It was about four months ago that the Seattle Sounders were eliminated from the 2015 MLS playoffs. Much has changed since then, and if you weren't paying close attention to the offseason, you probably missed quite a bit.
But never fear, Sounder at Heart is here to catch you up everything you need to know to impress your seatmates and that random person at the bar to get you ready for the 2016 season.
The Timbers winning MLS Cup was not a horrible dream
The offseason got off to a nightmare start when our biggest rivals won the big prize that has been eluding us. While the logical part of our brains tells us this shouldn't change anything and the emotional part tells us it's completely unacceptable, the realistic part at least acknowledges this only serves to amplify any pressures the front office already feels.
More you need to know
Obafemi Martins left for China a couple weeks before season
Martins got offered the chance to effectively triple his salary by moving to Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League. The Sounders supposedly collected about a $2 million transfer and cleared Martins' nearly $4 million salary. But the timing was horrible and surely sets them back in the short term, at least.
The Sounders have an open DP spot
There's a very good chance that Osvaldo Alonso will be moved into that open DP spot, but he's probably just a space holder. In the meantime, though, the Sounders can save the Targeted Allocation Money they were spending on Alonso. There's a possibility the Sounders could make a signing before the transfer window closes in May, but the more likely scenario probably involves the Sounders waiting until the summer, signing a DP at half price and using the TAM money on a second player.
Nelson Valdez is not Oba, and that's OK
Martins' departure obviously had a trickle-down effect on the roster, with one of the big changes being Valdez moving into the center forward spot where he's a bit more of a natural fit. Valdez does not have Martins' speed or his touch around the box, but he's shown off some impressive aerial ability, is a solid holdup player and should get his share of goals.
Jordan Morris is now a starter
The other big change caused by Martins' departure is Morris moving from first-off-the-bench to starting XI. The United States international has looked decent in his first two appearances, and had some especially impressive moments in the second leg against Club America. It's unfair to expect him to replace Martins goal-for-goal, but there's reason to think this could be a more fully functional attack with him on the right wing.
Speaking of which, the Sounders now play a 4-3-3
For most of their MLS existence, the Sounders have run variations of the 4-4-2. That is changing in 2016, at least in the short term. The biggest difference isn't in the forward band, but in the midfield where Andreas Ivanschitz has been sitting in front of Erik Friberg and Osvaldo Alonso. Ivanschitz isn't necessarily a classic No. 10, though, as he's been switching often with Clint Dempsey.
The Sounders actually did get younger and faster
One of the promises of the offseason was that the Sounders needed to add some younger players with some speed. Morris is one of them. The other key part of that was left back Joevin Jones, who was acquired in a draft-day trade. He's a Trinidad & Tobago international who's got speed for days and has been called a left-sided DeAndre Yedlin. The Sounders bench is also younger, for better or worse. The only three reserves to see time in CCL were Darwin Jones (23), Aaron Kovar (22) and Cristian Roldan (20). None of them looked exceptional in those appearances, but it does appear the Sounders are committed to giving them an extended look.
Roman Torres is out until May
Yeah, in case you forgot the Sounders are going to be missing their big defensive addition for awhile longer. May is probably the earliest he'll be back and June or July are probably more realistic targets. The totally selfish silver lining is that he's probably not going to play in Copa America. In the meantime, Brad Evans and Chad Marshall are the starting center backs.
But Osvaldo Alonso and Zach Scott are still here
If you stopped paying attention in December, you'd be excused for assuming both were gone. The team was openly talking about the possibility of trading Alonso and Scott was actually cut. But the trade market for Alonso turned out to be ice cold and Scott's presence was deemed necessary at least in the early going. Alonso has looked like his old self in CCL games, while Scott provides the only veteran depth on defense.
The Sounders mostly avoided international dates
One of the unfortunate realities of last year was how many games key Sounders missed due to international duty, and you could be excused for thinking that a summer with Copa America and the Olympics would be just as bad. But it won't! Promise! MLS is taking off all of the Copa America group stage and the Sounders only have one game scheduled during the five other international dates. That includes the Olympic qualifier, but not the actual Summer Olympics, which may not even include Morris or Roldan. Considering the USA and Paraguay were drawn together in the toughest Copa America group, there's a very good chance international dates won't have nearly as big of an impact as last year.