SBI MLS Team Previews: Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders FC - JPEG

By ADAM SERRANO

After a debut season that could only be labeled a smashing success, the Seattle Sounders hope that their sophomore season brings even more glory to the Pacific Northwest. To achieve that glory however, the Sounders will need to find the goals that eluded them in 2009.

Head Coach Sigi Schmid brings back nearly the same squad that won the U.S. Open Cup and narrowly missed qualifying for the Western Conference final. In order to solve the club's goal scoring problem, the Sounders brass signed Swiss International Blaise Nkufo, who will be arriving in Seattle after the World Cup. In the mean time, it will be up to hardworking star Freddie Ljungberg to hold possession and generate offense for the Sounders.

To make up for the deficiencies in the offensive third, the Sounders are built on the defensive foundation created by the play of goalkeeper Kasey Keller and defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. While Ljungberg may generate the offense, Alonso is vital in providing the tireless organization and hard work that keeps the Sounders competitive.

Here is a look at the 2010 Seattle Sounders:

2010 SEATTLE SOUNDERS

Players to Watch- Freddie Ljungberg, Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado

Key Arrivals- Blaise Nkufo, Jeff Parke, David Estrada, Miguel Montano

Key Departures- Sebastien Le Toux, Chris Eylander

Projected Lineup (New starters in bold)

————— -Montero———Jaqua——————
Zakuani—————-Ljungberg——————-Evans
—————————Alonso—————————
Gonzalez———Hurtado——Marshall———–Riley
—————————-Keller—————————–

BIGGEST QUESTION – Where will the goals come from?

The debut season of the Seattle Sounders was marred by inconsistency in front of net. Too often Sounders attackers were unable to convert the simplest of chances which left the Qwest Field demanding more. For the Sounders to have success, the two "Freds" Montero and Ljungberg will need to form an effective partnership. Too often, the pair of Sounders stars were on the wrong page leading to a stalled Sounders attack. Before Nkufo arrives, the focus will be on Montero to be more consistent particularly in putting shots on net. 

X-FACTOR – Steve Zakuani

The first pick of the 2009 SuperDraft, Zakuani displayed the speed and ability to cut through defenses that warranted the first pick in the draft, however, far too often Zakuani's crossing and finishing came up short. In the off season, the speedy winger has hit the weight room to add a physical dimension that his game lacked in his debut season. Zakuani will need to prove that he can capitalize on his scoring opportunities if the Sounders are going to recover from their scoring woes.

OUTLOOK- In year two in the Pacific Northwest, Head Coach Sigi Schmid will call upon the likes of Freddy Montero and the rest of the attack to come together as unit like the defense did in 2009. Generating offense will be essential to creating the consistency that should propel the club to the top of the Western Conference.
 
The club is not without problems, as fixture congestion from playing in a number of competitions will test Seattle's depth.
 
Should the Sounders improve their finishing, Seattle will be a serious threat to reach MLS Cup.

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54 Responses to SBI MLS Team Previews: Seattle Sounders

  1. Hopper says:

    Thursday night’s gonna be off the hook. Go Sounders!

  2. Josh D says:

    Good luck! Not sure where the goals are coming from – Montero looked completely lost at the end of last season after his amazing start.

  3. BetaMale says:

    what, no Vagenas in the starting lineup? While I agree he’s slow and getting old, aren’t they paying him a relative large sum of cash?

  4. SoccerInAtl says:

    Montero’s dip in form happened at the same time those weird stories around him and some girl started coming out. Something to do with date rape allegations…nasty stuff. The kid is so young I’m sure that got his head spinning big time and he couldn’t ever get his mojo back after that. Perhaps with a new season that stuff will be long behind him and he will get his confidence back.

  5. RWDJr37 says:

    Vagenas is typically the first or second MF option off the bench…his salary is sizeable, but I don’t see who he should start in front of with the lineup Ives posted.

  6. RWDJr37 says:

    From where I stood during the Sounders v. Timbers friendly, Nkufo can’t come soon enough. There were a multitude of chances for the Rave Green, but very weak finishing.

    Also, someone that Ives didn’t mention above that everyone should expect good things from this year is: Roger Levesque. He was in supreme form during the preseason and actually might start at right mid tomorrow.

  7. SoccerInAtl says:

    Also I thought Seattle played the most attractive soccer in the league last year. They played so intricate I feel the turf was what ruined it in the final third as so many of their through balls would have too much weight on them. I think grass just offers that little bit of error tolerance in your pass weight that allows for more opportunities as opposed to turf where everything has to be inch perfect or the momentum takes the play too deep or too wide.

    I played a lot on turf and grass and turf claimed both of my knees over time. Nasty stuff. I hate that people think Field turf is ok. What great marketers we are in the US of A.

  8. paul says:

    Ljungberg was a hard worker last season, but he needs to get more goals for Seattle. Two goals will not be enough this year, though his 9 assists were good.
    I think unfair criticism is placed on Montero…Montero stats from last year (according to mlsnet):
    – lead the team with 12 goals (tied for 3rd in league)
    – 2nd on team with assists (tied for 5th in league)
    – 4 game-winning goals (tied for 3rd in league)
    – 5 consecutive games with goals (2nd in the league)

    Hardly an underachiever…especially for a young newcomer to league.

  9. BetaMale says:

    I certainly wasn’t implying that he should start. I was just trying to point out that he makes a nice chunk of coin to sit on that bench

  10. scott47a says:

    This time I’m more of an insider:

    Sounders will challenge for the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup, but only if they get off their butts and start scoring some goals. I have no idea if that will happen.

    The keeper and back four are rock solid — more so if Jeff Parke eventually replaces Tyrone Marshall, I think. And Ljungberg and Zakuani are super talented. But the combinations from midfield to the front didn’t work to create enough goals. Nkufo can’t get here soon enough.

    One final thought: Osvaldo Alonso is the most important field player on the team — the midfield reason the defense works so well and the calming influence that leads to longer possessions. He is the heart and soul of the team. (Be sure to check out the “El Corazon” sign we made for him hanging in the North End on TV). Can’t say enough about the guy. Should be an MLS First XI choice if he can stay healthy all year.

  11. United fury says:

    I don’t think anyone is criticizing him. They are just saying that he definitely cooled off after teams learned how play against him. I could see his form dropping a little bit however. It’s what happens with most forwards after their first year in MLS.(Emilio, Angel, and Galindo are prime examples)

  12. sammysounder says:

    True, but that’s not Cup-winning stuff from your #1 striker. Montero’s problem was consistency.

    He’ll be much better this year though, I’m sure of it.

  13. peterjh says:

    Montero had a five game scoring streak after that last year. I think the biggest issue Montero faced was he became a marked man after his fast start, and anytime he held onto the ball a little too long, chop, down he went. (Well, sometimes he went down with a faux “chop”). I think those who are saying he has to sort out working with Ljungberg (and others) are correct. If he learns to distribute the ball quickly more often instead of trying to create opportunities on his own I think he’s going to find that things will start opening up for him a bit more, as well.

  14. sammysounder says:

    Agreed. A healthy Alonso is huge.

    How much did the goal drought and his injury overlap? He didn’t score, but field position changes dramatically with him out there.

  15. K-Town says:

    I can’t say whether he is worth the salary he is paid, but Schmid coached Vagenas for 3 years at UCLA and then again for several years at LA Galaxy, which means Vagenas was practically raised by Schmid. I am sure they have a great understanding of each other. He also provides good leadership in the clubhouse.

  16. Jacobcda says:

    I think the biggest thing to be said about this team last year, and something that so many people overlook, is simply the fact that none of these guys had played together extensively.

    Team cohesion is key, with an entire season, and another offseason to build chemistry, I think the Sounders goals will be much more frequent.

  17. garimundi says:

    I think Ljungberg oughta stay as an attacking mid instead of playing more forward- his pace and workrate made a BIG diference in the quality of chances we had last year. Who’s going to win those balls and attack the box like he did?

    My big question- how does Sigi think adding in Nfuko in July will affect the team dynamic that was just built? Seems like an awkward transition to me, but he’s a pro soccer coach- I’m not!

  18. einar says:

    i blame all the missed chances on Jaqua lol

  19. paul says:

    you are probably correct, but when you are practically the only scoring threat on the team…teams don’t give you much room to breathe.

    Like United Fury said, I think his stats will drop off a bit…in part because everyone will know how he plays.

  20. paul says:

    Good points. I more wanted to point out that the writer of the Preview put lots of focus/pressure on Montero’s performance…when I think more pressure/focus should be put on Ljungberg’s…after all he is a DP and is supposed to generate offense. Just my thoughts.

  21. paul says:

    haha.
    One TV announcer said it perfectly about Jaqua…”it’s like watching bambi on ice!”

  22. lassidawg says:

    What ruined it was mainly the hack fest that went on in stopping the Freddies. I am prety sure both were near the top in fouls received.

    I dont’ expect that to change, because it is the same refs. The turf had nothing to do with it, unless you count that joke of a field for the playoff game in Houston.

    I think the Sounders will be fine this is year two of hem playign together

  23. Robinswood says:

    I would just add that Vagenas was probably our most consistent holder/passer/organizer in the last 12 games of the season, many of which he started. I think he’s a bit pricey, too, for bench guy, but he has proven his value on several occasions.

  24. Robinswood says:

    His biggest issue is that he is, hands down, the slowest player in MLS. Period. At no point in the last half of the season last year was he respected in any way, because every defender knew they could catch him in two steps from behind, give him a little shove, and he was cake. Hopefully, Zak will help offset that this season.

  25. acj says:

    I have high hopes for this team. They didn’t lose a single key player and they added Nkufo and Parke. Nkufo is an absolutely huge pick up. From most accounts he’s exactly the type of player they need; a guy who finds the ball in the box and knows what to do with it.

    My only concern is whether they have a big enough roster to deal with all the games from three competitions.

  26. SoccerInAtl says:

    To think turf had nothing to do with it is naive . The number of goals scored out of that stadium was below average. Freddies got hacked everywhere they went but managed more goals away from home then at home.

  27. DadRyan says:

    If there’s ever been one thing I could agree with you on, it’s Alonso. Wanted United to pick him up after seeing him up close in the 08 Open Cup final. He was the most dangerous man out there, and nearly equalized for the Battery. You freaking Sounders are lucky to have him in your team. Can’t stand Montero, like Hurtado a lot, and love Osvaldo.

    Interested to see how the team plays in year two, and absolutely bummed that the one week I’ll be in Seattle this Summer is the week the Sounders visit DC in July… I already tried getting my buddy to change his wedding date, and it just ain’t happening…
    :)

  28. DadRyan says:

    I wonder how hard it’ll be to find a bar in Seattle I won’t get my @$$ kicked at for wearing a United jersey on July 15th…

  29. sammysounder says:

    Probably for a bit. I be he starts getting more space once Kufo shows up.

  30. sammysounder says:

    Parke could be huge, too. He’ll push Marshall.

  31. Ian says:

    Last years home game vs Colorado showcased the communication we need from Montero.

  32. madmax says:

    Sounders scoring problems were historical, one stretch at home over 400 minutes. Last week Sigi didn’t sound confident about offense as they score only 1 goal in last three pre-season games.

  33. SeattleStan says:

    I’m a Sounders fan, but there is a chili place/bar called “Mike’s Chili Parlor” that has a bartender that likes United. Really nice guy. And you shouldn’t have too many issues at bars, just don’t pick fights.

  34. ACES says:

    Just don’t wear your scarf or else they’ll choke you with it.

  35. Cindy says:

    Parke still has to sit out 6 games and finish his suspension right? Or is that all wiped clean because he was still owned by the Sounders when he played for the Whitecaps? i thought the Sounders had released him…

  36. Sterlinho says:

    I blame Jaqua too!

  37. acj says:

    And if nothing else he’ll give the defense some rest during a very full season of matches. 4 competant center backs (Marshall Hurtado Ianni and Parke) is a nice luxory in this league.

  38. peterjh says:

    Agree 100%, he worked really well with Jaqua that game.

  39. Drew says:

    Hell yeah we will!

  40. JW says:

    Yeah I am not so sure Jaqua will start. He did not really have a preseason at all and is most likely not match fit. So I wonder if Levesque will start or they move Freddie L. up top and Vagenas starts in the middle.

  41. JW says:

    Yeah I would agree that once teams figured out they could just push the two Freddies around, it made it more difficult for the Sounders along the way.

  42. JW says:

    Exactly, you could probably come up with about 6 or 7 times that Montero should have scored last year. I think we can argue that compared with other forwards in the league, he was quite productive, but at least for himself he could have done better. I agree some of it had to do with a drop in form and teams knocking him around but hopefully he will score the 20 goals he wants this year.

  43. Rastafari- SBI herbsman says:

    T*mbers fans are Vermin and should stay on the south side of the Columbia River

  44. Charles says:

    Man this town, Seattle, is ready for soccer season to start again.

    The gear is out, never went away really, everyone is talking about it, Seattle is ready.

    I walked by QWest this afternoon there is already a guy asking for/selling tickets.

    Huskies’ win at 4:30, followed up by Sounder’s victory at 6:30

  45. DadRyan says:

    What kinda Doosh bags wear scarves in mid July?. Oops…;)

  46. t says:

    Roger will do this for us. then blaise.
    super psyched for this season.

  47. Emerald_City_Jason says:

    Depending on the year, a mid-July night here in Seattle can be quite cool.

  48. Emerald_City_Jason says:

    I buy that turf impacts the game in negative ways, but I don’t buy that turf—at least the newer stuff—causes injuries. Paul Allen did not pull a 180 on grass at Qwest because he suddenly got cheap. Seahawks players, coaches, and trainers love the stuff.

  49. DadRyan says:

    sigh… I lived in Seattle for nearly a decade. I wouldn’t be banking on it being cold enough to need a scarf for trip to the bar in the summer time. Not to mention that Drew reminds me that there is still no shortage of meatheaded d-bags looking to pick fights in ye Ol’ Emerald City.

  50. Chris in Belfast says:

    Yes, but the Seahawks spend less time actually running on the pitch (11 minutes of actual game play in a football game), and their game doesn’t involve the ball being on the turf for long periods of time.

  51. Good analysis. I think there could be plenty of goals, especially on that Seattle pitch, as these players play more matches together.

    OK, Ives & company, I am waiting for your preview on the San Jose Quakes! Must not neglect the only US city George Best has played for… :)

    I saw this preview at American Soccer News: link to quakes.american-soccer-news.com

    What’s the SBI take?

  52. scott47a says:

    How in the world did my comments, especially lauding Alonso, turn into a bunch of anti-Seattle comments. Get a life, folks. Seriously.

  53. DadRyan says:

    I have no idea… People telling me I shouldn’t wear a scarf so I won’t get strangled? Odd.

  54. Salty Dog says:

    ppppfffffft.. know your NASL history before typing

    link to en.wikipedia.org