Are Sounders Rebalancing Defensive Roster For Different Competitions?

The extent of the reloading project will determine how much Zach Scott will mean to the Sounders in 2012.

The losses of James Riley and Tyson Wahl have Seattle Sounders FC adding allocation money only at this point. It is also rather apparent that their biggest low-budget success of 2011, Mauro Rosales, will be extended at a significantly higher figure, which should be announced very soon. There will also be a new keeper, likely with a budget number that is fairly large considering that the current leading candidate is Michael Gspurning, another situation we expect to be resolved shortly. 

At that time Seattle is basically cap neutral, yet lacking a right back that should start 70% of matches or more, as well as placing young Michael Tetteh into a much more significant role in competitions like the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League Group matches. Yes, the allocation dollars gained help, but the team is still fairly limited in options so far.

"The reality, when you get to a place like we’ve been for first three years, and you use allocation to get better and when players’ salaries go up, unfortunately you get to point where it has to be addition by subtraction and that increases level of complexity," Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer told Sounder at Heart. "No longer can you just spend money and add a player to the roster. Someone has to go."

That can change with option decline day as team prepare for the Re-Entry Draft. With a few players that don't initially seem part of the core lineup that have more than minimum salary contracts Seattle can free up some more cap space, but with consequences. Freeing up 300,000 dollars or so by declining options on the following players not protected in the Expansion Draft limits the ability of Seattle to compete for as many trophies as possible - Taylor Graham, Patrick IanniNate Jaqua, and Pat Noonan.

The team would also be getting a lot younger with only one of those players in a peak age period (Ianni). What it loses though is some of the depth that was used to great effect in 2011. More than 4000 all competitions minutes were logged by that group. Sometimes they played quite well, others they lacked. The two priciest (Ianni and Jaqua) were also the two most used. Just dropping Graham and Noonan would not free up significant cap space, so would be a move about age and roster space, not finances.

Seattle can cut even deeper by dropping Leo Gonzalez (another 100k+ of cap space, 1998 minutes) but that cuts the starting quality depth even more. Again this would be a move to get younger and free up more space. If Seattle loses all five of these players it reaches a reasonable maximum in cap space. For the most part the core of the team returns, except of course the fullbacks.

Those moves do make the starting XI likely to be much better, and better through acquired players. With 5 opened slots and if 3 are minimum salary that leaves the other 2 at roughly 200k each. That should increase Seattle's chances in the CCL knockouts and the MLS Cup Playoffs. While Seattle has plenty of frontline, inexpensive depth that should be able to pick-up minutes left open if a Jaqua and Noonan are left out in the re-entry draft (Fucito, Ochoa, White, Estrada and other midfielders slotting in), the place where depth suffers is the backline.

Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are nearly certain to be back. Tetteh as well. Scott is at a good value. With seven roster slots open, but only replaced with two high-end expensive talents Seattle defense shifts towards youth as some amount of time is grabbed by a draftee, or two, or three. If the team is expected to compete in the same amount of games going deep in the Open Cup and making it past the first round of both the CCL and MLS Playoffs that leaves the following "space" for the new players without running them into the ground similar to Riley in 2011.

 

New LB

New RB

3000

Parke

Hurtado

3000

Tetteh

3000

3000

Converted RB

1300

Scott

New CB

1300

1800

700

If Parke and Hurtado both grab 3000 minutes (about 70% of likely playing time) and increasing Scott's time to 1800 minutes picking up some of Ianni's time there is a large amount of time for players in new roles from what they did in 2011. Tetteh at 1300 or so minutes would be a large change. The possible midfielder to right back conversion product would also be at 1300 or so back-up minutes. Both of those are if each of the new signings also get 3000 minutes or so. It also leaves the 4th centerback needing to play about 700 minutes.

A maximum rebuild project has Seattle with plenty of depth in the attacking end, but it should be clear that doing such would leave Seattle banking on performances and health along a largely untried backline. Keeping one or both of Gonzalez and Ianni limits the possible additions and limits the depth performances of Scott and the converted right back as well as eliminating the need for a 4th CB. The lesser rebuild limits the youth minutes, but requires strong performances by Leo and Ianni.

 

Gonzalez

New RB

2500

Parke

Hurtado

3000

Tetteh

3000

3000

Converted RB

1500

Scott

Ianni

1000

1800

1300

 

Either a maximum rebuild or a smaller one still requires a large amount of success from players new to MLS, or Seattle, or even to pro soccer entirely. Both rebuilds require health from players not normally healthy, as well as a large step forward by a 2nd year pro. Either vision doesn't include trading from strengths, both show mere possibilities that will be confirmed in the next few days. That may dent chances of regular season and Open Cup success, but if done Adrian and Sigi would be banking that it helps them in the two trophies that matter most for 2012 - the Champions League and MLS Cup.

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