Toronto FC, and he almost scored a goal off a pass from Sivebæk, who came on for Fernandez. Both provide something a little different for the Sounders: Levesque has experience, Sivebæk has pace.
But neither Sivebæk nor Levesque can replace Rosales’ creativity, Schmid said.
“He’s a very important player to us because of the creative impulses he gives to the game,” Schmid said. “It puts a little more of a burden on the other guys to do a little more.”
Eddie Johnson will also likely miss the game tomorrow, but the forward pairing of Fredy Montero and David Estrada provided three goals last weekend against Toronto. Estrada put the finishing touches on all three, giving the Sounders a 3-1 win and earning himself MLS Player of the Week.
“[Montero is] a little bit of a decoy at times. He withdrew himself a little bit, and Estrada did the hard running up front,” Schmid said, “but it was because of the attention that Fredy drew to himself that helped open up David a little bit.”
Houston (2-0-0, +2, second in the Eastern Conference) is in the midst of a seven-game road trip to start the season while construction on the 22,000-seat BBVA Compass Stadium finishes. But for a team that went 2-6-9 on the road in 2011, the schedule hasn’t seemed to bother the Dynamo so far.
Houston has won seven of its last eight competitive games with the MLS Cup Final being the sole exception. In that time, they have scored twelve and conceded just three. One of those three was in the dieing minutes of a game they were leading 3-0.
Those eight games include play-offs as well as vital regular season games at the end of 2011.
SeaTac native Tally Hall pitched two shutouts in goal, and goals from a corner kick and a penalty kick gave the Dynamo two 1-0 wins in its first two games.
“We know that they’re a good team. They’ve got some quality players,” Schmid said. “They’ve got some big people and they’re dangerous on their set pieces — we’ve got to be ready for that.”
Schmid called Houston midfielder Brad Davis a great “server of the ball,” and he called former USL Sounder Brian Ching “a great post-up forward.” However, despite those two offensive weapons, Houston hasn’t scored from the run of play yet, and it only has two goals so far this season.
Last week, Houston beat the San Jose Earthquakes on a 14th-minute penalty kick from Davis, and in the first week of the season, the Dynamo beat Chivas USA on a stoppage-time goal by André Hainault.
“They’re a team that, for us, is a little bit more of a difficult matchup because of the way they play and the way we play,” Schmid said yesterday. “It’s a little bit different, so it always leads to games that are a little bit not the norm and a little bit more competitive.”
In eight MLS games between these sides, including play-offs, an away win has still never been recorded.
Prediction: Seattle Sounders FC 1 : 0 Houston Dynamo.
Both teams have question marks in the attack coming into the game, with Houston scoring the bare minimum in two wins and Seattle missing one of its offensive masterminds. This won’t be a defensive battle as much as a battle to see which team’s offense can get the job done despite the circumstances.
Injury report —
Seattle: OUT: GK Josh Ford (knee pain); DF Andrew Duran (knee surgery); DF Michael Tetteh (hamstring); MF Mauro Rosales (knee injury); FW O’Brian White (leg surgery); MF Steve Zakuani (leg fracture). DOUBTFUL: FW Eddie Johnson (hip injury).
Houston: PROBABLE: DF Corey Ashe (left hamstring strain).