I suppose that by Seattle’s lofty standards you could consider last season to be a bit of a disappointment. For the first time in three years, they weren’t contesting the MLS Cup final, having been knocked from the competition in heartbreaking fashion by Portland on penalties after 120 minutes of what can very reasonably be called the most exciting playoff match in team history. So how do you bounce back? Is there actually anything to bounce back from? Why don’t teams have long-sleeved jersey options all of a sudden? What’s actually going on with Adidas anyway? If the Seattle Sounders were a character in Game of Thrones which one would they be? We shall endeavor to answer some of these questions within.Read More
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The start to the 2018 campaign was, at best, a complete and utter disaster. Expectations were high for a team that had just made its second consecutive MLS Cup final appearance. You don’t usually see trains derail without gaining any significant speed or momentum, but somehow that’s exactly what happened here.
Jordan Morris, coming off of an injury and a disappointing sophomore campaign looked primed to return to the form that saw him capture Rookie of the Year honors in 2016, instead he suffered another devastating season ending injury and Seattle went from dreams of CCL Glory to that one where you show up to class naked and have to take a final you didn’t study for.Read More
It was a pretty light weekend in Major League Soccer featuring a match seeking to answer that age old question “what happens when the opposite of an immovable object meets the opposite of an unstoppable force?” The answer? Colorado wins 2-0, I guess. That match will probably be remembered more for the altercation following the final whistle which featured two players being showed red cards FIFTEEN minutes into stoppage time so I guess Colorado and MInnesota aren't’ best friends now, which could be problematic as previously they seem to be the only destinations that would actually want some of the other’s lackluster players. I sure hope they work it out. I’ve got $5 on a Franz Pangop for Yannick Boli trade.
But also, Oh my god DC United are just so irresistible right now. It’s like watching Michael Jordan in that flu game but instead of Michael Jordan it’s more like BJ Armstrong and instead of the flu it had something vaguely to do with raccoons. I predicted a few weeks ago that this team would find its way to the postseason and I’m feeling more and more confident about this every week. Watching people eat their crow flavored Pot Noodle about Wayne Rooney has become appointment viewing during office hours. To say Rooney has been a revelation is only true if you’re one of these people who have apparently never once watched Wayne Rooney play soccer. You aren’t seeing some surprising late career renaissance version of a softer more reflective Rooney, you’re getting the same bullish kid in a dad’s body with an innate ability to grab a game by the scruff of its neck and drag it wherever he wants.Read More
Tyler Adams and the New York Red Bulls Under Chris Armas
Tyler Adams, who is two months younger than Kylian Mbappe, is on the verge of becoming a world-class soccer player. After this season, when he (probably) joins Jesse Marsch at RB Leipzig, he will be placed directly on that track.
Already, he’s one of MLS’ best midfielders. His touch percentage of 10.5 percent shows how important he is to the Red Bulls’ system. He fits perfectly into what they want to do — he covers ground, controls himself well in space and wins the ball when he has to.Read More
By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
I am a Sounders fan. Let me allow you in on a little secret... there are plenty of people that dislike Sounders fans, and that's warranted—most of the time. There is no one more ready to tear apart a Sounders fan than... well, another Sounders fan. You think you're clever with your little “ACES” slogan or whatever but by the time this is over I'll have more angry comments and hate mail from Sounders fans than I do non-Sounders fans.
There are still supporters wondering why Sigi Schmid has a job. Mind you, the Sounders just won two out of the three trophies they were afforded the opportunity to win last season. Pay all that no mind. We'll argue and talk down and be disparaging to each other for whether or not Brad Evans is good or if Obafemi Martins works hard enough or if he really is 30 years old or not. We're self loathing, scum of the earth and no one hates us as much as we do. And if you haven't figured it out by now, we invented hating the Seattle Sounders.
Last year they didn't win MLS Cup and that's a huge indictment on the organization, front office, coaching staff and players because supporters put such a premium on each season and every single match. Supporters have the highest, and probably a bit unrealistic, expectations every year. Some may choose to look at that as being entitled and I can certainly see the fine line that is walked carefully by many supporters in their realm.
Scoring goals, winning games, hosting cups. These things are expectations of wearing the Sounders badge. The goal every year is to lift the MLS Cup regardless of the probabilities or likelihood of such scenarios from the start. It's setting the bar high and never wavering from that, and that, you have to admit, is ballsy and kind of cool.
Looking back at the 2014 season there are a few things that will stand out, but the one thing above all else is NOT that on the last day the Sounders defeated the LA Galaxy at home to take the trophy. No, more interesting to me is the fact that Seattle kept pace with a club that according to many of our measurements was the best team in MLS, perhaps of all-time. You can argue about Chicago, New England or Columbus in the early, mid and late-00's. DC United in the late 90's or periodically through the years. You could talk about the 2012 version of the Galaxy. I don't care who is actually “the best”. Seattle kept pace with a team that is flat out HISTORIC and that's incredibly impressive.
Seattle didn't have one stretch of more than two games where they didn't have a win. Their biggest slump was taking only seven of 21 points from July 5th to August 20th which they in turn rebounded with four straight wins.
Sigi Schmid is maybe the most under-appreciated coach in US soccer history. He's always considered a second fiddle to Bruce Arena. Despite being one of the winningest coaches in MLS history he's always having something he does questioned, and regardless of how he wins it's never good enough or classy enough or “soccer” enough.
Schmid to me is a coach that is constantly evolving. Looking at the fact the Sounders scored the second most goals (30) in MLS in the final 30 minutes of a match and conceded the least (10) during that same time period speaks to me. I felt his substitutions in the second half where the best by any coach in MLS last season and I just wish he was a bit more respected by both home and opposing fans. When all they have is weight jokes... maybe, it's not such a bad thing.
I've played the back-and-forth game a lot with Stefen Frei. Our numbers last year didn't favor him as Frei accounted for four additional goals by himself. Again, there is a sample size to consider and it's not to say he didn't perform exceptionally well in the playoffs. I personally think, though there are numbers that can be crunched to verify, that he performed better down the stretch of the season once the rust of not playing the past two seasons was shaken free.
That said, the Sounders needed a back-up keeper and made the move to bring in Troy Perkins this off-season. Perkins has been a starter at his last four clubs, but his time in Montreal wasn't great (we account for him adding a full five goals above the average keeper) and while his defense didn't help him (saw nearly six shots on goal a game, top-five during his tenure) neither did being the highest paid keeper in MLS. I'm interested to see if having Perkins will push Frei to be better than last season or create personnel decision and complications for the coaching staff.
Obviously no more DeAndre Yedlin, he's gone. Gone, gone, gone. Yedlin wasn't just fast, he got to a lot of loose, 50/50 balls. He won 53% of his tackles and was in the t-17th in interceptions with 78 and 4th among full backs. It's not that those specific stats yield much difference in expected goals against but he did a great job of helping Seattle retain possession and create shots as quickly as possible. He's going to be missed for more than singular physical attribute—and the cool hair cuts.
Yedlin's absence has given way to the club signing Tyrone Mears, former Bolton Wanderer. So... yeah. He runs like a soccer player, so I've been told. Any other data can remain on the sideline to this point because it's all from England and we don't like data from them because it's all in the metric system.
Also, filed under news I'm sure you already knew, Zach Scott is old! Love the guy and I really love that he's somehow gotten better every year after the age of 30. But the time has come that Seattle has to gameplan that he can't be the fall back guy. The heir apparent for that role seems to be the ever versatile Brad Evans, a guy who most know from his time at right back with the USMNT. He's great with the ball at his feet, was 18th in total aerial duels--winning 60% of them--and had an great foul/win ratio of 1:1. How that translates to being a defender, I guess we'll see.
Lastly, there is Leo Gonzalez whom I can't believe is no longer getting Costa Rica call-ups. His defense is among the best at full back in MLS. The key is health and keeping healthy. Dave Tenney, Ravi Ramineni and the rest of the impressive Seattle Sounders sports science team have to find a way to keep Gonzalez on the pitch for those last five or six games in the playoffs. Basically, I just want a chance to reference Dave and Ravi because I think they're pretty neat fellas.
Lamar Neagle is perhaps one of my favorite things about the Seattle Sounders. Yes, I know Oba and Clint play there too. I'll get to all of that. Over 2500 minutes Neagle projects to create about 10 goals a season. That's not a crazy amount but the fun thing is that whenever he's given the minutes he does all that AND a bag of chips.... not even Lays, no grease!
I wonder if Neagle might be a top-five wide midfielder/winger in MLS. And not only are you, the RSL or Portland fan that is, for some reason or another, reading this article and wanting to barf, but so are most Sounders fans who right now have at least three fingers counting other players in the league they'd rather have.
Look, I'll give you Brad Davis and Graham Zusi for sure, but Lloyd Sam, Darlington Nagbe? I like both a lot and on pure talent you have an argument, but I'm not sure either are better than Neagle or that there is substantial data that proves either theory. Maybe, Ethan Finlay. Maybe. This is seriously an interesting conversation with you start to think about it on a production level.
Real quick, Ozzie Alonso was on a bit of a downward trend with minutes the last four years. From 2011 to 2013 each of his seasons saw decreased minutes and more injuries, which was frighting for any supporter to see happen to a vital member of the team.
Alonso finally breached the 2800 minute mark again (for only the second time in his six season career) in 2014 but is now looking at missing more time after having surgery on his groin. The question I have not just is whether or not the Sounders are going to be able to recover from a losing out on Alonso for any amount of games but if we're going to see that once great ball winner return to be actually great.
I'm not sure two players in Major League soccer have as much fun as Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey do while they are on the pitch together.
Still, when you look at our expected goals and see that we tally Oba with scoring three more goals than the expected goals model predicted last season, that isn't just luck. His Shot leverage (.162), which is the average location and expected likelihood that a shot would score, is the 10th highest in our four year data set. Meaning that Oba doesn't take lucky shots. He's made some lucky shots, but the ones he makes aren't all luck. He obviously has an immense amount of skill in repeatedly getting to his goal scoring locations. While the model hints at some regression, it should be an interesting case study to see if he can continually beat the model and what we can take from how he does it.
Clint Dempsey is awesome too, and expected goals loves what he does more than Martins. That's because of two things: volume and quality. He creates an incredible amount of shots from all sorts of great locations, and while his shot leverage is four points lower than Oba, he makes it up in nearly two and half additional shots created a game.
Seattle has all the pieces to continue being really good and they didn't have a lot of roster churn which I think is vital in MLS. It makes a lot of sense to consider them the team to beat out of the Western Conference and possibly the MLS Cup favorite to this point.
The thing that really distinguished them as a club for me last year was their expected goals against was about in line with what it was last year and the amount of goals they gave up regressed back to the mean. I'm sure a lot of that had to do with using Chad Marshall, but don't underestimate the amount of heartache that defense went through between using the Djimi Traore, Scott tandem and Dylan Remick at full back, too. Finishing 6th in MLS isn't anything to sneeze at and you shouldn't sneeze at things anyway, as it's rather gross.
The team's expected goals in even game states fell back a tiny bit. That is to say the likelihood that the team scores before their opponent. I don't think it's anything to worry about. The take away from an expected goals point of view last year is that they're not as good an attacking team as they seemed, but they're also a better defense team than they seemed, too.
While a first place finish and competing for the Supporters Shield is very possible, I think a 2nd or 3rd place finish is probably more likely for Seattle in 2015.
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.
|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)|
|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)
Now, after an extremely disappointing finish in 2013 to not just the season but the playoffs, the 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.
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.
A topic that I've been exploring this off-season for myself is how to go about building a successful roster in MLS given all the various mechanism that are involved and a salary cap to work around. It's not just how to build a successful roster, but how you would go about building one with sustainable success---a task that many clubs find an incredibly difficult given the methodology of the league. The question I ask aloud is whether or not it's a problem of being stubborn and trying to go about acquiring talent the way most in the world do, or using the system in place. This may or may not be a series that takes place over the course of the off-season. But last week there were a couple of transactions that occurred that struck my fancy in terms of how each front office went about it. Obviously there are factors that you have to consider, such as table placement, which in turn dictates allocation money and a various assortment of other little details. I think, overall, finding and acquiring defensive talent is a really tough task and I'm not entirely certain that you can go about trying to build for multiple years all in one off-season. Committing too much money to a single player can complicate roster moves for mid-season acquisitions, but can be easily cleared up in a single off-season with the help of the re-entry draft, various trades and the SuperDraft.
The re-entry draft is a basic way to spread some of the talent across the league when clubs aren't able to incorporate the players price tag under their cap. The draft---if you aren't familiar---functions in two different stages, with teams selecting players working in reverse order of the seasons table. Stage 1: players selected have to either have their options exercised, or teams are required to offer. Stage 2: a team can offer the player basically a "genuine offer" meaning that there is potential that you can get the player a discount rate. Should a player not sign with team, the club holds the player's league rights.
Over the last week we saw what a team with allocation money can do in the re-entry draft. D.C. United acquired a hand full of players to upgrade their roster situation. One specific player of note is Bobby Boswell, a former MLS Defender of the Year, selected in the second round of the first stage. This means that D.C. United will offer a contract to Boswell that equates to 105% of his salary from the previous season and likely will be in the range of $235,000.
Likewise the Seattle Sounders were also looking to upgrade their defensive options. They worked out a trade with the Columbus Crew to acquire another former MLS Defender of the Year, this time in the form of Chad Marshall. The Sounders surrendered allocation money and a 1st round draft pick to the 2015 SuperDraft. We can't be certain how much allocation money was exchanged between the two teams but my understanding is that it's somewhere around $75,000.
Both players despite being in their late 20's are solid individuals that will help their new clubs in a specific manner. Looking at the numbers, Seattle was one of the worst defensive teams that made the playoffs with a 0.95 shot attempt ratio that indicates they allow more shots against their goal than they produce for themselves. D.C. United was just simply abysmal on all fronts, and that fact needs no objective proof. They just sucked. You know it, I know it, and everyone knows it.
Chad Marshall and Bobby Boswell both finished in the top-10 of defensive actions ranking 3rd and 7th overall. This doesn't necessarily imply any value, as I've yet to find any studies that can correlate blocked shots with goals saved, though I think it would be an interesting study. That said, any time you can spend money to potentially reduce the amount of shots your team faces is a good thing.
Either way Marshall and Boswell are very similar players in age, style and tactics. But they were acquired by different methods as the Sounders basically spent $125,000 in controlled assets to obtain his rights. DC spent and extra 5% on top of Boswells previous salary to pluck him from the Houston Dynamo and the re-entry draft.
Boswell will cost United roughly $235,000 in total numbers to put him on their squad. Assuming Marshall doesn't negotiate his contract any further down, he'll cost the Sounders $485,000 in both salary AND the assets they spent to acquire him. I think it's funny how many people criticized the United's front office in their move to select Boswell in the first stage, but the truth is they got a better value for the same piece as the Sounders giving up only half the assets.
It's easy to make fun of those that are already calling D.C. United "an early favorite" for the MLS Cup. It's impossible to know if any of these changes really help either Seattle or DC. Admittedly it's hard to not see the Red and Black improve from where they were last year, and adding the handful of upgrades across their roster and full season of a healthy Chris Pontius should help---at the very least making their starting XI that much more handsome.