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There’s an elephant in the proverbial room that is the Seattle Sounders’ starting eleven; and his name is Gonzalo Pineda.
The former Mexican National Team midfielder, who represented his team 44 times between 2004 and 2008 including a trip to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, has been the topic of much discussion in the Rave Green fan base lately, and for almost entirely negative reasons.
Since the Sounders’ run of poor form began against Sporting Kansas City over a month ago, Pineda has played 495 of the possible 630 minutes over the course of 7 MLS matches. Five of those games have been losses.
To be fair, Pineda wasn’t in the squad for the Sounders’ gut-wrenching 2-0 loss at the hands of San Jose Earthquakes, but even with that in mind it’s undeniable that the Mexican’s performances have been below par.
Much of his criticism is coming from the fact that the Sounders’ number 8 seems unable to complete a full 90 minutes without losing his edge, over the past few matches there have been multiple instances in which Pineda has given the ball away in a dangerous spot for the his side, most prominently in the Sounders’ 1-0 loss against Chicago Fire when he played a frankly abysmal free kick to the edge of Chicago’s box in the 91st minute, which the Fire easily collected and were subsequently allowed to score the winner on a counterattack.
It’s not been all bad for Gonzalo, though. As highlighted in Sounder At Heart’s podcast Nos Audietis, Pineda’s abilities off the bench seem to be of at least some use to the Sounders, as he still certainly has the ability to close games out when he has energy left to do so.
Osvaldo Alonso’s return to the starting eleven after his lengthy injury could prove to make up for Gonzo’s dwindling ability, but the Mexican international may be running short on time to prove himself as a useful starter for the Sounders’ with their acquisition of Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg, who prefers to play in the same position as Pineda and may prove quickly that he has the greater ability of the pair.
One of Gonzalo’s assets that allowed him to contribute greatly to the Sounders’ success last season was his ability from dead ball situations, but as emphasized by the simply inexcusable free kick against Chicago, his talents in that area seem to be disappearing just as quickly as his stamina.
Things will certainly be interesting this Saturday when the Sounders host the bottom team of the Western conference: Colorado Rapids. Sigi Schmid’s men have already beaten the Rapids twice this season, 3-1 in their sixth match of the 2015 MLS season and 1-0 six matches later.
With a chance to sweep the season series between the two sides, the Sounders will certainly be looking to field their strongest eleven players, but who will get the nod between Pineda and Friberg? The former seems more likely, given Friberg’s fairly recent arrival with the team, but stranger things have happened.