Fire Blogger Tweed gives you their angle on the three questions you must know how to answer before you watch tonight's match.
1 - Nery Castillo isn't traveling this weekend, and hasn't been playing much. I have to wonder if he isn't the next Luis Angel Landin.
I can see the comparison. Both are relatively young Mexican goalscorers. Both players have bounced around but continued to have the 'talented' label placed on them. Both players entered the MLS as DPs and have failed to impress so far.
The analogy falls apart when you consider the fact that one player was recruited by Manchester United at the age of 16, caused an international fight between Mexico and Uruguay for his playing rights at 17, had a $20M transfer fee in 2007 (which still holds the record in Greece and Ukraine for highest transfer record ever), attracted a Manchester City transfer after being regulated to the bench in 2008, and holds 21 Mexican International caps with 6 goals while the other player has played for some Mexican teams, one MLS team, and has a couple of Mexican International caps and no goals to his name. Even if you are an amateur scout for the game, you can tell that Castillo has more raw talent than Landin.
You have a solid question though because clearly Castillo is not match fit just yet. The Fire could not only receive very little from their investment but even see Castillo return to form just after their contract expires after the 2011 season. I don't mind the move because I think Castillo's talent ceiling is so much higher than Landin's will ever be that this move is worth it. Landin's fitness was called into question because he was lazy. Castillo's fitness is called into question because he couldn't find the right team to get minutes for. It's a tale of two players, not a single book on one type of player.
Freddie Ljungberg on paper at least is playing in the midfield. When you watch games he might be playing higher than Brian McBride but I think that has more to do with his speed and Carlos de los Cobos giving Freddie Ljungberg the green light to do whatever he wants. I'm not sure if CLDC gave him this permission out right or if Freddie just took it, but it is working. Freddie will not be playing forward or winger for the Fire in any capacity. His number may be 8, but he is turning into a true No. 10. The past three games, nothing has been created without moving the ball through him first.
The Fire defense has been in transition, new keepers, new fullbacks, a lot of change in the past 12 months. How are they learning to work together?
Well let's just start by saying Wilman Conde and C.J. Brown have started every single MLS minute except for one game when Conde was out. Conde will of course miss this Saturday too but that is for disciplinary reasons. Now that we have Gonzalo Segares back at LB, we have an identical lineup going LB-CB-CB to what we had 12 months ago.
RB has been a revolving door between Tim Ward (now traded), Dasan Robinson and Steve Kinney. I personally like Kinney over Robinson and I'm excited to see him start today. I just wish it wasn't because Robinson is hurt.
At goaltender Sean Johnson seems to be a huge upgrade over Andrew Dykstra but I think that isn't Dykstra's fault. Dykstra was named the starting goalie just a week before the start of the season. You can imagine the amount of pressure he had in that situation. I'm not sure C.J. Brown and Wilman Conde ever gave Dykstra the trust he needed. Brown and Conde overcompensated and that cost Dykstra some mistakes. When Sean Johnson came in, he automatically commanded the back line better and made better looking saves. You could see the trust his teammates gave him.
I would not be surprised to see Dykstra moved to another team and succeed there. I think the situation he was thrown in was set to fail. For whatever reasons, Brown and Conde work with Sean Johnson better so that is how this team will roll the rest of the season.
Also, his questions and my answers
He wasn't going to be playing anymore. There was a fissure between he, the coaching staff, and some players. How or why this developed will likely never be known, but he'd stopped playing for Seattle while he started to explore other options. Considering that no team in Europe offered any transfer fee (if they had Seattle would have taken it, as they need to buy down some DP salary cap hits) the fact that Freddie was dealt for only a conditional pick in one of the next two drafts shows that the market for the Swede was quite low.
Seattle likely wanted allocation dollars more than anything, but a former MLS Best XI player didn't net that in a fairly active transfer window. His value as a player has taken a hit, and with his contract up in just a few months it was even lower. I'm almost certain that he hates the league, and I don't expect him to be in Chicago next year.
2. The Sounders like the Fire have 2 DPs. Has there been talk of signing a third DP? Given realistic boundries (availibility, cost, chemistry, etc), who would you want them to sign?
The best use of that 3rd DP slot would be for Seattle to retain the services of Fredy Montero. His contract is also up shortly, and losing him on a Free would be painful. By signing him as the 3rd DP this off season Seattle would be retaining the uses of a very young highly prolific goal scorer. He's a symbol of what the team is at this point, and can actually be used in marketing as two year starter who can dominate the league for long stretches.
It would also continue the movement that Seattle is making towards bringing in young international talent in their pre-peak period. Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, Osvaldo Alonso, and Steve Zakuani are the start of this, but you can even look at the likely Centerback pairing next season of Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado who will also be outside of that peak period of 26-30. Since MLS isn't a top 10 league in the world, a team can be built around players that are climbing the ladder trying to improve their skills. Seattle is certain to continue in this direction.
Seattle has gotten a bit used to the Double in its breif history. Last year's US Open Cup winning run, plus this year's run to the Semi-Final and their activity in both the Prelims and Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League have meant that they have had more than a dozen competitive Doubles in less than two years. The Sounders are a deep team, and Sigi tends to rotate players into and out of the lineup with fair frequency due to injury, or just match up concerns.
This is most true at the second center mid (where Sturgis starts now, but has been played by Evans, Vagenas, Ianni, Seamon) and at the right midfield where I feel like nearly every player seems to play at some point. The Rave Green are also home for this stretch which should help a bit. We actually don't expect many starting lineup changes (just Zach Scott for Leo Gonzalez due to Red Card suspension), but I would expect to see earlier than typical substitutions, including maybe one at halftime again.