Nov 6, 2012, 9:46 AM EST
The Seattle Sounders appear to be getting one attacking star back on the field – while simultaneously losing another one.
Eddie Johnson is ready to play, apparently, as Seattle preps for Thursday’s match in Utah. The conference semifinal series with Real Salt Lake remains even following last week’s 0-0 draw at CenturyLink Field.
But midfield creator Mauro Rosales is ailing; he missed practice Monday after apparently straining a hamstring in the final minutes of Friday’s draw.
There is some cover, as Sounders coach Sigi Schmid has moved his midfield pieces around at times this year. Brad Evans and Christian Tiffert can play multiple roles. While that gives Schmid options, he still has to pick among a stable of replacement parts.
That list starts with Steve Zakuani, although the one-time left-sided force started just four matches this year, still trying to hit top gear after his long recovery. Besides, a start for Zakuani could leave the Sounders’ somewhat exposed defensively, since tracking and tackling is hardly his forte.
Otherwise, the choices for Rosales’ right-sided midfield role include David Estrada, Alex Caskey, Andy Rose and Mario Martinez.
None of them have Rosales’ smarts, his ability to find space nor (perhaps most importantly) his ability to create out of the midfield. Not even close, really.
To illustrate the problem, consider that Evans, for everything he adds in ability to organize, steady and heady play, etc., he has just four assists. Rosales led the team with 13. The only Sounder even close is Fredy Montero, who had eight assists.
And this looks significant: Rosales assisted on six of Johnson’s 14 goals this year.
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