2013 Seattle Sounders Preview: Weaker and stronger at the same time

2012 ended with Sigi Schmid and the Sounders watching LA celebrate at CenturyLink - Otto Greule Jr

The losses of Parke and Montero will hurt the club's top end strength, but deft drafting and trading have it stronger than ever in the midfield.

Seattle Sounders FC

2012 MLS record: 15-8-11 +18 (3rd in West, advanced to Western Finals)
2012 Open Cup: 4-0-1 +13 lost in Finals
2011-12 CCL: 1-1-0 -4 in Quarterfinals
2012-13 CCL: 4-0-0 +7 advanced to Quaterfinals

Key additions: Shalrie Joseph, Lamar Neagle, DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore

Key losses: Jeff Parke, Fredy Montero, Christian Tiffert (maybe, maybe not?)

Projected starting XI 4-4-2: Michael Gspurning; Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Adam Johansson; Steve Zakuani, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Mario Martinez; Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson

Bold prediction: After a middling regular season they heat up at the right time and win their first ever MLS Cup.

Biggest fear: The defense is only average with the loss of Parke and early injuries.

Seattle made it further than ever in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but it still was not enough to reach their main goal - the MLS Cup. Due to that performance and heavy cap constraints the team rebuilt itself through a several trades. Two of the four midseason additions from 2012 also help add significant firepower to a team that lost the dynamic offense of Fredy Montero.

It will be on the backs of Zakuani, Martinez, the returning Neagle and a healthy Estrada to score the goals that were lost. Most of their play will be in a midfield that also has US National Teamer Brad Evans, 2012 Best XI defensive mid Osvaldo Alonso and former great Shalrie Joseph who looks to rebound from a poor season with a new team. Sigi Schmid is used to rotating his lineups due to injury and callup and will do so again.

But, there are questions in defense. Parke was a rock and his absence will be noted early as Patrick Ianni is injured. The collection of Zach Scott, Djimi Traore and Eriq Zavaleta will have to fill in and limit opportunities for the opposition. Yedlin adds a new fullback option to Schmid's stable. When he plays Seattle will add more speed, better short passing and the potential for dynamic moments.

There is more talent in some parts of the pitch than the roster that started the 2012 season, particularly in the midfield, keeper and fullback. But it is weaker at forward and central defense. Whether that remains true for the season or another addition is coming is not yet known.

The deep roster should again make a deep run in the US Open Cup, struggle in the current CCL and again appear in the MLS Cup Playoffs. While that is now seeming an average season for the Sounders the pressure to have that short burst of success and lift the league's preeminent Cup will be as intense as ever.

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