The MLS Team Writers Union continues to grow and so I thought, why not reach out and get my counterpart's takes on relevant questions surrounding their team in the leadup to matches...
In today's Three Questions, I go old school with one of the longest tenured Team Writers in MLS (and doppelganger match for Rob Riggle), Sounders FC's Matt Gaschk...
Jeff Crandall: With Wednesday night's victory over Chivas USA, the Sounders continue to be the hottest team in MLS having won six of their last seven matches. What has been the main contribution to the recent success?
Matt Gaschk: The greatest difference over the last seven matches has been the commitment on the defensive side of the ball. With four shutouts in the last seven matches, the defense has jumped to tops in the West, allowing just 1.04 goals per game, but it has been much more than just the back four. The defensive spark has come from all over the field and the team finally seems to have clicked into place and pulling in the same direction.
With so many changes to the roster over the off-season, it took a lot of time for people to find their roles. Now, even though they have yet to play at full strength, they have been able to find different ways to win games because the core of the team has kept them on the right path.
JC: How much do the international absences of Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey and the injury to Brad Evans effect Seattle's chances for three points on Saturday?
MG: Dempsey has been a tremendous boost for the team – both on the field and in the locker room, where he has helped re-energize a group that was already driven to succeed. However, his addition has been a boost to what was already a solid team, so while losing him means less talent on the field, it doesn’t necessarily mean a loss in the team dynamic.
Johnson has been on fire of late with three goals and one assist in his last four matches, and he has proven to be highly important to Seattle’s success. When he is engaged, he is among the more lethal finishers in the league.
The loss of Evans, if he is unable to play, takes greater effect when Seattle loses its depth. He can play so many different roles for the team, not the least of which is as a coach on the field, that when he is available it is almost as though Sigi Schmid’s roster has additional players on it.
Servando Carrasco has filled in in the middle of midfield and Marc Burch has provided cover on the left side, so there are players available to fill roles, but it is the depth beyond those spots that has thinned with injuries to Shalrie Joseph and Steve Zakuani.
JC: Obafemi Martins has been out for nearly a month with an ankle injury but seems to be on the comeback trail. What has the Nigerian DP added for the Sounders this season and is there a chance he returns Saturday?
MG: After the 2012 season, Sounders FC ownership vowed to find their Robbie Keane. They sought a player with high levels of European success who is still driven to succeed at a high level when presented with the new challenge of playing in MLS. Martins fit that bill and, while he may not be on the MVP-caliber scoring clip that Keane has seen this season, he has provided a world-class striker that not only scores his own remarkable goals, but also creates space for his teammates to find the scoreboard as well.
Although he has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, his seven goals and three assists in just 15 appearances have been an offensive boost. He has yet to take the field with Dempsey – and won’t this weekend while Dempsey is away on international duty – but when he does, it will make for one of the strongest attacks in MLS.