Seattle Sounders Season Preview Part 1: Goalkeeper
With our team, we know what we can do. We were seconds away from making it to the conference final. Portland was two posts away from not even making it to the conference semifinals, then they go on and win (MLS Cup). What can you do? We can get pissed off, and we can take that to heart and come out flying the next year.
-Brad Evans, an interview with the Seattle Times 2/15/16
The Seattle Sounders are on a mission in 2016. The same mission they’ve had every season: to win MLS Cup. But now we got extra vinegar in our piss ‘cause the hated archrival Portland Timbers somehow dumbed their way to the championship.
Granted we are currently in the 2016 preamble, with our current home-and-home against Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League, but the MLS season starts this Sunday at home against Sporting Kansas City. And the sooner 2016 starts, the sooner we can dethrone the Timbers.
Not only did the 2015 season leave Seattle sour, but it was followed by a turbulent offseason. Any momentum Seattle built at the end of last year with the additions of Eric Friberg, Nelson Valdez, Roman Torres and Andreas Ivanschitz was stymied by the departure of Obafemi Martins in addition to a massive overhaul of the depth on the roster.
In addition to Oba being Oba and bailing for China, the Sounders also bid adieu to Marco Pappa, Leo Gonzalez, Gonzalo Pineda, Lamar Neagle, Chad Barrett and Andy Rose among others. Though the starting 11 looks mighty similar to the team that bowed out in Frisco, the Sounders just endured their biggest roster purge since 2013.
The good news? We acquired potential stud left back Joevin Jones and the once and future boy king Jordan Morris. Morris, as you all already know, is not only an off-the-books HGP but a potential league superstar.
With such significant turnover to the roster, I am using my First Kick Prveiew Week to explore the new-look Sounders roster. Today I dive into Goalkeeper.
TLDR: Situation normal to the naked eye, but 2016 sees a tectonic overhaul to the position.
With 2/3 of the position overturned, goalkeeper has seen the most churn on the team. Sure ol’ reliable Stefan Frei is still the starter but newcomers Tyler Miller and Charlie Lyon now back him up.
Frei has flashy tattoos and solid moves. In 2015, he had the breakout performance that Sigi and co. hoped for when they took a flyer on him before 2014. After years of underwhelming, Frei finally looked like the player everyone hoped for when he first signed with Toronto. Frei’s 77% save % was tops for any keeper with over 12 starts and his 1.06 GAA tied David Ousted for tops in the league.
Behind Frei, the Sounders have committed to a major philosophical shift at this position. Since their MLS inception, Seattle has always doubled-down on stud veterans. But GM Garth Lagerwey has shaken things up, as we no longer have a venerable Marcus Hahnemann or Troy Perkins for depth but youngins’ Miller and Lyon.
Miller was much ballyhooed coming into the league when the Sounders drafted him in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. However he had made it obvious he was going to Germany, and thus many MLS clubs stayed away. It appeared like an ambitious but wasted pick when Miller indeed signed in Germany. But before the end of a topsy-turvy season in the German 4th division, Miller came home and signed with S2. His promotion to the first team in December is making the Sounders brain trust look pretty prescient right now. He is Frei’s backup and hopefully he can live up to his potential. If he does, he could very well be the Sounders keeper of the future.
Lyon was solid for S2 last season. He recorded 80 saves and 4 shutouts, and back-to-back USL Player of the Week awards earned late in the season earned him the call up to the big boys. As the third keeper he won’t often see the pitch but can train continue to develop with the first team.
That’s all for the men between the pipes. Tomorrow we explore the wonderful world of defenders.