Mar 23, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (1) celebrates after the Sounders FC scored a goal against the Houston Dynamo in the 1st half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
Michael Gspurning was deemed "ready" by Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid following Thursday's training. The assumption being that Gspurning is due to make his first start since May 2, allowing for the obvious caveats that anything can happen between now and then.
This is undeniably great news. As we are all painfully aware, the Sounders were on a rather torrid defensive pace when Gspurning last played. The Sounders had allowed three goals in the seven games in which the big Austrian started and although they managed to improve on that pace for the next couple, eventually succumbed to reality and head into Saturday's game having allowed 17 goals in their past 11 games.
The change in form was obviously not entirely attributable to Gspurning's absence, but it's pretty easy to watch the past couple months' worth of games and see at least a handful of goals that he'd have saved.
Gspurning's imminent return does highlight another even bigger issue that will hopefully be apparent soon: The Sounders are basically at full strength now.
For the first time since basically the start of the season, the Sounders will have a nearly full complement of players available. The only significant contributor who won't be available is David Estrada. Other than him this team finally looks like the one we've been expecting to see all year.
Just consider: Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales are easily playing the best they have all year; Adam Johansson is finally playing like the attack-minded right back we were promised; Gspurning will be back for the first time in 13 games; and, fingers crossed, Fredy Montero seems to have pulled out of his slump. Combine that with the already spectacular play of Osvaldo Alonso and the fact that Eddie Johnson is the hottest striker this side of Chris Wondolowski and suddenly this is looking like a very different team than it was a month ago.
Keeping in mind that this team still has won just one league game since May 12, it's reasonable to think that some drastic improvements are ahead whether or not a player is brought in from outside the organization. This development couldn't come at a better time, either.
Love or hate the MLS structure, the reality is that this is when the season really starts. During the month of August, the Sounders will open CONCACAF Champions League play, attempt to win their fourth straight U.S. Open Cup title and face off against Western Conference rivals like the LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes. It will be a wild month that leads into the MLS Cup playoffs.
While the season hasn't exactly gone as planned, the reality is that just about all the goals the Sounders set out for themselves at the beginning are still there for the taking.