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Consider this the first step toward understanding a painful offseason

Mike Russell

Big changes are on the way. Or, at least that's what the Seattle Sounders have been preparing us for. What that actually means is very much a "remains to be seen" issue, but given what we know, we figured we'd at least take a guess at the status of each player on the Sounders roster.

The Sounder at Heart staff classified each player as "keep," "drop" or "fence." These are those cumulative results:

Players who will likely be back:

Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, Oniel Fisher, Stefan Frei, Erik Friberg, Aaron Kovar, Victor Mansaray, Chad Marshall, Obafemi Martins, Tyrone Mears, Roman Torres, Nelson Haedo Valdez, Cristian Roldan, Andy Rose.

Not much disagreement here as virtually our entire staff was in agreement on these names. If the starting XI ends up being selected from this group of players, the Sounders have a pretty good chance at contending next year.

That said, it's still a pretty old group. Fisher, Kovar, Mansaray and Roldan are the only ones who will be younger than 25 when the season starts.

Players who likely won't be back

Micheal Azira, Chad Barrett, Andres Correa, Leo Gonzalez, Thomas, Charlie Lyon, Troy Perkins, Gonzalo Pineda.

Probably not too many huge surprises here, either. Still, let's address them one-by-one:

Azira (28 years old): Seemed like a decent enough backup at defensive mid and everyone seems to like him. But he also fell off the radar once the roster starting getting healthy. Played a grand total of eight minutes from July-October.

Barrett (30): Scored a couple big goals and logged quite a few minutes down the stretch. But he's also going to turn 31 early next year, has struggled a bit with injury and did not play well when the Sounders needed him most.

Correa (21): Has some obvious physical tools, but never worked his way from S2 to first team. Young enough that Sounders could roll the dice, but hard to see him back.

Gonzalez (35): One of a handful of players to feature on that 2009 team, but really had a hard time staying healthy and appears likely to retire. Could be back as a coach, though.

Thomás (22): Still just 22, it would be a bit of a shame to see him go as he showed some promise. But he was on a pretty significant salary number, and the team would need to be confident he can earn more playing time.

Lyon (23): Coaches spoke well of him, but his performances were uneven. One imagines he and Tyler Miller will be battling it out for No. 3/S2 starter.

Perkins (34): Wouldn't be a huge surprise if he returns and he was totally fine as a backup. But he's not a player who will push Frei for starting minutes.

Pineda (33): The goal against the Whitecaps to lock up the Cascadia Cup was an obvious highlight, but his legs just couldn't be relied upon for significant minutes anymore.

Players we really don't know about

Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Craven, Andreas Ivanschitz, Darwin Jones, Damion Lowe, Lamar Neagle, Jimmy Ockford, Marco Pappa, Dylan Remick, Zach Scott.

Under normal circumstances, it might be surprising to see Alonso in this group. But there are some pretty weighty rumors that he's at least being made available for a trade, which casts quite a bit of doubt on his return. But let's go player-by-player:

Alonso (30): There's no getting around the fact that the defensive midfielder missed playoff games for a second consecutive season. This was by far his least productive campaign and he's due a hefty salary number. It would be painful, but it might be more shocking if he stays than if he goes.

Craven (23): Biggest question is how he recovers from surgery. Sounders obviously thought well enough of him to sign him after a strong start to S2, but he missed basically half the year and who knows what kind of shape he'll be back in.

Ivanschitz (32): I suspect the main cause for this was some misinformation about something Sigi said during his end-of-season press conference. My suspicion is the veteran will be back for at least one more year.

Jones (23): Homegrown Player who showed real promise in the preseason, had some outstanding moments with S2 and never really got much playing time on the first team.

Lowe (22): After two years, he's yet to play a single minute for the first team. Still, he's just 22 and showed some real progress at S2. His return will likely hinge on his Generation Adidas status.

Neagle (28): Got a ton of minutes, scored seven goals across all competitions and did whatever was asked. But he also fell out of favor and struggled when the Sounders needed him most. Also possible he might just want a change of scenery.

Ockford (23): Showed well enough in his few appearances and is still just 23. Seems more likely to be back.

Pappa (28): The player around whom there was the most disagreement, as his situation seems less straightforward than anyone else. On the field, he had moments of brilliance. But off the field, it was another story. The good news is that he returned from his DUI arrest and worked his way back into the rotation. Personally, hoping he returns.

Remick (24): At one point, he seemed like a starter. But injuries derailed his season, which has become a recurring theme for him. He also had a couple howlers, most notably against the Galaxy.

Scott (35): The only question seems to be "will he retire?" Despite playing with a broken foot and other assorted injuries, he logged a career-high 1,480 minutes in the regular season.

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