Where we stand

With about 20 days until the first Sounders training camp gets underway, there are still huge chunks of the roster to fill out. 10 spots remain unclaimed. Now, five are more or less spoken for, with 4 picks in the college draft and one player (who will in all likelihood be forward Junior Garcia) from the Sounders Super Search.

I’m going to make a couple of safe assumptions. I’ll say that the Sounders keep all their draft picks, and that their first overall pick makes the 20-man senior roster. Because if he didn’t it would be an awful pick. I’ll also say that Garcia, plus the other 3 draftees, make up the 4-man developmental roster, whose salaries do not count against the cap. Which still leaves room for 5 more on the senior roster. Throw Chris Eylander into the mix as the backup keeper, and that’s 4 major spots left to fill.

But how do we need to fill them? Add some attackers, defenders, starters, bench depth? To try and answer that, here’s a look at our best possible lineup with only our current players.

KSmith—Vagenas—Le Toux
(King, JSmith, Eylander, Nyassi)

That’s bad. Honestly, it is. Looking at that, we have 3 players who are clearly above average MLS talents at their positions (Keller, Ljungberg, Parke). Of those, one is injured, one is 38, and one might not sign with Seattle. Two others are around average (Evans, Jaqua). While Nyassi and King could be good sparks off the bench, the majority of the roster aren’t dynamic players, the ones who can control a game. What happens when Ljungberg is out? There’s nobody to carry the team. Jaqua needs service to score, Le Toux won’t transition to the MLS level immediately (if at all) and Khano Smith is less reliable than the Seattle Metro bus system.

Put simply, this is not a playoff contending team. Not even close. And there has to be significant additions to the roster over the next 20 days to get us there.


A Schmetzer Christmas for all

Longtime fans of the USL Sounders recieved a double early Christmas present at the start of this week. The first was a bit of a slip by new coach Sigi Schmid, with him mentioning that Chris Eylander would be playing understudy keeper to Kasey Keller. Eylander, both a Sounders fan favorite and one of the teams best players, had been considered a must-sign. If all goes well, he should be ready to take over between the pipes in two or three years time.

The second gift, however, was even better. USL Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was given an assistant coach spot in the new Sounders regime. He led the Sounders to two USL titles, which nicely parallels the two Schmid has won in MLS. He also was the man many USL Sounders supporters strongly wanted for the Sounders FC head coaching job, but this way makes more sense. He needs to learn the ins and outs of MLS, an extremely complex and unusual league. Plus, as I suggested earlier, Schmetzer will immediatly become the heir to the Sounders FC coaching throne, should Schmid leave in two years or five.

So the longtime fans have been duly rewarded. Could any other former USL Sounders make the jump up - Taylor Graham? Kevin Sakuda? Kenji Treschuk? With only 10 roster spots left, and five probably tabbed for young prospects, the chances are slim. I'll take a look at that on Monday. Until then, happy holidays, and may you all recieve something rave green.

*CHRISTMAS EDIT* Holy crap do the new jerseys look awesome in real life


Shiny new update: I'm now writing for American Soccer News!

It's true, it's true. By now you've probably heard about the major announcement of the day. Yes, I am indeed taking my wit and wisdom to the slightly more popular website American Soccer News. I summarized todays other announcement, the signing of Sigi Schmid as Sounders coach, so go and take a look.

During the regular season, you'll be able to read my pre-game analysis and post-game recaps at that location, but I'll still be keeping this blog updated just as often. Maybe one day I'll even get that Jaqua interview we all want, too. I will be an official member of the press, so I should be able to get more inside information, in-depth coverage and just straight up interesting stuff more than any other independant Seattle sports blog. I'm excited and grateful to the ASN team for giving me this opportunity. Bring on March 19!


Latest Sounders signing is super... but Sigi's not the savior

Tomorrow the Sounders will unveil the worst-kept secret since... well, their last major announcement, the signing of Ljungberg as Designated Player. Funny how these things leak ahead of time.

In any case, at 11 AM PT Sigi Schmid will officially be given the reigns to Seattle's newest sports franchise. He will immediately inherit a fan base nearly large enough to fill Columbus Crew stadium to capacity. Many of these fans have high expectations - after all, Sigi did just mold the Crew into the best team in MLS this year. But those should be tempered. Sigi does have the pieces necessary to recreate his success with Columbus (and the Galaxy prior to that), but it will take time. And he might not be in Seattle long enough to finish the job.

As Crew blogger Bill Archer points out, Sigi has long had his eye on the US National Team job. He has twice coached the U-20 USA team, and having accomplished just about everything possible in MLS - and some of it twice - there's only one challenge remaining on his coaching checklist. Plus the Nats job would allow him to be based out of his current residence in Southern California. If being close to home was a factor in his choosing Seattle over Columbus, it certainly would be if the USA job became available. And should the current USA coach, Bob Bradley, be fired after the 2010 World Cup, you'd have to expect Sigi to want to take over.

So would two years be enough time for the silver-haired Schmid to create a winner in Seattle? His track record is mixed. His first year Galaxy squad were the regular-season's best team in 1998, but his first two years with the Crew produced zero playoff appearances. So it might not be crazy to expect a playoff team in 2010, but maybe a touch optimistic. As for 2009... well, we can dream.

To avoid running the risk of appearing like too much of a downer, here are three reasons that Sigi's signing is still a big positive.

- If Sigi adds on USL Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer as an assistant, two years might be the perfect period for Schmetz to learn the ins and outs of MLS. Then when Sigi goes, Seattle has a perfect replacement lined up.
- Sigi's biggest strength is his knowledge and usage of young American players. His record with international players is a bit more mixed. But GM Adrian Hanauer has a notoriously good eye for int's, having signed Le Toux and Nyassi as well as Maykel Galindo a few years ago. The two should compliment each other.
- Sigi was the best coach available. You can't argue with that!


Kicking it with George John

The MLS SuperDuperDraft is fast approaching, which will distribute the country's top college players to various MLS teams. One of these players is Seattle native and UW senior midfielder George John. I caught up with him recently via email and got his views on school, soccer and the Sounders. (I managed to restrain myself from asking about his lack of a surname.)

Ness: Were you disappointed with how this season ended - UW winless in their last five games and you injured? How far along in your recovery are you?
George John: Yes, I was disappointed with how our season ended up this year. It was very surprising to me how we went winless in our last six games or so. The most disappointing thing was I could see how our team was not playing up to its potential late in the year, however I couldn't be on the field to change anything. Getting injured was very unfortunate but I have managed to stay positive and am doing well in my recovery. I was just recently cleared to play.

Ness: You're both an All-Academic award winner and an all Pac-10 first team member. What's the hardest part about balancing your sport and your studies?
GJ: The hardest thing about balancing playing a sport and studying is missing class. During the season we travel often and I usually have to miss a majority of my classes. It's just a big headache having to get notes from classmates and make sure I don't miss anything too important.

Ness: How do you think you would best fit into the pro game? What position, what style of play are you best suited for?
GJ: To be honest I don't really care where I play in the pro game. Just so long as I get picked up by a team and am given a chance to show myself, that's all I ask for.

Ness: You're almost a lock to be invited to the MLS combine in January. Excited for that? Nervous? (At the time of his response, he had officially been invited to the combine.)
GJ: The MLS combine is definitely a great opportunity to show teams in the MLS that I have the ability to play professionally. I am very excited to get back out on the field, being injured has shown me how much I love to play soccer.

Ness: Your thoughts on the Sounders FC so far?
GJ: Sounders FC are led by a great staff and I'm sure they will succeed early on in their history. Everything they have been doing seems to be first rate and I was impressed with their pick up of Ljungberg.

Ness: Lastly, what (if any) European teams do you support? Any answer other than Man U/Chelski will earn my approval.
GJ: I like Inter-Milan, they play attractive soccer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of my favorite players to watch.

As always, big ups to George for his time, and best of luck to him in the upcoming combine.


New to the blog? Check out our past interviews: National team member and KC Wizards star Jimmy Conrad, and Colorado Rapids midfielder/local lad Ciaran O'Brien.


Meet the Sounders new coach

Sigi Schmidt is one of the best coaches in MLS history. He led the Columbus Crew through the regular season with the top record in the league, and finished the year off with a victory in MLS Cup 2008. It was the first ever for the massive bananas of Columbus. With his contract expiring after the season, Sigi was always a candidate for the Sounders job, and those rumors were fueled even more with the news that Schmidt was in talks with Sounders brass. Sigi wants to be on the west coast. Sigi wants money. We can provide both.

Now today comes the announcement that Schmidt will not be returning to the Columbus Crew next season.

I wonder where he could possibly be heading.