Shuffling Sounders still looking for right lineup formula

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TUKWILA, Wash. ­– Using the same starting lineup two games in a row is something the Seattle Sounders have yet to do this season.

While it’s entirely possible that trend will continue in Sunday’s game against the Portland Timbers (9 pm ET, ESPN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), the Sounders are at least hopeful that this current month-long stretch of no midweek games will allow for some added consistency.

“Continuity is always good when you can build that,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said at Thursday’s training. “Certainly, now health-wise we’re pretty good, so it gives us the different options. I think the guys, once they play a little bit more together, too, they’ll have a little better feel for the timing and the running off of each other. Again, it’s still a matter of getting the right mix out on the field, so that’s the important part, as well, for us.”

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The Sounders made a small step in that direction against the Vancouver Whitecaps last week when they recycled a starting lineup for just the second time all year. Of course, the last time that lineup was used was back on Aug. 25 against Chivas USA.

The lineup instability seems to have helped contribute to some of the recent ups and downs. Since scoring six goals in that game against Chivas, the Sounders have scored five goals in five league games.

“It’s not supposed to work overnight,” forward Eddie Johnson told MLSsoccer.com when asked about the difficulties of a constantly changing lineup. “It’s going to take time. It’s a learning process. This is a learning experience for us. It’s a goal to win MLS Cup, but everyone wants it to happen overnight. It’s impossible.

“We have the talent in the team. We work hard week in and week out, but sometimes playing in a big city where soccer is big and expectations are high in the club, sometimes we have to be realistic. We can’t put too much pressure on ourselves.”

The progress may not always show up on the scoresheet, either.

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“I think we are one of the best offensive groups in the league,” midfielder Christian Tiffert said. “But sometimes we have to play more defense, like in Vancouver, I think we did a good job. There was some good counters for us. It’s getting better. The game is not only offensive. In some games, it’s better to play more defense.”

Using a similar group of players promises to help the Sounders find that kind of balance.

“Hopefully, we will start to find a rhythm see how we play together,” midfielder Brad Evans said, using his own inexperience at left wing as an example of that instability. “I still think there’s some missing components in certain positions. Just little things that are missing that we can work on. Any sort of continuity can bring out success in the team and hopefully that will benefit us.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.