Sunday, February 15, 2015

Seattle Sounders 2015 Season Preview: The Kids Who Get Everything for Christmas

Never enough tree. Nice problem.
What Happened Last Year
"It is easy to forget just how close the Sounders came to winning three major trophies in 2014..."
- Ives Galarcep,
That sums it up neatly as anything. For Portland Timbers fans, "three major trophies" is the loop tape for your shittiest nightmares. The Seattle Sounders did come very close in the end – and not without earning it. As much as it hurts to say it, Seattle has a rock-solid team. Even if they acquired by spending more than (some anonymous) "you," that's still their team and we all have to fucking deal with it. Even in Portland. Everyone knows about Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey playing two-man tiki-taka through a rotating cast of MLS defenses, but a clutch of rarely-sung role-players carried the real secret to Seattle’s (near-) success (HA!) on their backs. If it wasn't Lamar Neagle knocking in nine goals (along with nine assists; most under-rated attacking player in MLS, anyone?), it's Marco Pappa coming in late to turn a game, or Chad Barrett chasing down everything like some crazed dog, or Stefan Frei pulling the ball right out of his ass before it went in the goal, or Zac Scott just...holding his shit together with retirement nipping at his heels. That supporting cast is the secret to Seattle's success. And, yes, I hate them for it. But, their nearly-glorious (HA!) 2014 was highly impressive. And the motherfuckers look all set to do it again.
Final Stats: 20-10-4, 64 points, 1st in the West, Supporters' Shield, 65 gf, 60 ga (wow.)

What's Happened Since
By definition, a Supporters' Shield-winning team doesn't need to do a lot – especially when they hold on to damn near every player. DeAndre Yedlin's departure for Tottenham's bench counts as the only significant departure ahead of 2015. The club (probably) replaced him with English defender Tyrone Mears. Andres Correa, a Colombian full-back came up as well, but he’s a left-sided guy from what I can tell. So, that's Yedlin’s replaced with maybe an upgrade here, a downgrade there. After that, the Sounders added a little depth (e.g. Troy Perkins) and a player or two to pretty up for the future (Christian Roldan, who fell to them a little fortuitously in December’s SuperDraft). Anyway, Seattle had exactly one actual hole to fill and they did it. Sure, they have a wish-list (winger, backup right back, central mid), but so does every club. Sigi Schmid & Co. can sit pat for now, knowing that they’re got an ownership group behind them ready to splash the cash when time comes. Goddammit. Oh, and Garth Lagerwey will manage the shopping list. Goddammit!

What to Expect This Year
That quote up top came from an article that dubbed the Sounders the #2 contender for 2015 – and with great reason. All their problems are pretty small – e.g. Osvaldo Alonso recovering from (was it?) groin surgery, which see him miss a month or so, and another year on Zac Scott’s already average body. Sobered by the noteworthy number of goals they coughed up in 2014 (50), the club contemplated this over the break and came up with a weird one: Brad Evans playing center-back alongside last year’s beast, Chad Marshall. (Eh, why not? Evans already plays everywhere else.) And if that doesn't work out, they'll just buy a new defender when it makes sense. Because they can. Then again, Seattle was just one lucky, frantic attack from MLS Cup last year, so all those goals allowed didn’t matter much in the end.

Barring the sort of meltdowns that one simply can’t predict, Seattle will contend.

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