Starfire in 2012 - today the clouds will be lower, the tempatures colder - Dave Clark
Over the next six or so weeks the Sounders will be in preseason mode. During that time we will attempt to find the answer to a few questions about how the 2013 season will be made or broken.
The biggest question facing Seattle Sounders FC is simple. It has been known for some time even if it is
not yet official, but a year (or more) without Fredy Montero will require attention. This is not the only question facing the team as training camp opens and four members of the Sounder at Heart team join other media in descending on Starfire for the first time in 2013. It is now that time when the hard work and dedication of players and staff sculpt reality together.
Replacing Montero's Offense
Twenty percent of the all competitions goals of the team of 2012 (22% over the life of the MLS team) are gone for the next year - maybe longer. Who is going to be the source of goals to come? Who will play that other forward role? While the easy answer is the unsigned player yet to be seen in training camp over the next few weeks forwards of David Estrada, Sammy Ochoa and Babayele Sodade will have their opportunity to declare "I am ready." This is also true as Eddie Johnson is at the United States camp for the remainder of January. Adding some punch from midfielders could help, either by slotting up as a forward or providing offense as they did in 2011.
Who Is The Starting Midfield?
With both Brad Evans and Mario Martinez with their national teams there will be a bit of time for players like Andy Rose and Alex Caskey to show that their strong 2012s were a sign of things to come. The only role in the midfield that is locked down is that Osvaldo Alonso will start the majority of time as the Defensive Mid. How the rest of this band of four works out will be dependent on how that Montero hole is filled, but is also a sign of the positional flexibility of Christian Tiffert, Evans and Martinez.
Can Midseason Additions Integrate?
Martinez will be missing a few weeks of training due to his national team call, but when he joins the team he will get prolonged training in Rave Green for the first time. What can this mean for his season? Will Christian Tiffert take strides forward in measurable additions to the offense? Will Steve Zakuani be a featured part of the offense again? If any of these players can use the long preseason to mesh with the team at their full potential other questions will also be answered. If not the search for new players will intensify.
Is Their Still A Left Back Platoon?
The last two years have seen Leo Gonzalez share time with Wahl and Buch. Though sometimes by design, it was also due to repeated injuries. Is Gonzalez' age bringing more injuries on or has he been unlucky? With Marc Burch in a defender's peak age is he going to grab even more time at left back this year? Does Dylan Remick make the shift to being a pro quickly?
Will The Backline Play Fewer Long Balls?
It is a hard question to answer, but the signs from the style of players drafted and signed in defense is that Sigi may be looking for more ball savvy and passing skills. Is that something that starts to show up in the play of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni as well?
Maybe as much as any potential signing, the answers to these questions will determine the success of Seattle's fifth MLS season. Over the next couple weeks in Tukwila, nearly a month in Arizona and then a return to their training facility the team will be searching for these answers. As much as possible we at Sounder at Heart will observe and report what those answers are.