like Seattle Sounders As they prepare to open the 15th season of the MLS on Saturday, they find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. The Sounders are emerging from their first MLS season without a playoff appearance, and will need to at least deal with a new level of skepticism from a fanbase that knew nothing but winning.
The Sounders, meanwhile, are opening camp with a roster much like the one that ended last year, with changes mainly to the sides. Here are some of the biggest questions they’ll need to answer this season:
Asked a similar question at the end of 2022, Sounders coach Brian Schmitzer indicated that he may have trusted his players too much and that some of them may have benefited from that. He didn’t really get into it in more specific terms, but one thing I heard was that there was a general feeling of not enough internal competition for starting spots and a vague lack of urgency, especially after the CONCACAF win. Champions League. It will be interesting to see if any concrete changes have been made as a result of this general sentiment.
One thing we know for sure is that the Sounders will have to sail in at least four different competitions this year – the Club World Cup, US Open Championship Cup and League Cup in addition to the regular season – suggesting there should be plenty of rotation regardless. – Jeremiah
Perhaps the Sounders’ biggest challenge last season was trying to replace Joao Paulo after he was injured in the CCL final and lost this season. By all indications, it appears to be very close to making a full comeback. With João Paulo, the Sounders looked in every way as a team that could rightfully claim to be the best in the region. Without it, well, the proof is in the field.
If João Paulo is close to 100% this year, there is no reason to think they can’t compete in every competition they enter. But if he needs a full season to come back, there could be some big challenges. – Jeremiah
Lots of other questions are likely to be affected by how this question is answered. Assuming that Joao Paulo is quite fit, you have to assume he will be a regular starter. His 2021 campaign was one of the best two-way performances in MLS history. Even if he dropped some of it, it would be almost impossible to see for a non-newbie. But who complements it best is a very open question.
Last year, Albert Rusnak seemed like a very nice partner. But that was a very limited sample size and it’s entirely possible that Rusnák could have been more useful on offense. Cristian Roldan is another option and was João Paulo’s starting partner last season before he and Rusnák swapped. It’s also possible that one of the guys – Dani Leyva, Josh Atensio or Obed Vargas – shows enough improvement to force their way into the conversation. – Jeremiah
2022 included the club’s highest peak, and arguably also its lowest. In the league, the team struggled to score goals. Only five Western Conference teams have scored fewer goals than Seattle’s 47, with only FC Dallas Make the playoffs for those teams. Their defensive record was slightly better, relatively speaking, as only four Western teams allowed fewer than their 46 goals scored and all four made it into the playoffs. The main source of the team’s offensive struggles was the position of the forward, with Raul Ruidiaz, Freddy Montero and Will Bruin contributing to an MLS total of 16 goals and 4 assists. In 2021, Ruidíaz alone scored 17 goals and had one assist.
They made a change in the striker position, and replaced Bruin with Héber New York City. Heber Ruidias can spell and limit the break when the star striker isn’t on the field, but Brian Schmitzer can also play them together in a two-forward formation, something the team has only done to start the game with a total of three in 2022. With Nouhou likely to continue and no An obvious support or replacement at left-back, the team would likely use a three-back formation to get the best out of Nouhou and also simplify the task for the left-back tackle. There’s no clear best option, but that’s certainly a question we’ll likely see answered in the preseason as Schmetzer and his staff work to make the most of the talent on the team at short notice. – Tim
One of the problems the Sounders faced last year was that while there were clear first-choice players at fullback (and fullback), the options got muddy behind Nouhou and Alex Roldán. These choices were, almost exclusively, Kelyn Rowe’s. Jimmy Midranda came in at left wingback, Ethan Duplery started for FC Cincinnati at right wingback, and Cristian Roldan dropped back to replace his brother once or twice. For 2023, Midranda has moved up front and Rowe can’t be expected to be the starting replacement both at fullback/fullback and across the midfield without some consequence.
With 27 players currently signed, there isn’t much room to add more bodies without corresponding moves, so it makes sense to look for backups among the players already here. One interesting option is Reed Baker-Whiting. He has primarily played all over midfield in the professional ranks within the Sounders organization, but with the US National Youth Teams more recently he has been deployed as a right back. If he can adapt to the situation on a professional level, he will clear his path to MLS minutes. Similarly, Sota Kitahara joined a crowded midfield squad, but in his earlier days with Tacoma Defiance and on loan to FC Pinzgau Saalfelden in Austria, he was frequently used at RB. If either of them, or Dobbelaere, can become A. Roldán’s understudy, it could go a long way to cementing the roster. – Tim
In some cases the young men are the new men. Signed as HGPs are Jacob Castro (San Diego St., University of Washington, Sounders Academy) and Kitahara (Tacoma Defiance, Sounders Academy). Currently the only acquisition from outside the organization is Héber.
In many ways, the club is taking a stance on its management once again. This is done frequently after the championship, which the Sounders won in May, but they also failed to make the MLS playoffs. Turning it on again may be unusual in these circumstances. We will find out in a few decades when more than one MLS team will win the CONCACAF Champions League.
The club has also stated that it wants to get younger. This can only be done by buying time for young people. If one had to put together a two-deep XI, the only places you could consider the Sounders young were Léo Chú and maybe, if you were creamy, Jackson Ragin. They got a slightly smaller trade for Héber and let Will Bruin go.
To get younger on the field, in a year with the minimum acceptable number of matches of 42 (yes, that means advancing in the League Cup and winning a play-off) is for young talent to buy time. Who will follow in the footsteps of Obed Vargas (22), Josh Atensio (21) and Dani Leyva (19)? They could be. Maybe not. But there must be two or three people in order for the average life of minutes played to drop. – Dave
Remember those few seasons when the Sounders were strong during breaks without penalties? It was the opposite of what happened in 2022. Without João Paulo’s serve, free-kicks and corner-kicks would be outdated.
The problems went beyond just targeting a location close to the corners. There was no acceptable conversion rate. If Seattle were to average the league in set-piece success, they’d probably make the playoffs, and things were close.
things that should help;
- Joao Paulo Service.
- Heber’s head.
- Atencio and/or Ragen.
- Perhaps some new techniques that the trainers do not specifically disclose, but they can talk about their implementation.
There are now organizations that have assistant coaches dedicated to the strike. MLS probably isn’t big enough for that. But Seattle could take a little longer to get the kind of service their top talent can put to good use. – Dave