Seattle Sounders FC has started the same lineup for the first two games of this Major League Soccer season.
That will not be true of the third.
When the Sounders take the pitch Saturday at FC Dallas, they are assured of at least two changes, as forward Clint Dempsey is out with a hamstring injury and midfielder Marco Pappa is away with the Guatemalan national team. Defenders Chad Marshall and Tyrone Mears also are questionable due to injury.
Seattle’s lineup could evolve even beyond that if coach Sigi Schmid decides to fill some of the holes by moving previous starters into new roles, thereby creating the need for replacements in their former positions.
Whatever lineup Schmid produces, it had better be close to top form, as the Sounders are on the road for the first time this season and facing the only unbeaten and untied team in MLS.
A look at some of Schmid’s options:
In the first two matches, the starters were Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
In the Tuesday friendly against Club Tijuana, Schmid moved Lamar Neagle from midfield and into Dempsey’s spot. However, Schmid said that he was just looking at combinations, and that his decision on that night didn’t tip his hand for Saturday.
Or maybe he was just saying that for the benefit of Dallas coach Oscar Pareja.
If not, the cleanest move would simply be the one-for-one swap replacing Dempsey with veteran Chad Barrett, who last season had seven goals in 26 appearances including eight starts.
“When (Dempsey) went out for the national team last year, I was able to step in and do a pretty good job,” Barrett said. “Hopefully, Sigi has that same faith in me.”
In the first two matches, the starters were Pappa, Micheal Azira, Gonzalo Pineda and Neagle.
Pappa will have to be replaced. So would Neagle, if he shifts to forward.
One straightforward sub for Pappa would be Aaron Kovar. However, Schmid said he tried to limit the Tuesday minutes for the guys he’ll be leaning on Saturday — and Kovar played 90 minutes against Tijuana. So did rookie midfielder Cristian Roldan. Meanwhile, Andy Rose went only 45.
If Neagle does slide forward, then Barrett could then re-emerge as a midfield option. Or Brad Evans could return to midfield — but that would just create yet another hole to fill on the back line.
Ironically, there will be stability at one spot where the Sounders don’t want it. All-Star defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso hasn’t regained sufficient fitness after his groin injury, meaning Azira will likely make his third straight start.
In the first two matches, the starters were Mears, Evans, Marshall and Leo Gonzalez.
If Mears and Marshall are healthy, this line likely stays intact.
If Mears can’t go, it could be telling that Schmid has directed a lot of recent compliments at rookie Oniel Fisher. The versatile Evans also could slide out to right back, but his likely replacement in the middle would be 34-year-old Zach Scott, who went the full 90 Tuesday.
If Marshall isn’t available, none of the rest might matter because he probably ranks as the Sounders’ most irreplaceable player. And that’s especially true against a speedy Dallas attack, which leads MLS with six goals.
“They’re a team that’s in good form right now,” Schmid said. “… We’re going to make our lineup adjustments and put the lineup on the field that will succeed. We know we have the quality. … That means opportunities for others to show what they can do.”