2015 was a disappointment for the Seattle Sounders.
They were ousted in the US Open Cup by their rivals, the Portland Timbers, were knocked out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in a penalty shootout and then saw the Timbers lift MLS Cup in just their second-ever playoff appearance.
After that disappointment, the Sounders had a bit of a makeover in the offseason. Gone are Lamar Neagle, Marco Pappa and Gonzalo Pineda, who were all big contributors to a team that won the 2014 Supporters’ Shield.
Then on Sunday it was reported that star striker Obafemi Martins was also heading out of town, reportedly to take a big money offer from a Chinese club.
To replace them, the team has brought in one very big name: Jordan Morris. Possibly the most highly-touted Homegrown Player signing in MLS history, Morris will look to cement his place with the Sounders in their two-legged series against Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
The Sounders have had some success against Mexican teams in the past when they defeated Tigres in the quarterfinals of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League. In that series they defeated Tigres in the second leg, 3-1 with goals coming from DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore and Eddie Johnson.
None of those players will be on the field when the Sounders face-off with America in the second leg of this series, which will take place at the vaunted Estadio Azteca.
- Clint Dempsey – Deuce scored just 10 goals in an abbreviated 2015 season, one that saw him get a six-match suspension for ripping up a referees notebook and a hamstring injury that forced him to miss four games in August. The former US national team captain will be looking to stay healthy and lead the Sounders to a CCL title that they are craving.
- Jordan Morris – Things just got tougher for the Homegrown-signee. The Sounders were expected to ease the US national team player into professional life, but with the apparent departure of Martins, more will be expected of Morris. The MAC Hermann trophy will be expected to do the necessary work up and down the right flank while providing a punch in the attacking third.
- Osvaldo Alonso – The 30-year-old is a Sounders legend, after having been with the club since its first season in MLS. But it appears, “The Honey Badger” may be slowing down. He played just 1,857 minutes in 2015 due to injuries and that total was his lowest in his seven-year MLS career. Can he regain his 2014 form? Or are we seeing a new Alonso?
For years under Schmid, the Sounders have been known as a 4-4-2 team. In recent years that has meant the team has revolved around their two forwards and a defensive midfielder that ate up space. But that appears likely to change in 2015.
With the addition of Morris the Sounders were looking to move to a 4-3-3, allowing Dempsey, Martins and Morris to all be on the field at the same time. With the reported departure of Martins, expect Nelson Valdez to replace him in the center forward role. Dempsey and Morris will be expected to do some defensive work on the flanks, something they probably haven’t done in years. New addition Joevin Jones and Tyrone Mears will be expected to do a lot of work up and down the wings in support of their three star forwards.
- GK: Stefan Frei
- RB: Tyrone Mears
- CB: Chad Marshall
- CB: Brad Evans
- LB: Joevin Jones
- CM: Osvaldo Alonso
- CM: Erik Friberg
- CM: Andreas Ivanschitz
- RF: Jordan Morris
- CF: Nelson Valdez
- LF: Clint Dempsey
As mentioned above, the Sounders have had some success in the CCL. They reached the semifinals in 2012-13 after getting knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2011-12.
Given all the changes that are going on, it’s tough seeing the Sounders make a deep run in Champions League. On top of that, they are facing defending champion and perennial Mexican power Club America. If they can get a couple goals in the first leg, they should have a chance heading down to Azteca. Anything less than that and you can kiss a CCL title goodbye.