Armchair Analyst: Season of change finally upon Sounders
MLSsoccer.com continues to take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 15-8-11 (56 points); 51 GF / 33 GA (+18 GD)
Ok, so there are two ways to look at the Sounders’ upcoming 2013 season.
The first way is to say, "Either the Supporters’ Shield or MLS Cup will do. One or the other, it doesn’t have to be both. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have both, but let’s not be greedy. We are but humble, emotionally balanced Sounders fans, after all.”
In that case, you look at the roster, you crunch some numbers, and you come to the conclusion that you chop and change as little as humanly possible. You’ve already made one hard decision – au revoir, Jeff Parke – and you know there may be a couple more coming to get cap compliance, but the reality is that this team was really, really good. Better than they’d ever been, as a matter of fact. So good that the only thing between Seattle and a Shield was an untimely – and lengthy – injury to Michael Gspurning.
The Sounders were the best team in the league with the big Austrian in net. They went 12-4-5 in his 21 regular-season games. He allowed a ridiculous .73 goals per game, and posted a .77 save percentage. With the exception of five minutes of madness at The Home Depot Center in November, Seattle were monstrous with Gspurning in there.
Montero can't beat Saunders
And if an injury hits in 2013, as it did in 2012? You have Marcus Hahnemann this time through. That’s English Premier League and US national team veteran Marcus Hahnemann, by the way. Yeah, he’s old. But he’s still pretty damn good, will keep your defense in shape and won’t get beat off his line like last year’s backups did. This team is built for the long haul. Built to last. Built to win that Shield.
You’re a Sounders fan, so you know that. And you know that in addition to the regular-season heroics, your team made yet another US Open Cup final. And although you didn’t win a fourth straight USOC, you know that’s not the team’s fault. It’s obviously Ricardo Salazar’s.
And – and! – you absolutely smoked your CONCACAF Champions League group. And you won your first ever playoff series despite losing Mauro Rosales for the second leg vs. RSL. And you have Eddie Johnson, and Osvaldo Alonso, and Mario Martínez sure looks nice, and doesn’t Sammy Ochoa come up big when we need him? And David Estrada! Plus Christian Tiffert! Ever-reliable Brad Evans! And a healthy Steve Zakuani who, though some miracle of modern science, still has that lightning-quick first step.
So if you’re OK with the Shield, another USOC run, a CCL run and maybe – maybe – a chance at an MLS Cup, you’re standing pat. One of the big names above has to go to get under the cap, but that’s about it.
If, however, MLS Cup is the only thing that will make those Landon Donovan nightmares stop, then you have to lose Fredy Montero. Have to.
You can’t ignore his lack of postseason production anymore. You can’t ignore that he became such an albatross against the Galaxy that Sigi Schmid actually took him out for the last 20 minutes, the 20 minutes when your beloved men in Rave Green were pushing for two goals that just wouldn’t come.
Would any other DP striker in the league get the hook in that situation? What would Donovan or Robbie Keane have done if Bruce Arena had tried that? You actually don’t know, because they produce in the postseason.
Thus, this is the winter of your discontent, Seattlites. And quite possibly your season of change.
Keep Montero, and you have an even-money run at the Shield. Lose him, and you probably undergo a formation change, punt half the season building chemistry and kiss off your Shield hopes. But you end up with a better shot at MLS Cup.
So you must choose. What matters more? Which trophy completes the room? Does Fredy get one more last chance?