SEATTLE – Within a week, injuries have changed the complexion of the Sounders offense dramatically.
With O'Brian White (surgery to remove a blood clot) and Steve Zakuani (right leg fracture) both out for the foreseeable future, Seattle must come up with new ways to replace the due that accounted for four of the team’s seven goals this season.
That begins Saturday night against Toronto FC at Qwest Field (10 pm ET, MatchDay Live). Nate Jaqua presumably comes in for White at the striker position although Sigi Schmid said Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle are additional alternatives.
“Probably at this stage,” Schmid said of Jaqua stepping in for White. “Nate’s been working hard. I don’t know if his fitness is there for 90 [minutes] but he’s certainly come into certain games when he’s replaced O’Brian.”
[inline_node:332786]There are more several options for Zakuani’s replacement, though Alvaro Fernandez came in for him after the injury in Colorado and would seem likely to keep the job.
Luckily, both Jaqua and Fernández are similar to the players they replace, meaning Seattle won’t have to devise an entirely new strategy. While Fernández won’t have the speed to run onto the balls behind the defense, his technical ability makes him suitable to the ground-based attack Seattle often favor.
Jaqua and White are so close in ability, meanwhile, that the switch may be hardly noticeable.
For his part, Jaqua is excited to get back into the starting XI.
“I feel like I’m getting into a rhythm, so hopefully I can step in there this weekend and make an impact and help us win this weekend,” Jaqua said.
Of the two players, Zakuani is more difficult to replace. The third-year winger is one of few MLS midfielders capable of scoring double-digit goals, as he did in 2010 (10 goals).
Similar to an elite NFL receiver drawing the opponent’s best cover man, Zakuani’s presence affects the defensive strategies of an opponent. The midfielder causes an almost gravitational shift to the opposing team’s defensive right, with defensive midfielders ready for a double team.
With that influence out of the match, opponents don’t have to cheat over, making the job a little more difficult for the Sounders offense.
White’s return date is unknown, according to Schmid. Although he appears to be in the clear, the team is exercising caution with the potentially life-threatening condition.
“I think they’ve really got to make a determination and figure out what exactly caused the clot," the Seattle coach said, "and until they can do that, what usually happens is people are on blood-thinning medication, and while you’re on blood-thinning medication, you can’t be in a contact sport.”
Meanwile, Mauro Rosales’ status is in question as the Argentine may have a hamstring injury. He has been taking it easy in training but informed Schmid on Thursday that he is feeling well.