2020 Season Preview: Seattle Sounders

The champs will surely contend again … and now that the team has been eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League in the Round of 16, their chances of getting to MLS Cup again from the West have likely been boosted. Just look at what happened to Toronto FC in 2018 and Sporting KC in 2019 after both those teams made deep Champions League runs.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer can now focus on melding a host of new difference makers together with his mainstays from their MLS Cup triumph. With a tradition of late-season runs and a stronger squad, no one will bet against another Seattle MLS Cup appearance.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 56 points (16W-10L-8D), 2nd in West / 4th overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: MLS Cup champions (vs. Toronto FC)
  • U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in 4th Round (vs. Portland Timbers)

Star players

  • Nicolas Lodeiro — The Sounders’ talismanic playmaker is at the heart of everything they do. Fresh off a second MLS Cup win in the Emerald City, Lodeiro is already a Seattle legend and will look to cement his legacy as an all-time MLS great.
  • Raul Ruidiaz — Scoring at a clip of .72 goals per 90 (including playoffs) since he joined the Sounders in the summer of 2018, the Peruvian international is indisputably one of the best finishers in MLS and was a big reason for their 2019 MLS Cup win. However, he missed 12 regular-season games last year due to injury and international duty, and with Copa América on the horizon his availability might once again be a question mark.
  • Jordan Morris — The American international enjoyed a remarkable comeback season in 2019 which ended up being his best yet in MLS. If he can match that this year, it’ll be a huge boon for the Sounders, to say nothing of the possibility of him surpassing his achievements from the previous season.

Extratime Analysis: Seattle Sounders

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Joao Paulo — With their open DP spot, the Sounders opted to go for a deeper-lying central midfielder in Joao Paulo. He has already made a good impression in preseason, with his range of passing offering up some very tasty possibilities for the likes of Lodeiro, Ruidiaz and Morris in front of him.
  • IN: Yeimar Gomez Andrade — The Colombian center back joined Seattle this offseason after spending his entire pro career to date in Argentina. He will be expected to slot in and partner Xavier Arreaga following the departures of Roman Torres and Kim Kee-hee, and with little depth in the center of defense at the moment (new signing Shane O'Neill is the only other natural CB on the roster, though a few others can play there), a lot will be asked of the duo early on.
  • OUT: Roman Torres — The larger-than-life defender and 2016 MLS Cup hero is off to Miami, but the Sounders showed they can succeed without him when he missed 10 games at the end of 2019 due to suspension, not to mention in their famous victory at LAFC in the playoffs, where he made just a two-minute cameo.
  • OUT: Kim Kee-hee — Though he hasn’t signed anywhere else since his contract expired at the end of 2019, Kim is unlikely to return to Seattle and his steady, consistent presence in the back will be missed.
  • OUT: Brad Smith — The Australian wingback proved one of the underrated elements of Seattle’s attack last year with his pace and six assists, though another attack-minded wingback in Joevin Jones is a good bet to mimic many of those contributions.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (3): Stefan Cleveland, Stefan Frei, Trey Muse
  • Defenders (7): Xavier Arreaga, Yeimar Gomez Andrade, Joevin Jones, Kelvin Leerdam, Alex Roldan, Nouhou Tolo, Shane O’Neill
  • Midfielders (9): Handwalla Bwana, Jordy Delem, Miguel Ibarra, Danny Leyva, Nicolas Lodeiro, Joao Paulo, Cristian Roldan, Harry Shipp, Gustav Svensson
  • Forwards (5): Will Bruin, Justin Dhillon, Jordan Morris, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, Raul Ruidiaz

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: Can you do better for a big game trio than Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris and the incomparable Nico Lodeiro? Hell, let’s throw in Stefan Frei as well. Over the the past half-decade the answer is a resounding “no,” and those four guys – plus a bunch of other willing, able, and blooded role players – are back to do their usual work in the Emerald City in a new decade.
  • Weakness: Uh, the defense isn’t. Three of the four defenders who started in MLS Cup are gone, with Roman Torres moved on to Miami, Kim Kee-Hee to parts as yet unknown, and Brad Smith to Cardiff City. Seattle should be fine – they’re still deeper than most at left back and have methodically addressed center back over the past two windows – but there’s a decent amount of uncertainty there, relatively speaking.

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 1st in West
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 3rd in West
  • Calen Carr: 2nd in West
  • Charlie Davies: 4th in West
  • Matt Doyle: 2nd in West
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 4th in West
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 4th in West
Series: 

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