Looking at the state of the Seattle Sounders’ roster as they prepare for their first formal preseason training session on Friday, it’s remarkable how stable it is. Although there are still a few unsigned contracts, it looks like at least 16 of their 18 most used players from 2021 will be back in 2022.
The two players who will effectively replace those two roster spots are one of the league’s most productive players last year — Albert Rusnák — and one of the top college players — Dylan Teves. Combined with the other offseason signings and a few others we expect will be finalized soon, the Sounders already have 27 players on their first-team roster. That doesn’t leave much room for additions, but they’ll probably sign 2-3 more players before the start of the season.
Here’s a quick look at the personnel moves they’ve made and some of the players who are in contention for those final spots:
Shane O’Neill: The centerback was eighth in total minutes played and is coming off two solid seasons. O’Neill proved himself versatile and reliable, if not necessarily spectacular. He went to Toronto FC as a free agent.
Spencer Richey: The goalkeeper didn’t get called on much, but he did have two shutouts in his only MLS starts. He went to the Chicago Fire as a free agent.
Players in limbo
Nicolas Benezet: The Frenchman was a midseason pickup was a solid contributor with 4 goals and an assist in all competitions. But he was also due something like $700,000 so the Sounders declined his option. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he returns.
Jordy Delem: The Martinique international tore his ACL in May and missed most of the season. It’s not entirely clear how close he is to returning, but he’s out of contract after the Sounders declined his option. However, it would not be surprising to see him in training camp, at least while he finishes his rehab.
Players who re-signed (or are expected to)
Will Bruin: The Sounders played some of their best soccer when Bruin was on the field, even if he didn’t put up particularly impressive numbers. Still, he battled some injuries and returns on an incentive-laden contract.
Stefan Cleveland: After starting nearly half the team’s games and looking very strong, it was assumed that Cleveland would leave for a bigger opportunity. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s back, possibly with a tacit promise to relieve Stefan Frei on a more regular basis.
Fredy Montero: An absolute bargain last year, he finished with 7 goals and 6 assists while playing for the veteran minimum. The Sounders declined his option, but it looks like he’ll be back again on the veteran minimum.
Kelyn Rowe: The Federal Way native was the only player who appeared in all 38 matches, moving all over the pitch in the process. He wasn’t the flashiest player, but one coaches came to rely upon. He’s believed to be on another team-friendly deal.
Alex Roldan: In his first season as a full-time starter, Roldan emerged as an All-Star and El Salvador National Team captain. He is believed to have received a big raise in the offseason.
Sam Adeniran: The big forward had a breakout season with Tacoma Defiance, setting a Sounders USL record with 13 goals. He’ll likely compete with Bruin to be Raúl Ruidíaz’s backup.
Albert Rusnák: The former RSL man was arguably the biggest free-agent signing in MLS history. He’s coming off a season in which he had 11 goals and 11 assists and can play across the midfield. There will be big expectations for the Designated Player.
Dylan Teves: After playing at UW for four seasons, the former Sounders Academy player decided the time was right to turn pro. He was primarily an attacking player in college, but will likely compete for minutes at a variety of midfield positions.
Obed Vargas: Still just 16, the Alaska native became the third-youngest player to ever appear in an MLS match last year. It’s unlikely that he’ll carve out a significant first-team role this year, but coaches love his physicality and strength on the ball.
Others who will likely be in camp
The first team and Tacoma Defiance will be training together, at least at first, so there’s going to be a lot more guys around than are reflected on this list. That said, these are the ones I suspect will be contending for first-team spots. One notable absence is left back Alex Villanueva, who will be in preseason with the Columbus Crew. If the Crew decide they want to sign him, they’d need to work out a deal with the Sounders for Villanueva’s MLS rights.
Juan Alvarez: The 17-year-old made a couple MLS gameday rosters as an emergency signing but never got on the field. The attacking midfielder will likely spend another year with Defiance but will be given a look.
Cody Baker: Another player who probably isn’t quite MLS ready, but who Brian Schmetzer has spoken highly of. Baker just turned 18 and has played both right back and centerback.
Eric Kinzner: The Tacoma native was solid in first professional season with the Defiance, making 18 starts as an 18-year-old. He did go on a training stint in Mexico this offseason, but will have a hard time breaking into a defense that is as experienced as this one.
Sota Kitahara: After spending most of last year on loan in Austria to FC Pinzgau Saalfelden, the 19-year-old might be ready to make the jump. Kitahara projects mostly as an 8 but has shown some impressive versatility.
Randy Mendoza: Definitely a long shot to make the first team, the soon-to-be 26-year-old shouldn’t be entirely overlooked. He was a solid defense-first left back and slotted in nicely as a left-sided centerback as well.
Ray Serrano: Still just 19 despite having been around for several years, Serrano made a big leap forward last year as a right wingback. He’s definitely one worth watching.
Jackson Ragen: The Sounders acquired the big centerback’s MLS rights in a trade, but he’ll still need to win a roster spot in camp. That seems a solid bet, especially after the departure of Shane O’Neill.
Achille Robin: The French centerback was considered a “first-round talent” by his college coach Jamie Clark. But he’s an international and already 24. The Sounders will likely give him a serious look, though.
Hal Uderitz: The son of former MLS player Scott Uderitz, the Snohomish native played both defensive midfielder and centerback at Seattle University. I suspect he’s more likely to end up with Defiance.