What if the Sounders’ Season Started Today?

It should be noted, the season doesn’t start today. Or tomorrow. But the first preseason friendly is coming right up – February 5, against the San Jose Earthquakes in Tucson.
 
 
Given that, and the fact that training camp started this past Saturday, let’s check in to see how things are shaping up, who’s joined the club, who’s left and whether we should be close to freaking out about anything.  
 
We’ll start in goal, and work our way forward. For the purposes of this exercise, Potential Freakout Risk will be scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Joyful Oba goal backflips” and 10 being “Oh, God, the Timbers are going to shred us, aren’t they?”
 
GOALKEEPERS
Gone:
Michael Gspurning. Genuinely nice guy, solid keeper who hit a rocky patch at the wrong time last season, salary cap casualty.
 
Arrived:
Stefan Frei. Via trade with Toronto FC, back after wandering in the woods with a leg injury for most of 2012.
 
Still Here:
Marcus Hahnemann. Another year older, but still looking rock solid, whether he starts or backs up Frei.
Josh Ford. Last season was not kind to the Sounders’ No. 3 keeper, who suffered a patella fracture and was placed on the disabled list.
 
Potential Freakout Risk: 3.
Coach Sigi Schmid won’t make a commitment yet on whether Frei or Hahnemann gets the starting job, but this is clearly a position of relative strength, and choosing between the two veterans is a good problem to have.
 
BACK LINE:
Gone:
Patrick Ianni and Jhon-Kennedy Hurtado. Two center backs whom Schmid recently described as part of group that were “growing old sort of together back there.”
Arrived:
Jalil Anibaba, the Chicago Fire center back who came to Seattle in the 2-for-1 Ianni/Hurtado deal.
Chad Marshall, via a trade with the Columbus Crew. Watching him in practice, he’s … tall. Huge, actually. And not afraid to knock people around.
Damion Lowe, via the SuperDraft
Jimmy Ockford, ditto
 
Still Here:
Zach Scott. Always. Now with manly beard.
Leo Gonzalez, with a new contract, and a groin on the mend after offseason surgery.
Djimi Traore, who hopefully won’t have to carry such a load this season.
DeAndre Yedlin, when he’s not with the nation team.
Dylan Remick, a player barely used a year ago, who will definitely see his role increase, especially considering Gonzalez is coming off groin surgery and is getting up there in years.
 
Potential Freakout Risk: 5.
Which isn’t bad, considering the meltdowns of last year’s group. Clearly, this was an area that Schmid and GM Adrian Hanauer wanted to focus on in the offseason, and going into this year, there are a lot of new faces.
As you might guess, it’s way too early to tell if Lowe and Ockford are projects, or if they’ll be counted on to play a role. 
Also unclear is which pair will win starting center back jobs. Marshall/Anibaba? Marshall/Traore? A little of both?
Regardless, it feels like the flurry of acquisitions should yield improvement, and hopefully consistency, especially with the potential of a new starting keeper as well.
 
MIDFIELD
Gone:
Marc Burch, to Colorado in the re-entry draft.
Shalrie Joseph, still on the roster, for the time being, though Schmid has stated he’s not in the team’s plans moving forward. Expect a buyout soon. Mercifully.
Mauro Rosales. It was probably time. But did he have to go to Chivas? Fare thee well, Mauro, you were awesome for two and a half of your three seasons here.
Adam Moffat, in the Kenny Cooper trade. That sure wasn’t a very good fit.
 
Arrived:
Aaron Kovar, a Homegrown Player signing! One of two this offseason. Kovar is a Stanford product who was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2012.
Fabio Pereira, in the SuperDraft
Stefano Rijssel. Again, SuperDraft.
 
Still Here:
Osvaldo Alonso, with a new DP contract. May he be a Sounder until he retires.
Clint Dempsey, currently on what looks to be a dreadfully unenjoyable Fulham loan.
Alex Caskey
Lamar Neagle. You can list him under forwards as well.
Brad Evans, who will also likely be busy with some national team duties at right back.
Andy Rose. Who, unless someone else is acquired soon, will suddenly find himself in a critical backup role.
Gaping Void, who seems to be the Sounders’ starting left mid.
 
Potential Freakout Risk: 8.
This score will improve – and Sounders fans stress levels will decrease – the minute the team acquires a left mid. Be it Marco Pappa, as has been rumored, or … anyone else. Someone. Someone has to start at left mid, because it ain’t gonna be Aaron Kovar. Or Alex Caskey. Though Kovar certainly has a ton of promise and could well play a major role this season.
 
For now, we’ll all just trust that Hanauer is lining up a move. He and Schmid have both mentioned not being done with the offseason acquisitions. They, and everyone else, know this is a problem.
Also a problem: Depth. What happens when Evans and Dempsey are with the national team and Ozzie is suspended? Because he will get suspended.
 
FORWARDS
Gone:
Eddie Johnson. Let us never speak of the “pay me” celebration ever again.
Fredy Montero. Yeah, it’s technically a loan with Sporting CP, but come on. We’re never going to see Montero in Seattle again, at least not until he’s old enough to come back from Europe.
 
Arrived:
Sean Okoli, the second Homegrown Player signing. Tough to see him breaking through the logjam at forward this season, but down the road, Sounders fans should enjoy watching the skilled target forward from Wake Forest.
Tristan Bowen, through a trade with Chivas.
Kenny Cooper, from Dallas. Hopefully the Sounders get a close approximation of Red Bulls-era Cooper and not six-goals Cooper.
Chad Barrett, in the re-entry draft. He’ll be used as depth.
 
Still Here:
Obafemi Martins. No, seriously! Here’s a picture of him in camp. He came back from Turkey Loan Search 2014™.
Obafemi Martins
 
Lamar Neagle. Also listed as a mid, but he paired so well with Oba last season, it’s a near lock that he’ll see some time up top.
Eriq Zavaleta. Just a hunch, but it’s a good bet we’ll see the second-year Generation Adidas player get some serious time this season, after toiling away in relative obscurity as a center back a year ago.
David Estrada. Good depth player. Plays every moment like his career depends on it. Because it does. It’s gonna be tough fighting for time in this group.
Will Bates. Buried in the depth chart.
 
Potential Freakout Risk: 3.
If Oba stays healthy, if there’s a solid partnership between him and Cooper, and creative chemistry with Dempsey playing behind them both … that’s a trio could be very, very fun to watch. But that’s two very big “ifs.” Little nervous. But a good nervous, now that Oba’s in camp and not wandering around having breakfast with Turkish league execs.
 
So, that’s who’s here right now. There should be some additions, and soon. These are the players that Schmid will have to make work in the fabled “amoeba” diamond-ish formation.
 
In the meantime, Sounders fans will wait. But not too long. The team will be taking off for Tuscon right quick. Hopefully with an impact left mid on the plane.

 

Dustyn Richardson

About Dustyn Richardson

Managing editor and Houston Dynamo writer for Total-MLS. Fan of all Houston sports teams and Manchester United supporter. Still angry at Bud Selig for moving the Astros to the American League.

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