Retooling or Rebuilding? Three Questions for the Seattle Sounders

Last year was a good year for one of MLS’s premier franchises.  The Sounders won yet another U.S. Open Cup and advanced past the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.  While they could not vanquish their nemesis Galaxy in the regular season or playoffs (and were knocked out early by streaking RSL), the team again saw overwhelming fan support, some great moments on the pitch, and a fond farewell (on the pitch at least) to Kasey Keller.

Going into 2012, the team is looking at a three-front battle: in addition to defending their Open Cup title and trying to win that elusive MLS Cup, they face a tough road in the spring in the CCL.  Last season, the team relied on its impressive depth to compete in all three competitions, but that depth has taken a hit this offseason.  How they restock players will determine if they can take challenge for the Quadruple in 2012, or at least take home more than one trophy.  Let’s play “Three Questions” with the Seattle Sounders:

1. Will the defense take a step back in 2012?

Center back is solid on this team, with Jeff Parke becoming an excellent MLS defender and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado being more than an adequate defender.  Where the concern lies on this team is at the two full back spots and at keeper.  Let’s start with the man between the pipes; Michael Gspurning comes over from Austria after he fell out of favor with his current club.  Keller’s retirement meant more than losing one of the best keepers in MLS; it meant losing the heart and soul of the team, as well as a guy who knew how to boss a defense.  Gspurning is good, but how his skills translate to MLS and how well he can work with his defenders will be telling for this team.

As for the full backs, Seattle lost James Riley and Tyson Wahl both to Montreal so will have to be replacing two important players.  To do so, they signed Swedish international Adam Johansson to compete for one spot and took Marc Burch in the Re-entry draft for another.  They join Leo Gonzalez and Michael Tetteh in the starting competition.  While Johansson has proven ability (he has international caps), Burch is more of a spot/part-time starter at this stage.  How the LB/RB battles shake out will be important going forward.

2. Is the depth still there?

As I mentioned above, with three competitions going this season Seattle again needs its depth to come through if it wants to compete in all three.  That 2011 depth took a hit this offseason as they have lost some key role players.  Besides the full backs mentioned above, the team has lost Erik Friberg (Malmo FF), Pat Noonan (LA Galaxy), and Nate Jaqua (New England Revolution).  In the process, the team got younger and the salary cap shrank, but the team still needs some quality second stringers to fill in during the busy season.  Otherwise, they may have to make a decision like the LA Galaxy to push aside a competition (maybe U.S. Open or Supporters Shield?) to focus their goals.  Rumors are flying that they are looking overseas to fill gaps, trying to sign internationals like Christian Sivebaek.

3. What about Fernandez and Montero?

Two critical players are the subject of the rumor mill this offseason, and how these rumors are resolved will decide how this team will look in 2012.  The first is Alvaro Fernandez, who in light of some interest from Palermo has expressed through his agent a desire to play in a bigger league.  Or maybe, seeing teammate Mauro Rosales’ new contract, he simply wants to see the same kind of love (although he is already a designated player).  Regardless, the team needs to figure out his situation quickly before their midfield is dealt a major blow by his departure.

The Montero rumor is more vague, simply that he has gotten interest from Europe, but the bigger question may be will Montero take the next step forward in his development.  The young designated player has been streaky during his MLS career but when he’s hot, he simply racks up goals for Seattle.  If he takes that next step to being a consistent scorer, Seattle will be hard to stop.

8 Responses to Retooling or Rebuilding? Three Questions for the Seattle Sounders

  1. Yoshou says:

    Gspurning did not lose favor with his previous club. They tried to
    extend his contract and he turned them down.
    http://www.soundersfc.com/News/Articles/2011/12-December/Gspurning-In-Net.aspx
    Gspurning was concerned about the collapsing Greek economy and
    thought they might raise the taxes on soccer players to fill some
    of the budget holes. He is most likely a step down from Keller, but
    there aren’t many MLS level GKs that wouldn’t be.

  2. jason says:

    Seattle Sounders need to take a page from LA Galaxy, spend big time
    $$$. Galaxy has Keane, Donavon, Beckham and Juninho (now departed)
    all can deliver the goals when they need it. Sounders doesn’t have
    this assurance. Montero/Fernandez are both good but their
    consistency is iffy. Rosales and Keller were the only two
    consistent players who delivered when the team needed them but
    Rosales and Keller are not goal scorers. Sounders tried Ljunberg
    and Nfungo but both were not at their top form. Sounders need to
    spend world class money (as in 5-6 million per year salary) to hire
    world class players who can score. How about Lampard? Ronaldinho?
    Kaka? or even Ronaldo? think BIG, sounders FC need big thinking
    manager like Lewike of Galaxy. problem is, we have small time
    thinkers.

  3. Charles says:

    Completely disagree with Jason. LA won because of the type of guys
    that Seattle are trying to get, Junhinio and Gonzalaz. That will be
    very appearant this year if both are gone all
    year………………………………………….The biggest
    problem that Seattle has was they went after the NKufo types. It
    was a travesty…………………………The biggest problem,
    now that is behind us, is Zakuani, he is the top pick from the
    draft type that can change your team around. But Mullan took care
    of that…..but for some reason decided not to compensate the
    Sounders for the hundreds of thousands of salary cap he took away,
    as the Sounders do the right thing and keep paying a guy that will
    probably never play again……………….until the season starts
    Seattle’s questions will remain unanswered.

    • Dan says:

      Agreed 100%. Donovan, Beckham, and Keane certainly help ALOT but LA
      was the best team by miles last year because of their silent stars
      (Dunivant, Gonzalez, Juninho, Magee)

  4. Andy says:

    Agree that Jason is mistaken. You claim the sounders need a more
    consitant goal scorer however the Sounders finished the season with
    the most goals scored of any team. So the area needing improvement
    is not at the top end of the field, but rather the back half. And
    the Sounders do not need to spend the huge dollars like LA does,
    12.6 Million on DP’s in a league with a 2.6 million dollar sallary
    cap is a joke, Seattle has been very smart in their scouting..
    Rosales, Alonso, Montero were all unkown to MLS until Seattle
    scouted and brought them in. This is the way you build a Legacy,
    proper scouting and development, not big ticket purchases.. this
    league isnt built for that and you will see LA suffering for that
    in the next few years as their allocation money and cap space are
    all used up.

  5. The original Tom says:

    What is Steve Zakuani’s prognosis?

  6. Charles says:

    Sigi said end of 2012- beginning of 2013 for Zakuani. You have to
    think he is at best less than he used to be ?

  7. The original Tom says:

    I have no idea if Zakuani will come back %100. What a nightmare.

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