Sounders FC sponsored by XBOX 360!

So I was sitting in section 121 at Qwest Field, listening to Joe Roth talk about how he (quite impressively) had woken up at 5 AM in Los Angeles this morning and had gotten to Seattle for the jersey unveiling at 11:30. I reached into my bag to pull out my camera and turned it on. The words "change batteries" showed up on the screen. I stared at it in sadness for about 15 seconds and put it away. So, no pictures from the event. Instead, here's an image of our new jersey!
Can't complain. It's unique (no other team in MLS has a green jersey) and doesn't look too busy or too boring. With over 16,000 season deposits being made, you can bet that these jerseys will be flying off of the shelves just as soon as they're on them in the first place. Which could be as soon as this Saturday. Some sort of merchandise will be available at the Qwest Field team shop by this Saturday, but it's unlikely (not impossible) that this jersey is among stuff available to purchase. We'll find out...


Another announcement... tomorrow

First there was the official team announcement back in November. Then there was the naming a couple of months ago. Now the next step in the short but glorious history of Seattle Sounders FC is about to occur, and this one is open to all fans. The team jersey is about to be unveiled and everyone is invited to to witness it at Qwest Field tomorrow at 11:30 AM. And as usual, there's a leak. I'm not going to link to the supposed photo of the kit simply because I'd probably be asked to take it down anyways. In any case, the real thing will be available to be seen soon enough. In addition, I'll be going and taking plenty of pictures. If you want to say hi and tell me how awesome/awful/other adjective this blog is, I'll be the tall skinny guy in the blue pinstriped USA jersey. Come on down - it's free and hopefully fun!


The curious case of Ryan Johnson

Last night against Houston, San Jose had arguably their best game of the season, a gritty 2-1 win over their new rivals. I've written about their lack of forward production, but they got two goals yesterday and created many dangerous chances. This is mostly because of one key lineup change - 23 year old Jamaican utilityman Ryan Johnson started at forward and proceeded to use his size and speed to bother the Houston defense all night. Although he had been quite effective as a reserve in previous games this season, this was his breakout game and it probably won him a place in the starting 11 until further notice. His stock appears to be rising rapidly. 
So why is this relevant up here in Seattle? Well, what most people may not know is just how close Johnson came to being a Sounder this year in USL. According to Adrian Hanauer about a month ago, "Ryan Johnson was on his way to Seattle for a trial... literally itinerary arranged... and Frank Yallop called him and got him to SJ. Unfortunately, the MLS clubs have more pull when it comes to a young talented player like that. He was definitely on our radar though." With Seattle currently needing help at forward as well, this becomes even more of an unfortunate missed opportunity. It also shows just how great of a difference there is between the USL and MLS, at least in the perception of most players - Johnson was happy to ditch the USL champs at the drop of a hat to go to an MLS expansion team.

Ryan Johnson is a player that I (and probably Hanauer) have been hoping to pick up in next years expansion draft. So while his breakout game is a good sign of the natural talent we saw in him, it obviously may make him that much more valuable to San Jose, and maybe valuable enough to protect him and not allow him to be drafted by Seattle after this season. Even if we can't pick him up, he's the type of player we should be targeting for 2009 - young, talented (if somewhat raw) and with lots of upside. 


See the jersey! And - stuff is on sale!

10 months ahead of Seattle's first game in MLS, the team is prepared to unveil their jerseys. Will a kit sponsor for the front be already on, or will that come later in fall or winter? Either way, it should be a good time if you happen to be within range of downtown Seattle next Wednesday. The announcement will take place at Qwest Field on May 28 and officially starts at 11:30. I would expect (and hope!) that they have some Sounders FC gear of some type to give away at the event...

(Thursday night edit) Also things are now on sale at the MLS store online! It's not much, but you can now purchase official Sounders FC items such as flags and license plate frames. Ch-check it out here.


The membership scheme revealed

"I order the club sandwich all the time and I'm not even a member, man. I don't know how I get away with it." (Mitch Hedberg)

Drew Carey was in town Friday to talk to fans at Kells Irish Pub downtown. He said that the process of the Sounders ownership group coming together to get their place in MLS took "less time than the R. Kelly trial." Aside from being a funnyman, he was there to reveal details about the increasingly famous membership system that he and the Sounders FC are implementing. 
The best part is that it's all free to season-ticket holders! Of course, anyone else can pay $125 a year to join. Every 4 years there will be a vote among all members whether or not to keep the current GM. More than 50% of votes are needed to vote the GM out. (The club will still pick the new GM.) Also, members can call a vote in any given year with at least 20% of members signing. And there was mention of a 'membership council.' Any member with 25 others backing him or her gets to be on the council, which meets a couple times a year to hear directly from the suits and give their input.

The team is definitely taking some big steps to involve the fans, as they have so often promised. Drew was very clear in pointing out to the fans in attendance that "it'll be your team, for sure." Words like that from the team's owner are great, but the actual system being implemented and measures being taken to involve the fans are even better. 


Seattle won't host World Cup qualifiers this fall


This is extremely disappointing. Seattle had been one of 6 cities vying to host one of 3 games, but were not chosen. Hard to understand why, really - with SSFC coming next year the timing was perfect, Seattle is a long ways from each of the potential opponent countries, and Qwest hasn't been used much by the USMNT. Of course, there's still the chance of getting a game in Qwest Field for the final round of WC qualification, which goes on during the better part of 2009. So there's still hope for a meaningful Mens National team game in the moderately near future.


Marcus Hahnemann and the goalkeeper puzzle

As a Seattle native, Marcus Hahnemann has been targeted as a potential Sounder in MLS almost since the team was announced. As somewhat of a response, three-ish weeks ago he wrote, "...let me shout it loud and clear. Playing for the Sounders again is an attractive proposition but there are only two things on my mind right now. No 1: keeping Reading in the Premier League. No 2: having a better campaign in the top flight next season." This was, of course, absolutely the right thing to say. 

However, thanks to a Fulham away win, Reading were relegated from the Premier league today. So who knows what is on Hahnemann's mind now. With Reading going down and probably choosing to offload some of their pricier players, SSFC might have just been given a very good opportunity to sign the 36 year old keeper. 

The USL Sounders already have a very strong goalkeeper in Chris Eylander, who was one of USL's best last year (and just held league-leading Portland to a scoreless draw last night). So keeper is not necessarily a position of need. But Eylander has publicly said that he would love to play understudy to either Hahnemann or local boy/Fulham keeper Kasey Keller (who almost certainly will be staying at his club next year). If Hahnemann is ready to come home in the summer of 2009 when his contract runs out, the Sounders will find a way to make it happen. It all depends on him at this point, and the rest of us will have to wait and see. 


Le Toux official and other related things

Thanks to David at Goal Seattle we learned that Sebastien Le Toux is the first Sounders FC signee sometime last month. Well, apparently word just got around to the newspapers, because it wasn't officially announced until yesterday. (No idea on the contract information, but we'd guess 80k to 100k a year for 3 or 4 years). While that is no new information, there are a few things to be learned from this announcement.

- The internet is your friend, as far as breaking news goes. We had the official team name figured out ahead of time and Goal Seattle had the Le Toux thing way ahead of time. And it's not just us. As we get further into the internet age, bloggers are being able to get information about any number of subjects much faster than newspapers and get it online immediately, while a print paper may take a week or more to get a story printed. It is and will continue to be a big shift in the way the public gets their information.

-To complete this signing, SSFC signed Le Toux, then immediately loaned him to the USL Sounders for the remainder of this season. Huh.

- Here's USL Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer, via the Indirect Kick blog. "We’ve developed him on the USL level. Now he’s made the jump to Seattle Sounders FC. We hope to do that with six, eight, 10 of (the USL Sounders) and hopefully we can have a good nucleus of the team for ’09." All we're going to say about that is if they seriously think 8 or 10 guys can go from the USL to MLS, the 2009 season is going to be a very painful one to watch. For some perspective: Le Toux, last seasons USL MVP, only wound up on the Sounders after he was cut from FC Dallas. Let's hope this quote from Schmetzer is just motivational and not an insight into the strategy of SSFC.


San Jose's forward problem, and how Seattle can avoid one of their own

A little more than a month into the MLS season might be a bit early to declare the season lost for the San Jose Earthquakes. From their 5 matches they have garnered a win and a draw, and have looked well ahead of where last year's expansion team, Toronto FC, were at this point last year. They focused on building from the back, and thus they have an average-MLS-caliber defense and a very good keeper in Joe Cannon. But they made a sacrifice to do so, and that sacrifice is on the offensive end.

San Jose's forward corps is basically made up of bench players. Kei Kamara and Gavin Glinton, the two normal starters, are nothing special at all. Glinton in particular has been wildly unproductive thus far, putting just 2 shots on goal even though he's been given 4 starts. Newly acquired Peguero Jean Phillippe is sort of an unknown quantity, though his skill level probably lies somewhere in between 'meh' and 'decent.' They've even resorted to trying rookie winger Shea Salinas up front. Needless to say, the production has been less than spectacular. They have just 2 goals in 5 games, and what we've seen of their attack has not impressed us at all.

What San Jose has shown us is this. For 2009, the Sounders cannot afford to try and build their striker corps through the expansion draft and with the best of their USL side. Of the two main current Sounders forwards, Sebastien Le Toux probably projects to be a midfielder or winger in MLS, and Roger Levesque is aging and definitely not MLS starter quality. So they will need to look abroad for at least one and probably two good strikers. We can optimistically assume that some young forward will be signed out of Africa or South America due to Adrian Hanauer's travels. So let's look to Europe.

Three obvious names are out there. Cam Weaver, former Sounder and current striker in Sweden. Preston Zimmerman, a local 19 year old playing for Hamburg SV. And of course Thierry Henry, who has recently said that the only EPL team he would transfer to would be Arsenal, somewhat of an unrealistic proposition given that club's tight financial drawstrings. Yet Mr. Henry is probably going to be shown the door at Barcelona this summer. Don't get your hopes up, but that possibility remains out there. That would be the best way to avoid having a boring, unproductive San Jose-esque offense come 2009.


Tickets, please

You can buy tickets for the Brazil-Canada match May 31 as of now. Technically, only season-ticket holders are able to do so, but even if you're not one, go to the Ticketmaster website, find the match and enter the code of SOUNDERSFC. We won't tell if you won't.

Also, for the clever fans who already have their season tickets locked up, seat selection is now available. (That information's been emailed to you, of course.) The link here lets you see the view in Qwest from each section, as well as price and stuff. We'll probably be in section 139 or 140, and the supporters groups will be chanting, cheering and getting their drink on in sections 121-123. Ticket prices are actually quite reasonable, starting with under $300 for the 18-game season package, so we'll play advertiser and tell you to sign up if you haven't already. Really, if you're a soccer fan, why wouldn't you?

(Tried to link a picture of the seating map, but it's taking like 20 minutes to upload for some reason, so instead you can view it here.)