Your first opportunity to see the MLS Cup champions defend their star in a competitive match is a road game against the Houston Dynamo. Seattle Sounders, and all of Cascadia, struggle in Houston, having yet to win there. But, this early season game means low-60s and rain, an environment that should be familiar. It’s a 5:30 p.m. match on Q13 FOX Seattle (radio on KIRO 97.3 FM and in Spanish on El Rey 1360 AM) on Saturday night.
Both teams went through quite a bit of roster change. The Dynamo are attempting to make the playoffs for the first time in four years. Seattle is trying to defend an MLS Cup.
Gribbs from Dynamo Theory answers Three Questions.
SaH: What signing from the offseason are you most excited about?
DT: It’s hard to pick just one because we had lots of new additions to the club, but I think if I had to pick just one, I would go with Alberth Elis. I nearly said A.J. DeLaGarza, but a lack of offense is what hurt us the most last year, so I have to go with our new Honduran designated player. What I love the most about him (and it is part of new Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera’s style of play) is that he just attacks relentlessly. Even while defending he takes an aggressive approach as he pressures deep into the opponent’s half of the field. He’s extremely quick, smart with the ball, and has linked up well with the two other attacking players, Cubo Torres and Romell Quioto.
SaH: Will Cubo Torres become the star he looked capable of being at Chivas USA?
DT: I’m not sure he will produce at that level simply because he’s going to be sharing goals with Elis, Quioto, and he will likely be subbed off earlier to bring on Mauro Manotas. However, he is having a bit of a renaissance this preseason as he’s been able to put the ball in the back of the net fairly consistently (compared to last preseason in which I believe he only scored once, and that was a penalty). He’s looking very comfortable in this system, and it shouldn’t be a surprise as Wilmer Cabrera was the head coach of Chivas USA when Cubo was doing well, and that’s important for him and his confidence.
SaH: Can the Dynamo get back to the MLS Cup Playoffs?
DT: From what I’ve seen in preseason, we absolutely can get into the playoffs. Winning the Desert Diamond Cup was great for the club in order to shake off the sour taste of finishing last place in the Western Conference last season. Of course, that’s preseason and the team shouldn’t assume that winning a preseason tournament has predictive capabilities. I believe realistically the club can fight for a 5 or 6 spot, but in MLS and the West in particular, you never know how well or poorly a team can play. One thing is certain, given this club’s history of success, not making the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year would be completely unacceptable.
Tyler Deric; DaMarcus Beasley, Adolfo Machado, Leonardo, A.J. DeLaGarza; Alex Lima, Juan David Cabezas, Ricardo Clark; Romell Quioto, Cubo Torres, Alberth Elis
DT: Will Bruin has been a huge part of the Houston Dynamo the last six years, but now he’s a part of the reigning MLS Cup champs, the Seattle Sounders. How has he looked in preseason and how is he going to fit into this Sounder team?
SaH: Bruin looks to be the first attacker off the bench, at least early in the season. He gives Seattle the opportunity to rest Morris, or push Morris into midfied, or to switch up to a 4-4-2. In preseason, he had the only goal among possible starters. What really stood out was a conversation between Clint Dempsey and Bruin where Clint told Will "I'm going to pass to your feet." The Sounders are not going to change their offensive system for Bruin. He'll have fewer opportunities for headed goals since neither wide mid crosses the ball. He could rack up a ton of assists though, as Dempsey and Lodeiro ping the ball off of him and then run into space. If he can slip them the ball in those situations he will thrive.
DT: The Sounders finished fourth in the West, but went through the knockout round and eventually won the MLS Cup. What will it take to take the Sounders to the next level and compete for a Supporter’s Shield?
SaH: Health of Clint Dempsey and behaving as they did when Brian Schmetzer took over as coach. In the final half of 2016 they only had America's greatest outfield player for four games. They still went 12-3-5 in the regular season and playoffs to end the year. On top of that, they replaced the statistically ineffective Nelson Valdez with Bruin, the aging Andreas Ivanschitz with Harry Shipp, and a gob of old guys with Homegrown Players. They are more likely to be healthy and energetic late in the season, and have the flexibility to rest Dempsey at times.
DT: A full season of Nicolas Lodeiro is a scary thought for most opposing teams. What are the expectations for him this season? MVP candidate?
SaH: I'm drooooooling thinking about this. Lodeiro looked every bit the part of potential MVP. He had eight goals and eight assists in his 19 competitive matches, four of those goals were in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Nico is capable of carrying a team from bad to amazing and now the squad is being built around his abilities. He will also have Dempsey rather than Valdez. There is every reason to think that Nico collects 20+ assists, a magical number in MLS. There's a potential for 12+ goals on top of that. In my mind that's an MVP candidate. Klejstan was an MVP candidate with 6/20. Lodeiro is to Klejstan as a demi-god is to a commoner with a club.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1): Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Gustav Svensson; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Alvaro Fernandez, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Jordan Morris