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Sounders already transitioning to a younger roster core

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Mike Russell Foto

If one were to start focusing on building for 2017 rather than rescuing 2016 part of that evaluation would be to figure which players will be part of the core moving forward. This core element, say four to seven players around which the tactics and roster will be built, are players that are highly unlikely to be traded, would start on a playoff caliber team and who cannot be easily replaced without using DP or TAM mechanisms.

In 2016 that core is probably Dempsey, Alonso, Marshall, Evans and the departed Martins. A majority of roster and tactical decisions were made to accommodate those five players. Morris was merely slotted around the two key forwards. The wide players were about making Clint and Oba great. The plan fell apart when Oba left. The remaining roster is a broken and the tactics are not correcting for the deficiencies in remaining talent.

In 2015 the core was pretty close to the same, with it maybe including Neagle. Problems arose when more than half of those players were absent at the same time. This may be the best example of the core concept. MLS teams lose when half of their 4-7 best players are gone, or they are bad teams (see Sounders 2016).

The 2014 core is again familiar - Dempsey, Alonso, Marshall, Evans, Martins, and the since departed Yedlin.

Four players have carried the Seattle Sounders from '14 to the present. The last major difference in the core was in 2013 when Yedlin, Traore, Rosales, Evans, Johnson and Martins carried the burden until Clint showed up.

When evaluating the transition from 2016 to 2017 the staff at Sounder at Heart answered if a player would be a core player, return to the roster or leave the Sounders. Polling 14 of our writers only two players made everyone's selection as part of the 2017 core. Both are just 21 - Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan.

Three other players received more than 50% of our support as core elements in '17. Brad Evans earned 12 votes. Everyone expects him back. Eight nodded in Osvaldo Alonso's direction. Just six months ago Alonso was thought to be on his way out, but after his strong 2016 season everyone wants him back and most think he is a vital cog. One writer doesn't want/expect Clint Dempsey back. Six hope the team does not build around the DP. Seven think he will be a core player.

That's it for unity around the core for 2017 - Morris, Roldan, Evans, Alonso, Dempsey. It is certain that the new DP from this transfer window will be a core player as well.

Six supported Joevin Jones; four supported Stefan Frei; three supported Tony Alfaro; one supported Aaron Kovar. All were expected to be back even if not as a foundation element.

Twelve writers expect current DP Nelson Haedo Valdez to be gone. That new DP in the offseason or the next summer window will also be part of the core.

Everyone expects TAM player Roman Torres to be back.

When looking at the expected exits the only significant disagreements are on Chad Marshall and Jimmy Ockford. For the most part SaH writers expect, or want, dramatic roster change with everyone expecting at least 10 from the current roster to not be with the club in 2017.

The reader specific version only of the staff poll looks at players that have played in 50%+ of MLS minutes or were under-23 at some point in 2016. That limits the data to either the "best" players or those with the most promise as prospects.

If you are thinking about starting a youth movement now, it should be noted that the youth movement already started, even if unintentionally. Morris and Roldan have emerged as strong MLS players. Kovar is playing a significant amount of minutes. While Joevin, Dylan and Oniel are not "youth" players they are certainly pre-peak but are unlikely to significantly change in talent at this point.

If the roster brings back Alfaro, Alonso, Anderson, Dempsey, Evans, Fisher, Frei, Friberg, Joevin, Kovar, Mansaray, Marshall, Miller, Morris, Ockford, Remick, Roldan and Torres (that's everyone that 50%+ of staffers thinks will be back) it is quite a bit younger than the design behind 2016's roster.

Sprinkle in two peak or pre-peak DPs and a pre-peak or peak TAM player and that movement continues dramatically. The rebuild will take place in just three transfer windows, just as the 2013 to 2014 Double Winning rebuild did.

The future has already started.