Predictions and power rankings are both a somewhat foolish endeavour. So much can go wrong. Sometimes a player quits mere moments before a season, or an injury can happen, or an unknown can spring to the forefront as a difference maker. And yet, they also carry meaning. They show the thought process and when a survey of a relatively intelligent group thinks similarly they may capture some essence of truth or expectation.
If there's one thing that is clear from the staff at Sounder at Heart, it is that the expectation is again for excellence. Among the even dozen writers, photographers, sound engineers, editors past and present the 2012 Seattle Sounders season is going to be another exciting ride. The average points expectation is a strong 58.7. Many see a better team overall than the one that ended 2011, but with questions as to how that unbalanced schedule will affect the standings and cups won.
But trophies are still the expectation in Seattle. Among those dozen staff members a total of 14 trophies are expected. Less than half project a fourth straight Open Cup win with only 6 writers picking that one. Matching the Open Cup prediction are six people who see the Sounders winning the MLS Cup. There are even two picks for the Supporters Shield and even two for the CONCACAF Champions League trophy.
Why do the authors feel so good for the coming 2012 year?
Abbott Smith offers the following to explain his projection of a Supporters Shield and Open Cup;
The new schedule is unbalanced but the thing everyone seems to be forgetting is that the teams are still playing more games. Part of why LA set records last year was the volume of games. If the Sounders go 19-9-6, they finish at 63 points. I think there will be more parity this year but I still see the Sounders as being a very consistent team. All of the tournaments this year are crap shoots. The new USOC structure will make it harder to repeat. The CCL favors the Mexican team schedules and the MLS Cup is still a joke to me. The Sounders should be competitive but realistically I don't feel comfortable predicting a win or loss in any of the tournaments. But even with the unbalanced schedule, I think the Sounders have a serious shot at winning the Supporters Shield due to their depth and consistency. I think they will get a solid start, unlike last year. The schedule also doesn't have the congestion of previous years or the travel. Teams like LA won't benefit from the reduced travel nearly as much as Seattle. Furthermore they are playing most of their hardest competition at home for two of the three game sets. The balanced depth the Sounders have should also help. They've got a much more balanced second string. I like the speed and size that the Sounders added in the offseason. Once EJ, Zakuani, Sivabaek and Cato start working into the mix, the team will be much harder to defend against. I like their chances.
Sidereal also has a prediction of a Supporters Shield;
I expect the team to be stronger than last season's, with an apparent upgrade at right back, Mauro Rosales with another season of experience in this league, more production from Steve Zakuani (even if not at his peak), the emergence of David Estrada, and the addition of Eddie Johnson who will at the very least soak up minutes that had previously gone to Jaqua and Noonan.
Meanwhile, LA takes a huge hit from the loss of Omar Gonzalez, another year in David Beckham's legs, and a Robbie Keane experiment I'm not sure is going to work (meaning I wouldn't be surprised if he's back in Europe halfway through the season).
Plus the unbalanced Western Conference schedule is favorable to Seattle this season.
Malcontentjake was clear in conversations. Knockout tournaments are nearly impossible to predict and the new schedule's structure is such that in year one it may be too ambitious to guess how the Supporters Shield will turn out. He picked zero trophies. Not because Seattle isn't good, but because of how the trophies will be awarded.
Aaron sees just a fourth straight Open Cup. OK, maybe not just. He also sees a team winning 60 points in the regular season. The question put to him was simple, "is that enough?"
It is for me, yes. So long as the Sounders are highly competitive (emphasis on highly) and continue doing generally very smart things, I'm happy.
If there's one person who encapsulates how exciting this season could be it would be Jeremiah. His prediction is bold, historical and probably not insane. Oshan merely sees 58 points, a US Open Cup #Se4ttle and the CONCACAF Champions League title.
The Seattle Sounders are as well positioned as any MLS team to make a run at the CCL. Sure, they are playing a Santos Laguna side that is arguably the class of the region, but they are also facing a team with some distractions. Their best forward and one of their top defenders are expected to miss the game with injury and the team is in the middle of a shaky run in league play. The Sounders will not have to beat Santos Laguna's best team in order to advance. Conversely, the Sounders can focus entirely on CCL as they don't open MLS play until after the quarterfinals.
To get to the CCL finals, the Sounders would then have to beat a MLS team -- either the LA Galaxy or Toronto FC. Neither will be pushovers, but they are teams with whom the Sounders are familiar and certainly beatable.
From a talent standpoint, the Sounders stack up well. Their starting XI should be able to go toe-to-toe with Santos Laguna, especially if they don't send their A team. Fredy Montero already appears to be in preseason form, the defense has come together well and the midfield is as solid as it has ever been.
I'm so down on the year after the trade... I pick Seattle to win the MLS Cup while falling just short of the Open Cup and the CCL. Like Jeremiah I think Seattle advances past Santos Laguna. But seeing the Sounders eliminate two Mexican sides in the same year would be stunning to say the least.
The regular season schedule is such that I think Seattle will contend but not win the regular season West. Even with just 56 points. The more frequent games against Conference opponents will limit teams from piling up points against less familiar poor sides. It would be stunning to see a team push past 60 points this season.
58.7 points by 12 voters
6 US Open Cups
6 MLS Cups
2 Supporters Shields
2 CONCACAF Champions League Cups