Opta Spotlight: If healthy, Rosales is MLS' top playmaker
MLSsoccer.com continues to take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 15-8-11 (56 points); 51 GF / 33 GA (+18 GD)
2012 Seattle Sounders Average Position
One thing in particular stands out about the Sounders' average position plot: Eddie Johnson (7) and Fredy Montero (17) seem to prefer the same space.
Now, that's certainly not a damning indication of their ability to play together, but it does suggest that the duo never truly figured out how to play off each other and utilize space during 2012 – cue collective eye roll from Seattle fans weary of that particular talking point.
As it stood after 2012, nobody owned the left flank enough to make an appearance on the graphic, skewing positioning to the right, but it's probably a safe bet to pencil in one of Steve Zakuani, Christian Tiffert or Mario Martínez in that role come 2013.
2012 Seattle Sounders Passing Matrix (Download HERE)
The Sounders may boast the most envied glut of attacking talent in MLS, but it's abundantly clear none of those skill players run the side. That responsibility goes to midfield anchor Osvaldo Alonso, who turned in a career year in 2013.
The Honey Badger, as he's affectionately known in the CenturyLink stands, led Sigi Schmid's side in completed passes with 1,526 – the fourth-highest total in MLS behind Dax McCarty, Kyle Beckerman and Jeff Larentowicz, trailing only the New York man in completion percentage (85.1 percent).
1) If Mauro Rosales can stay healthy, he'll battle Federico Higuaín for the title of MLS' best playmaker
I already detailed Higuain's vast potential as a MLS chance creator, but if his fellow Argentine has anything to say about it, expect a two-horse race.
Rosales may have had some trouble staying on the field come playoff time, but he was the league's most prolific source of chances for his teammates over 90 minutes (3.4), ahead of Landon Donovan and, you guessed it, Higuaín.
Thing is, Seattle might be too reliant on Rosales. He led the club with 76 chances created and 13 assists; Montero was second in both categories with 33 and eight.
Christian Tiffert (25 chances created) should help alleviate some of that pressure, but it's clear the creative mantle must be shared for more the Sounders to finally realize all their goals.
2) Seattle have a chance to supplant San Jose as the league's most explosive team in 2013
It's no surprise that the Quakes finished first in big chances (67) after a 2012 season that saw three players score in double digits and Chris Wondolowski tie the MLS record for goals in a single season (27).
But Seattle were right behind them, logging 61 big chances (those that should result in goals). The difference between the two sides was conversion percentage, as Seattle (41 percent conversion) were well below the league average (44.3 percent).
On a positive note, those chances were spread around the squad – 10 players got on the end of at least two – and Johnson finished off eight of 11 opportunities. Not so positive? Montero dragged down the conversion percentage by finishing at a 30.7 percent clip.
If the Colombian's conversion rate improves and Tiffert continues to integrate into the attack, watch out, San Jose.
3) Who is going to replace Jeff Parke?
Parke never did get enough credit for the campaign he put together during 2012, a year all the more impressive because he started the season in Schmid's doghouse. But now he's gone – a Philly homecoming too much to turn down – and Seattle must find a way to replace him.
If a ball was being cleared, blocked or intercepted (CBI) by Seattle last season, odds were that Parke was the one doing the dirty work. He led the Sounders with 325 CBI, almost 100 more than Jhon Kennedy Hurtado in second, and was second in tackles with 59. Look for the Sounders to be busy this offseason looking for a suitable replacement.
(Note: Alonso led the team, and MLS, with 166 tackles. Only three players had more than 100, and none more than 110. As they say, Honey Badger don't care.)
Random nugget: Seattle had five assists via set piece in 2012. In 2011? Zero.