The other draft

The NBA draft was yesterday, and many of the top college basketball players in the country have been snapped up by new teams. In that spirit, let's take a quick look at some of the top players available in the 2009 MLS college draft, in which the Sounders FC have the first pick: 

In the coming week I'll hopefully learn a lot more about these players, and see if anyone else is worthy of being added to this list. At this point, Tracy is my favorite of the bunch. As the year goes on and the draft (in January) draws closer, I'll bring some interviews of these college superstars and prospective Sounders.


Watch the Sounders tonight FOR FREE

Holy good deals, Batman! If you haven't had a chance to see the USL Seattle Sounders this year, the game is available for your viewing pleasure at:

The game starts at 8:00 Pacific and features the hometown and home-team Sounders taking on amateur side Hollywood United. The Sounders will face Chivas USA next week in Tukwila, but only if they win tonight. Check it out.


The futility of expansion teams: A brief history

2008 - San Jose, on pace for 25 points in 30 games. 
Last place in MLS.
2007 - Toronto FC, 25 points in 30 games.
Last place in MLS.
2005 - Chivas USA, 18 points in 32 games. 
Last place in MLS.
2005 - Real Salt Lake, 20 points in 32 games. 
2nd to last place in MLS.

Assuming San Jose doesn't improve a huge amount in a short time period, each of the last 4 expansion teams to enter MLS will have gone on to have hilariously pathetic seasons. The only one not to be last place in the league was Real Salt Lake, only because the other expansion team was even worse. The good folks running Seattle Sounders FC have said that they want to be competitive immediately, but based on recent history, this seems quite unlikely to happen. Just having a team in MLS should be enough for the 2009 season, Sounders fans. Lets keep our expectations in check.


Signs of Sounders FC sponsor

It's still a year until Seattle Sounders FC will make its impact on MLS, but the main sponsor - Xbox 360 - is already doing so. Signboard advertisements with the Xbox 360 logo have been at the majority of, if not all, recent MLS games. I saw them on tonight's Primetime Thursday game on ESPN, as well as last Saturday's Kansas City - Columbus clash. 


Nate Jaqua - How to get him?

Meet Nate Jaqua.He's the ideal player for Seattle Sounders FC. He is a relatively young striker and is talented enough to be an occasional US National team player. He recently had a good run playing in Europe (OK, Austria, but it's still Europe) yet has MLS experience - he won the cup last year with Houston. And now he's out of contract, hanging out in Oregon - yes, he's a native Pacific Northwesterner. The icing on the cake is the fact that he has expressed interest in playing in MLS, and reportedly wants to come to the Sounders FC. Brilliant!

One tiny problem though - his rights are still owned by Houston. Which means if he returns to MLS, they have first dibs. Now, the astute reader might think, "couldn't we just sign him to the Sounders in USL and bring him up to MLS next year?" While the rules about the 'promotion' of the Sounders are pretty hazy, since this is an unprecedented situation in American soccer... I don't think they could work this. A month or so ago, the Sounders passed on signing a defender who had been let go by New York Red Bulls, mainly because NYRB would still have owned his rights in MLS. This would probably be the same case regarding Jaqua. And yes, MLS rules are somewhat ridiculous and should be clarified. Like that'll ever happen.

There could be ways around this, of course. The Sounders FC - NOT the Sounders in USL - could trade for his rights and sign him, possibly loaning him back to Houston for the remainder of this season as part of the deal. The Sounders FC are free to sign players already if they want, as they already have locked up USL Sounder Sebastien Le Toux. What could they trade, since they only have one signed player? Possibly a draft pick, a slot for an international player or an allocation allowing for some amount of salary to go over the salary cap.

Complicated enough? In a nutshell, we could get Jaqua, and I'd give pretty good odds that the signing happens eventually. There's just a ton of formalities to go through first.
(Photo courtesy American Soccer News)


A brief look at MLS

With nothing major of note on the horizon for Seattle MLS, let's take a quick look at the league they will be entering. (I'm not going to revisit my preseason predictions, because they would probably look wildly different than the actual state of the league.) There are a couple of things that stand out.

First, this wild season has thus far proven that any team can beat any other team on any given day. This was most clearly shown this past weekend, when San Jose beat Columbus and DC United edged Chicago - both victories coming on the road. Yes, the two worst teams in MLS beat two of the best, away from home. 

The second, and most interesting thing for Sounders FC fans, is the power imbalance between the two conferences. The current three best teams (New England, along with the aforementioned Columbus and Chicago) are all in the East. If the 4th place team in the East (Toronto FC) were in the West, they would be tied for first. In addition, only one Eastern Conference team has more than 4 losses, and there are currently 5 such teams in the West. Any way you spin it, the East is clearly the superior conference. If this continues to hold true into next year, the Sounders, who will obviously be joining the Western Conference, will have a bit of an advantage to their hopes of making the playoffs.


Dream big, Sounders fans

So maybe Thierry Henry won't be pulled in by Seattle Sounders FC. Given that that was an absolute best-case scenario, Seattle fans probably won't be too let down. But there is serious reason to hope for a similar caliber of player in both skill and fame. 

There's the annual international tour that has been announced. Any team intending to send their team on tour to other countries for exhibitions - months before playing a single game - clearly has some big plans in store. These plans were again alluded to by owner Joe Roth after the Brazil game, when he talked about the possible signing of a designated player: "I think it's the next really big decision," Roth said. "It's a decision that can help make the team. Conversely, there are very few decisions that could really kill us and set us back, and I think getting the wrong designated player, getting somebody who's past his prime, getting somebody who is not a good member of the community, really has to take a lot of considered thought."

Now, the way he talks about it makes it seem pretty clear that the team intends to bring in a designated player for 2009. (Which fits with everything I've heard so far.) And they want someone who still is a quality player, as well as someone 'big' enough to merit being the centerpiece of an international tour. Teams with stars go on world tours. Teams like San Jose or Real Salt Lake do not. So the door is open for virtually any player in the world to be brought in to Seattle. Remember Mr. Roth's comments, way back in November when the team was announced, about wanting to bring in Ronaldinho? Might not be as unlikely as you think...


Oh, Canada...

...you came so close to a remarkable result, but it was just not to be.

Like every other soccer fan in Seattle with half a brain and 40 dollars, I was at Qwest Field Saturday night to watch the respective national teams of Canada and Brazil clash. The result was an incredibly entertaining game that ended in a 3-2 victory for the samba-loving South American side. One interesting thing was seeing aging star keeper Kasey Keller alongside Drew Carey at the match. Draw your own conclusions from that if you so choose. Aside from that, the action was fantastic, with Brazil trading attacks with a surprisingly competent Canada throughout the match. The atmosphere was even better, with almost 50,000 filling the stands and constant noise provided by the Brazilian drummers. Simply put, if you weren't there, you should've been.

Row W of the 300 level in Qwest doesn't provide one with the best of game action views, but here's a few shots from the match anyways.