The Sounders have used a combination of youngsters and regulars playing different positions to generate 10 goals their last three games -- and seven goals in their last game-and-a-half. But the attack is about to change once again with several starters returning and one possible international addition

Share story

While the Sounders got an explosive taste of the future the past two games, the team won’t be sticking with the formula that made it happen for very much longer.

With seven goals scored in about a game and a half of action the past week, it would be tempting for the Sounders to continue with the combination of Nouhou Tolo at left back, Kelvin Leerdam at right back and Joevin Jones, Brad Evans, Cristian Roldan and others pushed higher up than usual. But that won’t be the case with Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris set to return this weekend from U.S. Men’s National Team duty and the Sounders likely to add another midfield transfer – rumored to be Paraguayan star Derlis Gonzalez – in coming weeks before an Aug. 9 deadline as well.

The Sounders have long been skittish about paying the transfer fee price for Gonzalez, but continue to be interested in landing the 23-year-old from Dynamo Kiev. Paraguayan media outlets reported this week that Gonzalez could even leave Dynamo Kiev for Seattle immediately following a Champions League game on Wednesday, though sources have indicated that’s overblown and nothing is imminent.

In fact, t’s almost inconceivable Dynamo would let a player of Gonzalez’s caliber leave before the second leg of that Champions League series on Aug. 1. So, the rumors will inevitably churn on for another week or two and Gonzalez certainly won’t be joining the squad for this Saturday’s matchup at Los Angeles.

Gonzalez eventually coming to town would give the Sounders a plethora of attacking and playmaking threats for a team that’s struggled offensively this season prior to the last two games. But starting with the second half of a 4-3 comeback win over D.C. United last Wednesday and continuing with a 3-0 shutout of the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, the shift to Nouhou at left back and Leerdam at right back has given the Sounders a much speedier look than usual up and down both flanks.

“Having Nouhou back there is almost a luxury because then we can push J.J. (Jones) higher,’’ Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said this week. “And Nouhou still gets involved as well. So, it’s a double-threat on the left and if we can stay healthy on the right it’s the same thing there because Kelvin (Leerdam) covers the spot wisely and Brad (Evans) is dangerous up there as well.

“So, I think those are very dangerous positions and we have good personnel in those dangerous positions.’’

But the return of Dempsey, Morris and even Nicolas Lodeiro off a one-game suspension means the midfield spots will soon become crowded indeed. Throw potential transfer Gonzalez into that mix and there won’t be much room left for the likes of Jones, Evans and even emerging offensive star Roldan to join the attack on a regular basis.

That means, Jones will revert to left back and Nouhou to the bench. Leerdam will likely continue at right back, with Evans seeing spot usage elsewhere along the back line and midfield.

And Roldan, despite his three goals the last two games, will almost certainly retreat to a more defensive midfield role alongside Osvaldo Alonso when the latter   returns from injury next month.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer sounded almost apologetic in describing the defensive role he’s used Roldan in at the expense of his offense.

“What I feel in Cristian is that he can do multiple things,’’ Schmetzer said. “And we’ve almost hindered his notoriety because I’ve used him at right back and…he has to cover (as a defensive midfielder) for Joevin (Jones) because Joevin goes up the field. He does so many things for the good of the team and he sacrifices parts to his game for the good of the team.’’

But on nights like the past two games, Schmetzer added, when pushed up to a more advanced role “he’s certainly capable of providing some statistical numbers to back up his all-around good play.’’

That said, Schmetzer is keen on solidifying his lineups to a greater degree than he’s been able to. And for now, the array of attacking weapons he’ll soon have at his disposal means that some players contributing to the recent barrage of goals could soon struggle to even see the field beyond second half relief duty.

On the flip-side, Schmetzer has seen what those players can do in regular roles. And he may be more prone to go to them earlier in games if starting players again struggle to score as they did for much of the first half of the season.

But for now, with the Sounders finally back over .500 again at 8-7-6 and just four points out of the Western Conference lead, the squad’s level of depth has created optimism about a second half run.

“We’ve seen that the season is very, very long and people go down, you have call-ups, suspensions, who knows what?’’ goalkeeper Frei said. “It’s just the nature of it that you won’t be able to field your preferred (starting) eleven at all times.

“Obviously, we want to have them out as much as we can but it’s also good to know we can slot people in that are more than capable of doing the job.’’