Without scorers, Sounders in flux

SOUNDERS FC: Team must figure out how to replace Zakuani, White (2 goals each)

April 30, 2011 

More secrets than usual could be revealed tonight at Qwest Field.

Old scouting reports could prove almost useless when evolving Toronto FC visits a Sounders FC side that is reworking its attack after losing two top offensive players: midfielder Steve Zakuani and forward O’Brian White.

Zakuani – who has two of the Sounders’ seven goals this season – is out after suffering a fractured right leg last week at Colorado. And White – who also has two goals – will miss the chance to face his former team because of the discovery and removal of a blood clot in his left leg.

“It just forces us to change a little bit because there are not many players in our league who can do what Zakuani can do in terms of their ability to beat defensive players one-on-one on a consistent basis from a flank area,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “So it alters how you look at it. You always have to use the talents of the players, so it depends who’s out there, and that depends how we change.”

Schmid hasn’t shown much interest in tipping his hand.

When asked this week who might replace White and Zakuani, he has recited most of the remaining names on the roster at those respective positions.

In place of White: maybe Nate Jaqua, Michael Seamon or Lamar Neagle. In place of Zakuani: maybe Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg, Michael Fucito, Michael Tetteh or Miguel Montano.

Those potential changes can be figured in, along with the fact that Schmid adjusted half of his defensive back line last week – with Patrick Ianni and Tyson Wahl moving in for Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez – and first-year Toronto coach Aron Winter can hardly know what to expect.

“They’re probably thinking a little bit ‘How are they going to play, and what are they going to do?’ ” Schmid said. “But Aron Winter’s focus with his team is trying to establish how he wants to play. I think he’s less concerned about the opposition right now.”

For now, Winter appears to be still tinkering.

And that makes Toronto as much of a mystery as the Sounders.

“You look at pictures of the players that are on their media guide, you determine who these guys are,” Schmid said, mostly joking. “Obviously, they made a lot of changes; they brought in new faces, people from Europe, as well, into their team.

“There are a few guys obviously who we know, whether it’s a (Maicon) Santos or a (Jacob) Peterson or guys like that; (Dan) Gargan, Ty Harden … Alan Gordon. But there are a lot of new people, and what makes it a little bit harder is they’ve really changed from game to game.”

One thing these Reds are doing consistently is playing a less direct game than they did when Preki was coaching a game-changing individual talent such as Dwayne De Rosario. Both are gone now – Preki released and De Rosario traded to New York.

In their absence, Winter is having his team spread the field and create space.

That space hasn’t resulted in wide-open games, however. Of Toronto’s five league matches this month, four have ended 1-1 or 0-0.

“They hold the ball, so the ball goes slowly out of the back, and (they) spring their outside guys sometimes, so that’s something we can prepare for,” Schmid said. “They haven’t lost a ton of games. They have tied a lot of games, so they try to keep things close. … It’s a game we are at home. We haven’t been at home for a while, so we want to treat our fans to the best possible outcome.”

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