11 Thoughts for the Sounders in 2013

First off, Happy New Year to you and yours. It’s 2013 folks. Anything can happen. But… who knows what will? Right?

Anyways, the current blogging fad seems to be the natural event tie-in of this year ending and well.. this wonderful brand new year that’s set before us. You know you go into what was “great” about last year <intsert blah>. Now we talk about what is coming next <insert more blah>. It’s all so interesting and EXCITING!

Well, in my holiday hang over and general focus on over seas play, I succumbed to the lack of imagination and decided to be someone who follows in the mold of things and write my own little “XI Questions for 2013″–Sounders style. As you may under the questions are all things that I’m pondering within my own mind. Not really, necessarily looking to answer. Maybe, saying that kind of shatters the whole illusion of creating this. I don’t know.The point I think I’m trying to make is that this is all a matter of waiting to see what evolves from the club.

Without any wasted words or further ado, I give you my vaunted “XI Questions — Headed into 2013″

 

11. Who is going to be at left back to start the year?

I am really curious with what the Sounders intend to do with the left side of the defence. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado will get the nod, of course, at the centreback position but who will stand next to him? I suppose Marc Burch is the most likeliest candidate as of now. Which, honestly, I’m alright with that choice. I know Sounder fans in general seem to be driven crazy by him, but I’m actually a fan. Leo Gonzalez is probably a better option, but we saw his minutes decline last year due to injuries and various health issues aging another year isn’t going to help him, at 33.

There are various options abroad as well as within the league. I’m kind of following a story line up north, as Krzysztof Król is rumoured to be making a return to MLS and supposedly Toronto FC, but then again the Reds are looking looking pretty set along at their back line. It would be some thing special if we could lure him here to replace Leo Gonzalez. Someone like Krol could step in and win a starting job and at 25, he’s about to enter his prime.

Then again, should Toronto sign Król you could always try a Gonzalez + Allocation Money swap for someone like an Ashtone Morgan. I don’t think that anywhere close to reality, but it’s likely a deal that’s worth trying to pursue. There are a lot of young and still inexpensive options out there, and while this is just trivial speculation, it’s what I’d like to see from the club.

 

10. Can Patrick Ianni take that next step and be a starting MLS defender,
week in-week out?

I think there is a lot of thoughts out there that Patrick Ianni is going to step in and take over for Jeff Parke in near seamless quality. This is in no way to be critical of Ianni; I am starting to gather that most people seem to hold Parke with a different level of esteem. I the believe the Abington natives’ performance over the final two months of the season are perhaps the best from anyone on the backline since the clubs entrance into MLS. I think we got to see him among the top tier in the league during that final time.

I think Ianni will be plenty suave enough to stand on his own and in general do very well. But, there is a reason that Gspuring was one of the top net minders in the league fresh out of the “overseas” box. He played with a fabulous line of defenders and while I think that generally won’t change. I do see him experiencing more shots this coming season and as a result more goals.

If the Sounders want to continue their march as a top team, not just in the west–but in MLS, they are going to have to stay strong and Ianni’s consistency is going to speak very bold about their chances at an MLS Cup.

 

9. Will Jhon Kennedy Hurtado stay healthy for a full season?

I love me some JKH! But, the real question is how much he’s going to be able to be a functional member of the first team squad and how frequently he’ll be available for selection. Last year was another decline in numbers and thankfully Ianni was there as a third and very capable Centreback. Unfortunately that’s a huge missing piece right now and something has to give.

I like having him around but you have to wonder if it wouldn’t be more worth it to attempt to flip him for some Allocation Money and continue building a young, athleticly strong backline or take a gamble on his long term fitness. I suppose this isn’t an either or. Finding a suitable–and cheap–third centreback is always an option but as important as it is for Ianni to stay consistent the Sounders HAVE to see Hurtado break the 2000 minute mark this season.

 

8. Will the Sounders sign their first HGP?

Okay, there is probably two or three solid fits right now with where the Sounders roster needs are and the coinciding players that–potentially and according to rumors, are available. I get the Darwin Jones fixation. He’s got a ton of pace and a bit of skill on the ball with a good positional instincts. There is a lot of Mike Fucito in him and right the fan base needs something like him to get behind. But, I would be exceedingly joyful to see the club go after the ever enchanting DeAndre Yedlin.

His talent is so undeniable that it’s very exciting and I have this feeling of wanting to covet his abilities for the now. But as Adrian Hanuer and even many of the supporters continue to echo, that they want their first HGP to be a first team contributor right away. There is a bit of discussion as to whether or not that is really where Yedlin is at right now.

Again, it’s not a this or that conversation–it very well could be both. It’ll be interesting to see where the Sounders go with these young players.

 

7. Does Ozzie stay?

Being wanted, sincerely wanted–is flattering to anyone. West Ham likes the Cuban and at 27 I have to believe that there is a desire to move to a top league. I’m sure there are direct quotes that could be found citing this desire.The real question is whether or not MLS and West Ham can agree on a transfer fee. I’m really not sure if this is going to be a story line that is drug out long.

It’s kind of one of those things that will fly below the radar. But to me, outside of maybe Andy Rose, the Sounders don’t have a lot of options as far as defensive minded mid-fielders.Losing Alonso is rather scary in general to me at this stage and I don’t think I’m a lone in the sentiment. A transfer could even force a change a in tactics and line-up selections for Sigi Schmid  in 2013.

 

6. Can the Sounders score goals without Mauro Rosales on the pitch?

This “meme” kind of gets old. The problem is that it have a bit of truth associated with it. We all hope with the addition of Christian Tiffert from last season and the longer his tenure becomes the more effective he gets at with stimulating the offense.

The Sounders have some very good individuals that can put the ball in the net and they have some good individuals that can great solid scoring opportunities for others. But somehow the two skills didn’t mesh as well as we would have liked and it’s something that we’re all going to be watching this year.

 

5. Can Christian Tiffert transform into the guy the team thought they were getting in August?

I’m not going to say that Tiffert was in any way a disappointment. I think that there was a bit of callow expectations among the emerald faithful. A thought that this guy was guy was going to be Mauro Rosales 2.0 or something a long those designated lines. What really made matters worse were the big score lines that happened with his arrival. Naturally, as Rosalses wilted down the stretch due to various injuries was disappointment that the goal tally followed with him.

Tiffert, on an average, delivered the most passes in to Fredy Montero by any Sounder and though he was only there for a short time was clearly on a good pace to eclipse either Brad Evans or Mauro Rosales. It’s clear the two worked really well together centrally and I personally am not entirely sure what the issues were with the lack of goals except to chalk it up to poor luck.

It’s easy to see the lack of results in the playoffs but the German international had as many as 7 key passes according to Opta over the 4 playoff games, only one of which was struck for a goal. That doesn’t singularly speak to his class and technical work in the midfield, it serves as an example of the unfinished product that was the Sounders playoff dreams.And while it’s easy to chalk up the bit of disappointment to lack of service and hope he adjusts, Tiffert was still incredibly helpful and did a lot to help the Sounders towards silverware. Another year in the midfield and working with EJ and Montero only promises good things.

4. Does Mario Martinez stick around and will he find the minutes he desires with Seattle?

I’ve been a strong supporter of Mario this off-season and I’ll continue to be. I think the guy has the class to go over and be a very useful piece in the not so distant future to clubs in Europe. I see him as quasi-meld of Montero and Rosales. Maybe he doesn’t really flash as much skill as either of those in their elite occupations but I believe and I’ll argue it until I’m red in the face that the nice blend of those two skill sets makes him an intrigual piece for the “now” of the Sounders.

Martinez loan extends until the middle of the summer and at this point I likely expect him to return if not even a bit sooner. But for now I’m holding out hope that one of the key pieces to Honduras Olympic run is also found to be a Sounder for the foreseeable future.

3. Will Steve Zakuani regain his past form?

Last week going through a punch of podcasts I stumbled across one in which they are reminiscing upon interview with Zakuani conducted in January. There are obviously a lot of really great sound bites to take away from it and overall it’s really encouraging and quiet amazing to sit back and see where he’s come back from. I know that he gets tired of this story and he doesn’t really want to focus on it much anymore. I think that’s fair as who would want to dwell on something that was so tragic and heartbreaking, especially when you’ve obviously made leaps and bounds past it.

The point of me bringing it back up though is the fact that he had so much to return from and yet through all that he still retains so many of the very skilled traits he had previously. Obviously not everything is there and I think it should go without saying but not all his tools will return. That’s just an unfortunate part of what happened.

That said, look at all that he was able to do once he returned to the pitch. There are so many positive moments and yet, in all those moments, you still had his mental lapses and poor positioning and various other defects to his game. These are very small and minor things but when you think about him sharpening all these things and adding them back into his tool box… the future is still bright for Steve Zakuani. The only question left is how bright?

 

2. Should Fredy stay, can he and Eddie be co-exist and be better in 2013 than what they were in 2012?

Okay, the assist that sent Eddie sprawling head first to take the Sounders over the Whitecaps has been used as the culmination of two talents finally learning to play together. Sadly that wasn’t the MLS Cup and furthermore it didn’t even lead to winning the Cascadian Cup. There were big steps that were made on behalf of both players and while right now it’s a sincere question as to whether or not Montero will return to the squad, I think it’s safe to say that the two forwards won’t be wasting a lot of time in the same silly battle that neutralized their effectiveness early on in the season.

That said both have egos that come with playing the position that creates so much fanfare and excitement. Strikes often can have so much pride invested in their accomplishments that one can never tell what potentially could evolve. I would love to think of these two as having very successful campaigns that lead to many goals. But we can only wait and see what comes.

1. Is it possible for Sigi Schmid to win silverware without making an impact signing and the still possibly additional salary cap victims that appear lurking in the distance?

I think this club can get by one more season without having to make any huge roster changes or outrageous deals. I think the roster, as it sits, is perfectly capable of making a run towards an MLS Cup and even potentially the consistency to charge towards a Supporters Shield. That being said, there are pieces that could be upgraded and with the impending doom-like nature of the salary cap. we all realize there are still unfortunate losses to occur.

I feel that the team over the last few years continues to be defined by it’s one or two small pieces rather than it’s stars. I know the popular thing after the Galaxy defeat was to say that Montero and Eddie Johnson just weren’t enough and that our Designated Players just weren’t as good as theirs were. But that’s just not true. The real problem lies in the fact that they build the roster from top all the way to the bottom supporting those 3.

It’s not just about Landon Donovan or Robbie Keane. It’s been about Omar Gonzalez, Marcelo Sarvas and the Juninho‘s of their roster that have just been the tipping point. Them finding and putting to use Christian Wilhelmsson for a final run and an MLS Cup and it’s not just as simple as collecting talent and running it out there on the pitch. That takes work and it takes a collective effort.

What Bruce Arenas has done is impressive to say the least. But don’t mistake that for what is ahead. The Sounders have the same impact pieces that are already coming into their prime, not leaving it, and it would appear to me they are searching for those needed pieces that can impact and turn the tide for this squad to make that last push towards to being the top flight club.

Topics: Krzysztof Król

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