Welcome back Raving Readers to another season of Seattle Sounders soccer!
Now that the CBA is set, we can kick back and get ready for the 20th season of Major League Soccer. To kickoff the new year, I’ve prepared a few Sounders Preview posts, so without further ado…
Sounders Preview Part 1: The State of the Sounders
For a squad that won 20 games, a Double and sat atop the table going into the postseason, getting bounced on a tiebreaker stung. 2015 is all about vindication for Seattle. Lucky for them they return the majority of their stellar roster.
The big question mark is the health of stalwart midfielder Ozzie Alonso. Alonso, in so many ways, IS the Sounders. His tenacity and accuracy in the midfield enables the beautiful attacking soccer we’ve come to expect from Seattle. And until recently he was an iron man. Frankly I am surprised the Energizer Ozzie, who rarely misses games, is still dealing with an injury. If Ozzie bounces back and is his usual self, everything is gravy. However if this becomes a Derrick Rose-esque injury situation, Seattle will be a far weaker team. Michael Azira starts in Ozzie’s stead, and it’s not that Azira isn’t solid, it’s that he is far from a rock star. The Sounders start stars at nearly every position. Azira is merely league-average at a position that is easily exposed.
Frankly I was surprised Marco Pappa was retained. Yes I screamed my heart out when he delivered those back-to-back daggers to clinch the Supporters’ Shield, but I felt he was miscast on our team. His talent is obvious and his vision unmatched, but Sigi often chastised Pappa for flirting towards the center circle and abandoning width in the attack. In the past, behavior like that got people nixed (see: Tiffert, Christian). I really expected a trade for allocation cash to Liga MX, as I figured Pappa wanted to get paid and Sigi wanted to field a winger he could trust. I am happy I was wrong. Sigi must feel Pappa’s unique talents are worth the trouble, or that having a potential Best XI player for less than six figures is too good a deal.
Brad “Captain Seattle” Evans is your new starting centerback. I find this move a very creative answer to the “how do we get our best 11 on the field every game” question from last season. No offense to the venerable Zach Scott, but Evans may be a HUGE upgrade at CB. I am getting a little ahead of myself, but we could have the best CB tandem in the league. That said, Evans is on the record saying that CB is the hardest position to play. I expect some serious growing pains early in the season, but Evans is too talented and too smart not to learn from them. Come October, we’ll have not only a solid centerback pair, but a pretty damn manly one.
Tyrone Mears replaces DeAndre Yedlin at rightback. As a phenom, local kid, and off-the-books salary, losing Yedlin hurts. But Mears may actually be better fit for Seattle. Mears was a steady but never-quite-good-enough English footballer. Other than one year on a relegated Burnley side, injuries and better competition kept Mears out of many Premier League lineups. But he is an experienced, disciplined international-style fullback who gets forward and he crosses a sweet ball, as we saw in the preseason. Mears won’t replace Yedlin’s star power, but the team will be no worse, and maybe better, with Mears.
I’ll be posting again on our very first Sounders Matchday with my first bold prediction of the year.