Seattle Sounders FC opened 2015 with a lineup featuring three players who weren’t among the starters in the final game of 2014: Tyrone Mears, Andy Rose and Darwin Jones.
Mears is a veteran defender brought in to replace DeAndre Yedlin, who left for English Premier League’s Tottenham. Jones is a homegrown rookie probably filling a temporary role, while Rose has been a sometimes-starter over his first three seasons.
However, the lineup that opened Seattle’s 5-0 win over UCLA on Wednesday actually featured more of a different look than just new faces, as two of the incumbent starters played at different positions.
Those starters were Lamar Neagle, who shifted from midfield to forward, and Brad Evans, who slid from midfield to central defense.
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Either move could be temporary. Neagle was filling the spot vacated by Clint Dempsey, who is away with the U.S. national team.
Meanwhile, Evans slipped into the spot previously manned by Zach Scott. Scott didn’t start the preseason at full strength after offseason foot surgery, but was healthy enough to play the second half.
That central defense spot alongside Chad Marshall always projected as one of the top issues to be decided before the Major League Soccer opener on March 8.
After losing Djimi Traore to retirement and Jalil Anibaba to the expansion draft, it had been assumed that the club would bring in a starting-quality center back over the offseason. That may yet happen. But until it does, Evans’ move may be the top intrigue of camp.
“I thought his understanding with Marshall was good together,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Zach Scott was able to get a good solid 45 minutes in. I thought he was very good, as well.”
Meanwhile, Neagle scored the second goal of the game against UCLA from the forward spot alongside Obafemi Martins.
“A little different playing forward, but obviously I’ve played there before,” Neagle said. “It’s just getting back in the swing of things. I thought it went well.”
Neagle was one of five scorers along with Martins, Chad Barrett, Kenny Cooper and midfielder Micheal Azira.
“I thought we created 15 or 16 basically very good chances and we got (five) goals out of it,” Schmid said. … “I think the goals were good goals, and that’s important. Oba’s always happy when he scores goals. Neagle, we’ve been playing him up front and he got a goal up front as well.”
In addition to Marshall, Evans, Neagle and Martins, the holdovers in the starting lineup were goalkeeper Stefan Frei, left back Leo Gonzalez and midfielders Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa. A totally different 11 handled the second half.
“I thought (defender) Oniel Fisher played well for a young kid,” Schmid said. “We wanted to give him a good look. I thought he was solid. We’ve had other people that we’re looking at as well. (Second-year midfielder Aaron) Kovar, I thought he had a good run. Darwin Jones, it’s a little bit different for him at this tempo and pace. But I think what we wanted to get out of everybody was solid.”
Schmid implied there could be more changes Friday morning, when the Sounders play a closed friendly against the Los Angeles Galaxy in Carson, California.
“We’ll probably be a little fatigued,” he said. “… Missing some of the chances or missing some passes came a little bit because we’re in preseason — it’s heavy legs. So we just want to get another good run of fitness out against the Galaxy. We’ll probably play two groups again, 45-45 (minutes). It might be a little bit different than the groups we played (Wednesday), and we’ll see where we’re at.”