2010 in Review: Seattle offseason checklist
SEATTLE – That final hump. The Seattle Sounders seem to be doing everything right – except advance in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Sigi Schmid and Adrian Hanauer believe they've got the pieces. But there's still work to do this offseason to put the club in position to make a deeper postseason run, in addition to defending another US Open Cup crown and making another go at the CONCACAF Champions League. Here’s Seattle’s offseason checklist before First Kick 2011.
Get Brad Evans healthy
Paramount to a successful 2011 will be the health of midfielder Evans. When he’s healthy, he provides a goal-scoring option in the center of the midfield. When he’s not, the Sounders don’t have another reliable attacking midfielder to slot in beside Osvaldo Alonso.
As was seen in the Los Angeles playoff series, the Sounders don’t have the firepower to break down bunkering defenses, especially with two holding-type midfielders in the middle. Having Evans back will give Seattle the ability to attack with five players, rather than four. Rather than rushing Evans back to the field, the organization placed him on the Injured Reserve list in August as he recovered from injuries to both knees.
Build on the existing foundation
Schmid and Hanauer have indicated the club won’t seek any more high-profile additions to the team for 2011. Instead, the club believes the offseason will give much-needed rest to the two big-name midseason acquisitions from this season, Álvaro Fernández and Blaise Nkufo. Despite being a Designated Player, Fernández didn’t start for much of the season, while fellow DP Nkufo’s performances were mixed.
[inline_node:319880]The Sounders also look to welcome back Evans and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado from injury. “To a certain extent, it’s almost like picking up four new guys,” Schmid said.
Address the center back situation
Seattle currently have three, arguably four, starting-caliber center backs on their current roster. With Hurtado’s return, will Tyrone Marshall be the odd one out from a group that also includes Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni? Or will one of the top three be used as trade bait? Ianni was initially left unprotected in the Expansion Draft, but Vancouver opted for Sanna Nyassi instead.
Embrace the rivalry
With Portland and Vancouver coming into the league, the I-5 rivalry has a chance to explode fan interest in Major League Soccer. All three clubs will need to work together to embrace the rivalry and offer a welcoming atmosphere to traveling supporters. All three clubs must strive to achieve a tremendous match-day atmosphere.