Season Preview: Seattle Sounders / by Andrew Olsen

The Sounders history comes at you as if you had just yelled "come at me, bro!" and meant it. The Sounders didn't just come out of the gate in 2009, they came out of the gate like they had just stolen a car, killed a hooker in GTA, and they weren't interested in stopping until they got those five stars and summoned multiple helicopters. The funny thing is that with all this "success," they've never won a single piece of MLS-specific hardware. Yes, they've earned 3 U.S. Open Cup trophies and fell just short on penalties to Sporting KC for a fourth, and the club has tallied the 2nd-most total points in MLS since its inception (266 total points, 53 points per season). But the Sounders have inevitably faltered when the time has come to step up and win the trophy. Adrian Hanauer and Co. are set on changing that in 2014. 2013 Finish: 15-12-7, 52 points; 42 GF, 42 GA. Fourth place in Western Conference. Lost in MLS Cup Conference Semi-Finals.

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Transactions

Players In Players Out
GK Stefan Frei Trade (Toronto) GK Michael Gspurning Option Declined
F Tristan Bowen Trade (Chivas) D Marc Burch Option Declined
D Chad Marshall Trade (Chivas) M Blair Gavin Option Declined
F Kenny Cooper Trade (Dallas) F Steve Zakuani Option Declined
F Corey Hertzog Re-Entry Stage 2 M Mauro Rosales Trade (Chivas)
M Aaron Kovar Home Grown Player M Adam Moffatt Trade (Dallas)
F Sean Okoli Home Grown Player F Eddie Johnson Trade (DC United)
F Chad Barrett Re-Entry Stage 2 D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado Trade (Chicago)
D Jalil Anibaba Trade (Chicago) D Patrick Ianni Trade (Chicago)
M Marco Pappa Allocation F Fredy Montero Transfer (Sporting CP)
F Will Bates Waived
D Jimmy Ockford Loaned (NY Cosmos)
F Eriq Zavaleta Loaned (Chivas)
M Alex Caskey Traded (DC United)

Roster churn: Seattle returns 58.9% of its minutes played from 2013 (15th most in MLS and 7th most in the Western Conference)

2014 Preview

SEA-ROSNow, after an extremely disappointing finish in 2013 to not just the season but the playoffs, SEAINFOthe Sounders have rebuilt their squad with dynamic talent that specifically caters to their team chemistry---and, side note, they may be just as dynamic off the pitch as on it. Seattle invested in the team's spine by finding new keeper Stefan Frei to fill the boots of the departed Michael Gspurning, acquired Chad Marshall from Columbus,  signed critical midfielder Ozzie 'Honey Badger' Alonso to a designated player contract, and then traded Adam Moffat for Kenny Cooper. Cooper looks to be inserted in the spare striker role and work with Obafemi Martins in lieu of the wayward Eddie Johnson.

The team has a pretty solid line-up and even includes some interesting youth beyond just that of DeAndre Yedlin. Tristan Bowen, the original home grown player (HGP), joins the attacking front line and should get some looks up top this season. Along with him, the club will be expecting big things from central midfielder Andy Rose. Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar, who could contribute to the season in their own ways, lead the second coming of Sounders HGP.

Overall, the club wasn't bad in 2013. However, "not bad" wasn't on the list of ideal outcomes at the beginning of the season. Seattle limped out of the gate in 2013, and without key pieces in the lineup, the Sounders found that they weren't generating as many opportunities as their opponents, and the poor results followed suit. It came as little surprised that, without big-money players in the lineup, and with no CCL money available or that four-year bubble money for new teams, the Sounders were just too thin to deal with the weekly roster trimming.

Both of those financial sources that we went dry were also helping to soak up the payroll strains of having Steve Zakuani on the roster. It's not his fault that problems have continued to occur following that horrible incident, but it left the Rave Green with an extremely tough decision to make this off-season. A decision that forced the club to decline to tender a contract to Zakuani, which ended in the delight of many Portland supporters--as the Timbers swooped in and signed him--and the sobs of Emerald City Supporters.

Before today, we knew the Sounders would be playing a lot of new players this season, and the roster churn continued today with the move of Alex Caskey to DC United. This will be one of the "newest" teams in MLS in some ways, especially when you consider that Clint Dempsey only played nine games for the Sounders last season. The squad is nearing completion with the likelihood that they'll add a trialist to an important rotation spot. Now that we pretty much know who's on the squad, the question is how consistent they will be.

As mentioned, Seattle's numbers from 2013 all look very much mediocre. Those are, of course, averages from an entire season, and this only serves as another reminder that the mountain peaks were high and the valleys were equally low last season. Games against FC Dallas, San Jose and even Real Salt Lake at home were decisive victories by a team that ruled its opponents both on the scoreboard and by the numbers. Then they saw embarrassing losses on the road against those same Real Salt Lake and Dallas teams, as well as against Colorado. Not to mention that Vancouver pretty much won the Cascadia Cup by a landslide at Century Link field in a game that piled on to the fact that the club had gone from Supporters' Shield favorite to being on the cusp of falling out of the playoffs. The club isn't as bad as the ratio numbers display---as suggested by our soon-to-be-published xGD 2.0---but it wasn't the type of season that they want to pin up on Mom's fridge.

Going forward, with all the pressure the supporters have on Sigi Schmid, this is a season where he may need to find the minimum of an MLS Cup Final appearance to save his job. With an improved back line and a full season of both Martins and Clint Dempsey, along with the addition of a creative player like Marco Pappa coming out of the midfield, the club has all the pieces at their disposal to get to the playoffs rather comfortably. And once they get there, it's all going to be all about the current health of the squad. The injury bug has not been favorable for the Sounders in the past, but that said, their depth has also improved. The patience has worn thin on the Schmid coaching regime. It's time for some real hardware.

Crowdsourcing Results

American Soccer Analysis readers seem to think that the Sounders will continue to have success in 2014 . They have projected Seattle to finish 3rd in the Western Conference this season, with 28.1% of voters placing them there, and 63.3% of voters placing them somewhere in the top three. There are only a few doubters, with a very small 6.4% of voters placing them in spots six through nine, out of the playoffs.