So we know the record of the team (4 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw including the two "reserve" matches). It isn't great, nor does it suck. Over a 30 game season it would mean a MUCH worse defense, a slightly better offense and 48 points on the table.
But MLSpreseason isn't about records, is any preseason? It is about competition for roster slots, for playing time/depth andhere's where what little statistics we have can give us a slightly better idea of what's going on with the team.
Currently I see the competition on offense being for who starts while Jaqua is out (likely at Right Wing), who is the 3rd Center Mid (or 2nd for Match One) and a big old cluster of defenders trying to round out the squad. I'm going to ignore developmental vs senior status on these charts. The upcoming CBA with roster rules and new salary cap are unknowable, but I also must assume that there will eventually be a season.
Battle for the Attack
This is really down to likely 4 guys (unless the Colombian by way of Argentine 2nd division youth team is actually good). A long time Sounder, one of the first MLS signings, a 4th round pick andthis year's first roundpick. Mainly young, each has slightly different skills, but all four can play the Right Wing in the Arrow, as well as spend time at the Withdrawn Forward and Left Wing. Levesque can even play the Center Forward as well.
Yes, there are other players who could be in that mix. Seamon and Perdido are both back at school. McLoughlin would have to go through the allocation lottery system. None of those three are getting playing time though. Souter we've only had glimpses of performance, and while he might be nice cover, he isn't going to crack past the current leader in my mind for that starting Right Wing - Levesque.
Sigi though may use the spot on a case by case basis figuring how to match up while Jaqua nurses his injury.
"Obviously there are options for us there. Roger [Levesque] is healthy as well so Roger could pop up out there also. Sanna [Nyassi] we saw in the game in Vancouver so we wanted to see what [Kevin] Souter could do; if he’s somebody that we felt could help us. We have played [David] Estrada out there. He has had some moments out there as well. Again, it’s the same thing, everybody brings something different there. Roger [Levesque] gives you an honest two-way work rate. Sanna [Nyassi] has great speed but sometimes the decisions of passes that he makes are not the best. [David] Estrada sometimes decides to hold it when he needs to part with it but then his running and his effort and his work is good. He needs to be a little bit stronger at times. [Kevin] Souter is a guy who is a pretty good soccer player. He is not really a wide guy so he comes off the line a little more and gives you a little bit more midfield play from there. It’s a matter of us looking at Philadelphia [Union] and what they are going to bring in the first game and what we think is going to help us be the best as a team."
Yeah, it looks like Nate won't be playing that first match, and one must wonder if he's starting the season on the Injured List.
Central Midfield has Depth
The competition for the two central roles, including who starts against Philly in place of Evans (likely the Right WingBack that day) is a study in tactical styles. The coach has comments on those guys as well.
"We are just trying to look at different combinations. Sometimes it’s not the best individuals that need to play but the best combination of two; the ones that can complement each other. Right now, everybody brings a little bit of something different. [Pete] Vagenas is probably the best passer in terms of finding those little passes. [Osvaldo] Alonso is our best defender. [Brad] Evans, when he plays in the middle of midfield, is the one who will get forward the most. [Nathan] Sturgis is the one who hits the best long ball. [Pete] Vagenas is also the one who talks the most and sometimes you need that because it makes the player next to him better. It’s still something that we are going to continue to look at probably through next week and then make a decision as we go into the first game."
Now, I'm actually surprised that in those two long statements King hasn't been mentioned as he would seem to be CAM, CM, RW material, so I've included him on the chart centrally.
Alonso is certainly going to start. He's one of the team's best, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see Vagenas in the starting lineup against Philly. Even with Evans on the pitch I think that Sigiwill want a talker out there trying to coach the team. I would go with Sturgis though.
Backline Competition too Crowded
All of the competition for backup centerback, and maybe even as a starter, is among players who can also go wide into a flat four. Parke, Ianni, Scott and Wahl just have enough varied skill that they can change the dynamic of the Sounders system fitting into multiple roles on the squad.
Young Lamar Neagle still has a shot at being deep cover, as he has his youth, and is probably the only Wingback on the squad outside of Riley and Gonzalez. But his playing time is dipping lately, and those other four are just better defenders.
All four of the "name" name players there are going to be on MLS squads this year. I would even go so far as to say that they could start in this defense starved league. I actually think that this battle will be most influenced by the new rules of MLS. Taylor Graham looks likely to start the first of the season injured, maybe another IL guy?
So while the focus of the match against the Rapids will be on the offensive third, I am very intrigued by which defenders get to play, and how much?
"To continue to move forward in terms of what we are able to do in the final third of the field. We did a good job of getting the ball to the final third. Now we need to do a good job at breaking down a team. Obviously we expect Colorado might have a little more of the game against us so there is going to be more opportunity for us to play to an open field which makes it easier to attack as well. But I think we just need to continue to work on our attack, work on our movement of the ball and make sure we don’t give up any silly goals. But the main emphasis has got to be on our attack and our movement of the ball."
Here's the latest update on scoring, which does also appear in the sidebar
There is one more preseason match for these players to win a job. Who do you expect to do so?