The Seattle Sounders put together a massive run from August onward – resulting in lifting the MLS Cup. They started their impressive run by firing long-time coach Sigi Schmid and replacing him with the Sounders lifer, Brian Schmetzer. Three major roster changes happened within a month of each other. The Sounders brought in an elite talent in Nicolas Lodeiro, lost Clint Dempsey to a season ending heart condition, and got massive defender Roman Torres back from injury. The team’s attacking style was similar in the two halves of the season, just more purposeful and with better execution under Schmetzer.
The Sounders shipped out a lot of aging players in the offseason who had plenty of minutes between them. Nelson Valdez, Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz, and Tyrone Mears are the four most notable departures. Harry Shipp was acquired from Montreal to replace Either Friberg or Ivanschitz. Will Bruin is expected to replace Nelson Valdez. The most notable roster announcement came when Clint Dempsey was cleared for practice and was a full participant at the start the pre-season. There are still several TAM or DP level players linked to the Sounders, so there might be another big signing on the way.
Under Schmetzer, the Sounders played a 4-2-3-1 and played at the slowest pace in the league (as they also did under Sigi) – completing the most passes per possession and also conceding the most passes per possession. After winning the ball, they establish possession and work through Osvaldo Alonso, who completed almost 300 more passes than anyone else, until they can get forward. They had the second most crosses per game, though they utilized them at a more average rate once Schmetzer took over. Part of that is down to the addition of Lodeiro, who has the awareness, skill, and movement to combine through the middle very effectively. With the two hulks of Chad Marshall and Torres at center back, the Sounders tried to clog up the middle and force opposition into creating chances via crosses. As a result, their defense was very stingy in the last half of the season.
This season, I’d expect to see much of the same – slow build up going through Alonso and Cristian Roldan until they can turn upfield and connect with Lodeiro or Dempsey or get an outside back running into space. The big question is who provides the width? If Jordan Morris starts at forward and Shipp at left wing, the outside backs will have to cover a lot of ground. The other option is to start Bruin at forward and Morris on the wing, where he provided adequate width last season.
Expected Sounders line-up at time of writing
There’s two question marks at this point in the season. The first is who starts at right back. Evans is most likely the first choice, with competition coming from Fisher, to fill the vacancy. The second question is who starts between Shipp and Bruin, as that dictates where Morris plays. Shipp is the better player, but I think what he provides tactically to the group is less beneficial than what Bruin would. It really could go either way at this point.
The Sounders’ core that led them to success remains intact while replacing guys 9-16 on the roster with more youth and speed. They are surely considered contenders for each of the trophies. If Lodeiro has a full season similar to his half season last year, he will be at least the second best player in the league and might even push Giovinco for the top slot. Fantasy prices will likely be prohibitive for most Sounders players, but keep an eye on the cost of Lodeiro, Dempsey, Morris, Frei, Torres, Alonso, Joevin Jones, and Marshall.