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Seattle Sounders finding stability through unexpected Servando Carrasco-Osvaldo Alonso MF pairing

Servando Carrasco takes on Rafael Baca

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. – Servando Carrasco started alongside Osvaldo Alonso last Saturday, the second straight game in which they were paired together. It may seem like an unremarkable statement on it's own, but it's a big deal for the Seattle Sounders.

The 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids marked just the third time all year that the Sounders have managed to start the same pair of central midfielders in consecutive games. If Carrasco and Alonso manage to start against Chivas USA on Sunday (11 pm ET, Univision Deportes), as expected, it would be the first time all year that the same pair has started in three consecutive games. The Sounders still haven’t started same four midfielders in two straight games all year.

While the club has experienced flux at virtually every position, the center of midfield has been particularly unstable, with seven different pairs starting the 18 league games.

“When you’re changing that pairing in the middle of the midfield, it makes it hard for your team to not be disjointed a little bit because that’s your engine room,” head coach Sigi Schmid said.

So far, one of Seattle’s least experienced players has seen the most playing time. Carrasco had played just 924 minutes coming into this third MLS season and seemed to almost be an afterthought heading into this year. Though injuries to other players have contributed to his career-best run of 12 straight starts, he’s also helped himself by making the most of his time.

Carrasco has scored his first goal and registered his first assist, but more importantly he’s also been part of Seattle’s two most effective starting pairs. In the 252 minutes he’s played alongside Andy Rose, the Sounders have outscored their opponents 6-2. When he’s been paired with Alonso, the Sounders have outscored their opponents 8-2 in 412 minutes.

Sounders midfield combinations in 2013
Combination Apps. Minutes GF GA
Alonso-Carrasco 6 410 8 2
Carrasco-Rose 4 252 6 2
Carrasco-Joseph 5 245 3 8
Alonso-Rose 4 208 1 2
Alonso-Joseph 2 163 1 0
Carrasco-Evans 2 148 2 2
Alonso-Evans 1 79 1 2
Evans-Rose 1 61 0 1
Evans-Caskey 1 29 0 0
Evans-Joseph 1 25 0 0

Carrasco has been paired with with four different players this year, something he credits with helping his game mature.

“Everyone of those players brings something a little different to the table,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s just making that adjustment. The day before a game knowing that we’re going to play with each other and knowing what to expect from that player.

“I think it’s knowing who you’re going to play with and understanding what you’re going to get from them.”

While it’s still far too early to draw any conclusions, Carrasco and Alonso appear to be forming an effective partnership as a double-pivot, with each player taking turns getting forward.

In the Sounders’ last game, the duo was a combined 70-for-86 passing with 22 recoveries.

“This past weekend was a step in the right direction,” Carrasco said. “I think we’re developing that understanding of each other and each other’s movement.”