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Major League Soccer team previews: SEATTLE SOUNDERS

Feb 25, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT

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Significant additions and subtractions: Fredy Montero and Jeff Parke are gone. That’s the club’s best all-around attacker and defender. They have great depth, but those are huge blows to the top of Seattle’s depth charts.

Add in the likely departure of Christian Tiffert and Seattle’s lost a key player at each level of the field. The German Designated Player is not in camp and looks on his way out.

They’re the casualties of an offseason that’s required general manager Adrian Hanauer to do some significant salary cap manipulation. It’s also why the losses haven’t been offset by big arrivals. Djimi Traore should be valuable in defense while Shalrie Joseph’s addition looks more like cap games than significant addition.

Strengths: The midfield. Osvaldo Alonso, the league’s best midfielder, is complemented by the “all the little things” value of Brad Evans. Mauro Rosales is an elite playmaker when healthy, while a returning Steve Zakuani could make up 60 percent of Montero’s goals. Mario Martínez is also ready to step in, and there’s still a chance we’ll see all five players in the same lineup. Rosales can always be pushed up to play with Johnson.

Goal prevention may continue to be a strength despite the loss of Parke. The keys were always Gspurning, Alonso, and Sigi Schmid’s tactics, all of which remain in Seattle.

Pressure points: Eddie Johnson scored 15 goals. Montero had 13. After that, Seattle’s scoring charts drop all the way down to five. Zakuani and David Estrada could pick up the slack, but if they don’t, Seattle’s in big trouble, especially when Johnson’s away on national team duty.

And despite goal prevention being a possible strength, you have to wonder about the back line. They lost Parke, Adam Johansson can be exploited, and Leo Gonzalez can be had for pace on the left. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is no longer an MLS-elite center back. Will opposing teams figure out a way to exploit this?

In MLS, every team has to accept some weaknesses. Seattle will continue to wager they can paper over theirs.

source: Getty ImagesDifference maker: Osvaldo Alonso is the team’s best player, but the difference maker is Johnson. He needs to duplicate (or perhaps, improve upon) his 2012. Else, Seattle could have a shocking season.

Johnson has the talent, but he’s also going to be pulled in two directions by the international calendar. If he only plays, say, 24 games this year (instead of last year’s 31), can Seattle replace his contributions?

A scenario: Johnson regresses a little. Maybe he tires, gets hurt, or the league adjusts. Maybe all of the above. And let’s say Estrada and Zakuani can’t replace Montero’s scoring and Johnson’s regression. None of these assumptions are outrageous.

When things go bad, these are the scenarios that transpire. And right now, there’s a scenario where this team just isn’t that good.

Potential breakout player: People forget how good Zakuani was. That’s understandable. It’s been almost two years, but Zakuani was the most dangerous wide man in the league. If he can hit the 10-goal mark he touched in 2010, Seattle’s biggest problem is solved.

Bottom line: There are a lot of questions, but Seattle doesn’t need answers now . They just need them in time to compete in November.

They’ll find them. With this team’s track record and the talent they carry over, they’ll find a way to protect the defense and augment Johnson.

The bigger moves may come this summer, when Seattle may have one (or two) open Designated Player spots. Fans complain the club hasn’t been aggressively using their financial might, but if Schmid can stabilize in spring, Hanauer can be ambitious in summer.

Come November, this team will again be a contender to come out of the West.

(MORE: the entire roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

  1. charliej11 - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Yeah, I hear what you are saying, but three things:

    Seattle is not done signing players, IMHO. Look at today’s rumors.
    Montero was great at scoring goals few in the world could score, but he had a lot of holes. Holes that cost the Sounders goals too. So those goals should increase.
    You are discounting Martinez waaay too much,

    There are scenarios were the Sounders have their goal scoring woes and after which you realize they won’t score a meaningful goal in the playoffs yet again. There are scenarios where they are the team to beat in MLS too.

    After watching the second string beat Salt Lake’s first string, at the very least we have a good shot of enjoying the 100th LH USOC trophy.

  2. ravegreenstreet - Feb 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Martinez alone can pick up Montero’s production by at least 80%. You are not giving that guy enough credit; he’s one of the best young mids in CONCACAF.

    And if all of the rumors and his Twitter are true, Obafemi Martins will be here shortly to bang in a boatload of goals with EJ. But let’s say he doesn’t come over for some reason, here is what our line-up could be as of now:

    Zakuani – Martinez – Rosales
    Alonso – Joseph
    Gonazles – Traore – Hurtado – Johansson

    That alone is an MLS Cup contender.

  3. wildmaxd - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Everything ravegreenstreet said.

    Martinez will be the breakout play of the year. Can a player get newcomer of the year if they are were here for onyl a partial season the year prior?

    Either I hope Martins takes this honor.

  4. mvktr2 - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    I sort of take Steve & Nick’s approach to homegrown signings and rookies and apply it to all of sports, show me! In this regard I’m not counting on Martinez and I am counting on Rosales to miss games. I’m hoping Estrada continues to develop as his continued development can be huge for striker depth. Soccer has seen many players through the years whom played better for country than club and vice versa. The Sounders have to hope Martinez gets things revved up this season on the club-front.

    I think Nick does a good job givig Sigi his due at putting an MLS team together, playing to it’s strengths, and covering it’s weaknesses. The Sounders will again be formidable. The question is have they improved or taken a step backward? I was never in the Tiffert camp and Montero was not much of an asset come playoff time. I think Joseph’s addition was as much about adding some ‘grit’ and senior MLS leadership as anything. I’m interested to see how he would do at CB as he simply doesn’t have ‘it’ anymore on the attack.

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