As is almost always the case in preseason, the result wasn't the most important takeaway from the Seattle Sounders 2-1 loss Wednesday to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Rather, what Seattle came away with from their preseason opener in Tucson, Ariz., was a first impression of their new-look 4-3-3 formation.
Seattle featured Nelson Valdez playing alongside Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins at forward, backed by a three-man midfield comprised of Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg and Andreas Ivanschitz.
The Sounders have almost exclusively used a 4-4-2 in recent years, with the dynamic duo of Dempsey and Martins acting as the forwards. But with the midseason addition of Valdez last year and last month’s signing of highly-touted Homegrown striker Jordan Morris, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid suddenly found himself with more talented forwards than a 4-4-2 could accommodate.
“I thought for the first time out, we played it really well,” Schmid said in a Thursday morning conference call from Arizona. “I thought as the first half went on that group got better and better. I was pleased. … Now there’s still things we have to adjust and have to tweak about it. That’s why you play games. But it certainly answered [some] questions for us.”
Schmid added that film study from last season led him to believe that his team already has a degree of familiarity with the 4-3-3 look.
“We showed [video] of us playing last year, and there’s a lot of clips where we’re really playing in a 4-3-3 when you look at it,” Schmid said. “We wanted them to understand that this really isn’t something that we haven’t done before. It’s just something that we’ve made more formalized.”
Wednesday’s tilt also provided Schmid with an initial look at a couple of young faces in his central defense. Second-year man Jimmy Ockford was a first-team starter in place of Brad Evans (hamstring), while 21-year-old Panamian Roberto Chen also made an appearance in a one-half exhibition against FC Tucson after joining the club as preseason trialist this week.
Schmid said that Chen, who also trained with Seattle in 2013, should get a more extended look in Seattle’s upcoming Saturday friendly with the Portland Timbers.
“The last time we had [Chen] in he had a good attitude,” Schmid said. “We liked his work ethic and that was one of the reasons we were eager to look at him again.”