After winning MLS Cup, the Seattle Sounders immediately started rebuilding their roster. President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey’s goals were to get younger, more durable, and to further integrate Sounders 2 and the Academy. When the club opened their title defense with First Practice, it was nearly a complete roster—depending on who earns spots 22 and up.
“We expect to have something like 28 when it's all said and done. To be clear, pretty much everyone who is in here is in here. You may see us add one or two more signings, but for the most part, the guys that are going to compete for spots are out here,” Lagerwey told the media. “To state the obvious, the DP spot is one that we've talked about, we may do something, we may not. That will be a matter of opportunity and Dempsey's progress and all the rest.”
Nicolas Lodeiro is on an excused absence to get some extra rest after playing for more than 18 months. Brad Evans, Jordan Morris and Chad Marshall are all at United States National Team camp. The other 17 players under contract were there today.
Either Harry Shipp or Will Bruin could earn a starting role. Whether they do so will depend on their performance in training camp and their ability to stay fit.
The biggest question, after Clint Dempsey’s health, is at right back. That decision will be up to Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, and Lagerwey thinks there is enough talent on the current roster at the position.
“My understanding is that Brad is getting used as a right back in national team camp right now.” Lagerwey said. “The biggest thing for Brad is to stay healthy. If he does, it's up to coach Schmetzer where he wants to play him, whether that's on the right wing or right back, they'll make that determination. We've got a good young player in Oniel Fisher, who has played in playoff games for us in the past two years, who is most naturally a right back. We have Henry Wingo who can be used as a right winger or right back, we have a number of guys trying out, like Oduro, who can also play as a right back.”
Lagerwey said that the Sounders are also trying to get more Sounders 2 talent into the first team, as only one player—Oalex Anderson—made the jump in 2016. A number of S2 players will be competing for spots in training camp, and Lagerwey specifically mentioned Jordy Delem, Zach Mathers, and Nouhou Tolo. Though Tolo appears to have already cemented a spot on the first team squad, according to Lagerwey. “To be clear, we expect Nouhou to be part of the first team, the other guys are going to try out and compete for spots.”
There are quite a few youth players competing for spots on the squad, from both the Sounders academy and outside the organization. One such outside trialist is center back Gale Agbossoumonde, one of 18 non-MLS roster players trying to earn his way onto the 2017 roster.
“Agbossoumonde is a really good athlete. He was highly touted as a U-20. Chris Henderson and I both scouted him for different teams at the time. We're both really excited about him,” Lagerwey explained. “Kurt Schmid reached out to his agent, and he was available at the end of the NASL season, he played pretty regularly down in Florida. He's a kid that for one reason or another, has never caught on on a full time basis at MLS level. He's the quintessential preseason camp invite. He's got a ton of talent, you can see the frame he's got. He's got a good pedigree, we'll see how he does in camp.”
Oh, yes, that was Steve Zakuani back out on the field, fully participating in drills. It could be a completely innocent session, in which the former player and current analyst wanted to get exercise and work with the ball at his feet—like he did near the end of last season. Chris Henderson and Ezra Hendrickson also did this regularly in the past.
A few notable inclusions in training camp include Azriel Gonzalez who was the youngest player on the field, as one of the Seattle academy’s U16 players. Shandon Hopeau came to Sounders via Hawaii and is a highly regarded USYNT prospect. Sam Rogers, a defensive midfielder who can slip into the backline, is a giant among men. Sam Fowler is a goalkeeper with the U16 team.
Cody Lang was the only other non-drafted invitee not previously disclosed. Javorn Stevens (S2) was not yet in camp. As usual, the trialist portion of the depth chart will change frequently during preseason. Lagerwey also mentioned that, for the first time, a few Academy players will be in Arizona with the team during that stretch of training camp.