If Sounders right back Tyrone Mears senses the presence of second-year defender Oniel Fisher hovering over his shoulder, the veteran doesn’t show it.
Fisher took advantage of the vacuum at left back late last season to stake his claim as one of the most promising young players on Seattle’s roster. And with the acquisition of Joevin Jones, Fisher shifted back over to his more natural spot on the right flank.
But if there was ever any serious competition for the starting job, it didn’t last long. Mears has solidified his spot at right back early in his second season with the Sounders, and he views the club’s shift to a 4-3-3 formation as a natural fit with his skill set.
“At any club I’ve been, it’s never been about the other player,” Mears said Thursday. “It’s always been about what I do and how I play. When you start to do that, it’ll mess your game up.”
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In Seattle’s new formation, it is vital for both Mears and Jones to push forward into the attack to stretch opposing back lines. And though Mears has always considered himself an attack-minded defender, the shift has brought with it both opportunities and challenges.
“It has left the fullbacks, me and Joevin, exposed a lot more,” Mears said. “It’s that when we’re getting forward, we’re leaving a lot of gaps. We’ve not got a midfielder in front of us, so we’ve got to provide the width. When we do that, it’s a lot of gaps in behind. With this formation, other teams will get chances. But certainly, playing like this, we can create a little bit more.”
Mears started 33 MLS games during his first season in Seattle, one of the few standouts of the summer whose form was inconsistent late in the year. There were rumblings that the 33-year-old was discontented with his 2015 salary — $174,000, according to the league Players’ Union — but he was retained with very little fuss during the offseason.
“Seattle took my option,” Mears said. “The way it works here, the clubs take your option. They have the choice. Contract-wise, I wasn’t really too bothered. It was more about playing here, which I’ve enjoyed. If that continues, I’ll be happy.”