Montero scored 17 times in all competitions last year
Perhaps the biggest question facing the Sounders in 2013 is where the goals will come from. Montero and Johnson were one of the best goal scoring tandems in MLS in 2012 but Montero has moved back home to Colombia this year. Through their first four games this year the Sounders have been blanked twice and managed only one goal at home against the Timbers. In their three goal performance against Tigres, two of their goals came from defenders; not a reliable source in the future. With Johnson doing some work with the national team this weekend, the Rave Green will need someone to step up against San Jose and for the rest of the season. Here are a few of the most likely suspects:
Zakuani could be the key to the Sounders offense in 2013
Steve Zakuani: Before a frightening injury that robbed him of most of 2011 and 2012, Steve was a ten goal scorer for this club. So far in 2013 he seems to be playing well having assisted both of Johnson’s goals. Play making, goal scoring wingers are seriously tough to deal with. If Zakuani is near his 2010 form, it will go a long way to replacing the missing production and could make the Sounders tougher to defend than they’ve been the last couple years. But pinning their hopes on someone who hasn’t played a full season in three years is risky.
Mauro Rosales: When Montero and Johnson were on the pitch together, Montero often played the role of second striker; a sort of goal scoring attacking midfielder. Rosales naturally fits into this spot but where Montero was a scorer who could pass and play-make Rosales is a true attacking midfielder who looks to set up teammates before trying his own luck. If other players have good goal-getting seasons then Rosales can drop deeper and continue in his point-guard duties. If no one steps up the Sounders may need him to stretch the back of the net more often. The concern is that he has yet to display the ability to consistently score anywhere he has played.
Rosales may have to adjust his role if the Sounders are going to find goals this season
Sammy Ochoa/David Estrada/Obafemi Martins: With Montero gone, the other forwards logically will pick up many of his minutes. It is tougher to predict how they’ll use those minutes. Estrada and Ochoa showed good signs last year in the time they did get. But most of those opportunities were in cup play, not against first team opposition. Martins comes to the club with an outstanding goal scoring record with Inter Milan and Newcastle. However he is a couple years removed from that form, having bounced between Russian, English, and Spanish clubs before landing in Seattle. There’s good reason to believe one or more of these three will have a good year but not enough reason to expect it.
Working in the Sounders’ favor is one of the best midfields in the MLS. Whoever plays up front will have the benefit of good service and the defensive support to take chances. They may also be able to exploit any extra attention that Johnson receives. In the end, it may come down to Johnson. He’s off to a good start and if he can improve on his outstanding production in 2012 it should make everyone on the team better. If he struggles as the featured striker the Sounders may need to shut teams out to get wins. Having to improve one of the league’s best defenses is not easy prospect.
Even with Johnson out this weekend is a good chance to get points on the road. San Jose has not looked overly solid at the back this year and will be missing starting defender Victor Bernardez. San Jose thrives on bullying opponents but with Bernardez on international duty and their two hired thugs, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, out as well they should struggle to impose themselves. It is early but falling another three points behind the conference leaders is a hole it would be better not to have to climb out of. A road victory against a rival would go a long way to turning the start to the season around.