With the season starting tomorrow night with LA and Chicago on UniMas at 7 PM, it's time to calibrate how good the Sounder at Heart staff and readers think Seattle Sounders FC will do in 2015. Three trophies are on order this year - U.S. Open Cup, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. The team will also be in the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League during the late summer.
Like many experts, the staff is high on Seattle. Sure, the TNT only thinks the Sounders will be 3rd in the West, and Soccer By Ives has them at 2nd in the West, but SI has 50% of their pool thinking Seattle lifts the MLS Cup. This is a strong club that didn't need to make a lot of changes. Counting on replicating last year's performance is dangerous. Maybe the new CBA and a larger cap can be put into effect, since the transfer window is open for another two months.
These staff predictions were taken before the CBA came to fruition. Of the 16 of us who voted, only one expects Seattle to not win the Cascadia Cup.
Jacob Sweeney-Samuelson (Friday Links, breaking news)
Based on the offseason moves so far, I'm confident the Sounders will finish ahead of the Timbers and Whitecaps in the league, yet I think the Sounders will again fail to take the Cascadia Cup. Why? First, I think the Sounders will struggle a bit defensively at the outset of the season as Mears and Evans get comfortable and Alonso recovers from surgery. The Sounders face the Timbers at home and Whitecaps away early in the year. Not that our rivals don't have their own adjustments to make, but this moves the early matches into the tossup category for me. Secondly, the Timbers and Whitecaps just hate Seattle more right now. Rivalry games, more than others, can come down to that cliche of "wanting it more." Vanquishing the mighty Sounders might be the height of either neighbor team's season, and by later on in the year, they might well know it. The Sounders will certainly get up for Cascadia matches as well. But with greater goals (and cups) in mind, I predict Seattle will continue to let local bragging rights slip away in 2015.
You can wash that depression out of your mouth knowing that Jacob and all 15 of the rest of us who participated in the staff predictions survey predict a finish of second or higher in the West. The average is simple: 50% picked winning the West, the rest picked second. That would mean a first round bye in the new NFL style playoffs.
Seven see a multi-trophy year. Nine just a single trophy. Ten see a fifth Open Cup (hello history by tying Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi LA). Only three see another Supporters' Shield. The top tier of the league is just stronger now. LA, New England, Columbus and Toronto are all getting love around the league. A full 10 looked into crystal balls and see a first ever MLS Cup.
Dave Clark (founder of Sounder at Heart)
This is probably the thing that pulls at Sigi Schmid more than anything else soccer related. It's the only domestic trophy he won with LA and Columbus that he hasn't earned here. That probably means more squad rotation for fresh legs come this fall, and it probably means aggressive pursuit of adding great talent in either transfer window now that the CBA is settled. Plus, with a healthy Alonso, Seattle was better than LA last year. Right now, the Sounders are more talented than the Galaxy. Something could interfere with the quest for that MLS Cup, but it won't be because of a lack of effort or a talent deficiency.
Neither the friendly, nor the generally weak three-team Group Stage, frighten Sounder at Heart staffers. Four pick wins over Xolos, two expect a loss and the other 10 foresee a draw on that Tuesday night in late March. The CCL looks even better, likely since Seattle can't face off against a Liga MX side.
Three predict a perfect Group Stage. Only three see just two wins (still almost certain to advance in a 3-team group). The rest expect three wins. D.C. United, Cruz Azul, Toluca, Santos Laguna, Monterrey and Sounders FC are the only teams to be perfect in the smaller group stage format that's been in place the past three cycles.
What are your expectations for 2015?