Imagine having a team that's been awful on the field for a few years. Imagine that off-field issues included lawsuits, an eternal quest for a new stadium, a purchase by the league and now rumors of a hiatus of some sort (read all of that, it is filled with despair and hope). Now imagine just being allowed to talk about soccer.
These Three Questions with Alicia from The Goat Parade focus on three former (one also current) Seattle Sounders FC players and what they mean to the on-field issues facing Chivas USA. A reminder Eriq Zavaleta can not play against Seattle.
SaH: What's Eriq Zavaleta's development into a CB been like? Seattle kind of needs one of the young CBs to become third CB quality for 2015.
tGP: Well, Wilmer Cabrera threw him on late in a game a couple weeks back to play as a forward, so he may have a case of whiplash, or maybe PTSD from all the goals he's seen go in when he's played in defense. Seriously, though, he's gotten more than 1,000 minutes this season at CB, and for much of the year was the primary backup at the position, showing how quickly he was developing relative to the other defenders on the team.
He's still learning the position, but with an experienced partner in the middle, I can see him rounding into a solid center back over the next season or two. He's got size, speed and doesn't rush into reckless tackles, which is good. He recovers well, but can be a bit static at times, which can be deadly with an opposing attacker bearing down. I don't think it's safe to conclude whether or not Zavaleta will turn out to be starter-caliber or not on a good MLS team at this point, but there's certainly cause for optimism for his future from a Sounders perspective.
SaH: How's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado looked with Chivas USA?
tGP: I thought he looked really good for the first 67 minutes of his CUSA debut, which happened to come against the Galaxy. Then, Robbie Keane completely posterized him en route to an impressive goal, and...it's been downhill ever since. He got yanked at halftime of the Goats' last encounter with the Sounders after giving up four goals (it wasn't all him - it took a full team effort to be that bad), and featured in the 4-0 loss to Sporting KC. Last week, he was on the injury report for "fatigue," which seems rather unique, but I guess it's better to be honest than not.
The defense fell apart after Carlos Bocanegra went down with a concussion in late July. I called for the team to trade for an experienced MLS center back, and they did, and Hurtado just hasn't been up to the challenge. It's hard to get thrown into a difficult situation, but I was expecting better from him, honestly.
SaH: You also have former Sounder Nathan Sturgis down there. He went from amazing in Colorado to kind of a rotational player. What will his role in 2015 be, more like his great 2013 or his he fading?
tGP: Well, he's basically a starter for Chivas under Cabrera, which...meh. I thought the trade for him for Carlos Alvarez was a bad move, primarily due to the promise of Alvarez compared to the current level of Sturgis, and Sturgis has had decent moments. But he's basically a defensive midfielder who typically plays on one of the wings, which doesn't make a lot of sense. The thing is, the other defensive midfielders (pretty much the only position of strength on this squad) are better than him in the middle, so his role is just kind of a mystery. He works hard and all that, but beyond that, I just think the fact that he's starting so much is an indication that first, Oscar Pareja really wrings the most out of his players, and second, this team is lacking so much talent, and it shows.
I think there's a good chance that Sturgis will extend his league record and join yet another team, but that's as likely due to the club's projected demise as anything else. Should be an interesting offseason, if nothing else.
GK: Dan Kennedy
D: Akira Kaji, Bobby Burling, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Tony Lochhead
M: Eric Avila, Oswaldo Minda, Agustin Pelletieri, Nathan Sturgis
F: Erick Torres, Marvin Chavez
tGP: Seattle recently added to their trophy case with the 2014 U.S. Open Cup title. With the current season obviously ongoing, where would you put this Open Cup-winning group in relation to the past Sounders title-winning teams?
SaH: It isn't as special as the first one, because the first one is always special. But this one definitely means more than the two won at home. That may sound odd. Here are the two reasons - the pause between trophies and the People's Cup. Seattle went two years without a trophy (surprisingly their best two playoff years). There's a hunger here and the Open Cup may not be enough to satisfy it, but it is a hell of an appetizer.
Bigger than that though was this amazing thing the team did for the traveling fans. The Sounders FO gave the fans the Cup for the rest of the week. Adrian Hanauer, the coaches, a few players, some other FO types and the 101st Lamar Hunt US Open Cup trophy joined about 100 fans in a bar. Stories were told, beers were shared and a Cup sat among them all. Then the Cup hung out with the fans who spent the week out on the East Coast. It traveled from Philly to New York City. It hung at the pre-match bar with traveling supporters and displaced Sounders fans. It rode the subway. It marched into the stadium.
It's the People's Cup.
tGP: Marco Pappa's had an eventful month, winning the Golden Boot and Golden Ball at the Copa Centroamericana with Guatemala before pledging to boycott future call-ups in solidarity with his teammates over a players' rights dispute. On the club front, how would you rate his debut season to date with the Sounders?
SaH: He's amazing to watch. He does all these twists and turns, dribble moves and skill checks. You never know what he's going to do with the ball. Pappa is amazing skillful midfielder who pairs up with Oba and Clint quite well. He reads the game like they do. He's a key component to the roster and yet Marco Pappa doesn't have the goals of the very conventional players like Neagle, Barrett and Cooper. He doesn't have the assists. For months now it's been apparent he has the talent and the positional awareness to get goals and assists. He will get them. Marco just doesn't have them yet.
tGP: Is this going to be the year Seattle reaches the MLS Cup final, and do you think they can win it all?
SaH: I think Seattle is better set-up to get the Supporters' Shield. That's basically down to winning a series (or even drawing) against the LA Galaxy, whereas winning MLS Cup will take beating two of the following clubs - Timbers, FCD, RSL and LA. Then facing the best of the East in a one-off. If the Sounders make the MLS Cup they will win it. It will be a 60,000ish crowd in the chill damp air. Seattle gets up for events like that. Getting to the Cup will be a struggle.
tGP: (Bonus) Prediction for this match?
SaH: Sounders have five goals in them.
Lineup Prediction: Frei; Gonzalez, Evans, Marshall, Yedlin; Neagle, Rose, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins