MLS Talking Points: Dempsey's loss doesn't faze Sounders

For the first time in 2016, the Seattle Sounders are in the top six in MLS's Western Conference. With an edge in the tiebreaker (total wins) and a game in hand, the Sounders overtook the defending champion Portland Timbers thanks to their 1-0 win over Chicago, making up 10 points and three places in the standings in two months since Brian Schmetzer replaced head coach Sigi Schmid and Nicolas Lodeiro arrived from Boca Juniors.

Those weren't the only the only changes Seattle have made.

1. New formation. Under Schmid, the Sounders had played a 4-3-3 for much of the first five months of the 2016 MLS season. They've played a 4-2-3-1 since Schmetzer took over. Much of the attention has been on Lodeiro, who has three goals and eight assists in 10 game but will be suspended for Sunday night's game at Vancouver after picking up his fifth yellow card.

Captain Osvaldo Alonso has been outstanding for the Sounders in central midfield alongside 21-year-old Cristian Roldan. The latter is eligible to play for El Salvador and Guatemala -- via his parents -- in addition to the USA. Roldan never really got a look with the U.S. U-23s but he is the best young U.S. central midfielder in MLS along with FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta, who plays at outside back for the national team.

2. Torres in the back.
After going down with a knee injury just four games into his MLS career in 2015, Panamanian Roman Torres was sidelined for 11 months before returning in the second half of the Sounders' game at Portland a month ago.

The Sounders lost to the Timbers, 4-2, but came back from 4-0 down after Torres entered the game, and they have not lost since he entered the starting lineup alongside Chad Marshall, who scored the winning goal against Chicago. Schmetzer called the Torres-Marshall partnership "a work in progress" but likes the give and take between the two of them. Torres' presence unquestionably helps the Sounders defensively and on set pieces.

“Teams now have to go after Roman, which frees up Chad,” Schmetzer said after Wednesday's game.

3. Dempsey is lost for the season. Clint Dempsey started the first four games of the Schmetzer (MLS) era as the Sounders' head coach before being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat. Seattle tied two games and lost the third -- the Portland game -- after Dempsey was lost. The Sounders have won all three games since then to take charge in the race for the sixth playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Schmetzer has started the same front six in all three wins: Alvaro Fernandez, Andreas Ivanschitz and Lodeiro behind Jordan Morrisand in front of Roldan and Alonso. The Sounders' strong mindset has been a constant over the last two months. If there were any doubts, they showed them since Dempsey was lost.

"We lost Dempsey," Schmetzer said after the Chicago game. "What have we done?"

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