Last week, I almost apologized to Nathan Sturgis. I don’t make much of a secret of the fact that I don’t like the midfielder, on account of the fact that he seems to have trouble with elementary skills such as passing to the left. But without him in the lineup, the Sounders defense clearly struggled. So was it Sturgis, or was it something else?
Another injury, one that will affect the team this week as well, is that of Blaise Nkufo’s knee. Although Sounders supporters noticed gaping holes in the defense against the New England Revolution, it was actually the offensive substitution of Roger Levesque for Nkufo that contributed to the porous defense.
Remember back before Nkufo, when Nate Jaqua was hurt and Pat Noonan was playing? That’s when Fredy Montero was forced too far up. That’s what happened last week — rather than playing as more of a central attacking mid, Montero was positioned as more of a true forward. So what? Well, with Montero further forward, Mike Seamon took on the role of central midfielder, leaving Osvaldo Alonso on his own to perform defensive midfield duties.
With Nkufo out, we could see the same issue again, but with Sturgis reclaiming his midfield role. Fortunately, it seems the team will probably start Jaqua, and seeing as Jaqua is capable of acting like a true target forward, the midfield won’t feel such a strain. We hope.
James Riley suffered a sprained ankle in training on Tuesday and will also miss Thursday’s match. Riley is a force going forward, which unfortunately leads him to neglect his defensive duties at times, but he’s much better than Zach Scott, who will be replacing him. That means it’s even more essential to have both Sturgis and Alonso providing defensive midfield duties.