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Unanswered questions in final weeks of Sounders’ preseason

As the Seattle Sounders prepare for their MLS opener, they have a few things to figure out.

Seattle Sounders FC v Al Ahly FC: 2nd Round - FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022
Raul Ruidiaz of Seattle Sounders dejected after Afsha of Al Ahly scored a goal
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

A month ago Jeremiah, Tim and myself had a few questions we wanted the Seattle Sounders to answer before their competitive games (which turned out to be only a single match :( ). Some of those questions were answered to the positive. Others remain unanswered and one we didn’t ask has the biggest question mark of all.

Six of those questions have clear answers. But not the first one.

What did they learn from last season’s roller-coaster?

The trust in veterans was indicated when Brian Schmetzer left his starters in for a long time, but also the trust in youth was exhibited when Jackson Ragen and Josh Atencio started. The second sub was Danny Leyva. Trust in the kids may be stronger than it was in 2023.

How healthy is João Paulo?

Close to fully fit.

Who plays alongside João Paulo?

At this point it looks like that’s still Albert Rusnák with a side of Josh Atencio, Obed Vargas and Danny Leyva when healthy.

New year, new formation?

Schmetzer said he might try two-forward sets, but we haven’t seen it in scrimmages nor at the Club World Cup.


Ethan Dobbelaere earned the backup start at right back and Kelyn Rowe was the backup left back. There’s no indication that Ethan’s moved ahead of Kelyn in the rotation though.

Youth versus the New Guy(s)

Ragen, Atencio and Leyva all featured before Héber. The youth was trusted.

Dead balls; live action

Set pieces against Al Ahly were fine, featuring shared duties by Nico and Albert. It could get better, but the shifting duties indicated a continued intent to explore specific players for specific circumstances rather than the one-size-fits-all of the early Lodeiro era.

A new question has arisen.

When will the Schmetzer-Lodeiro era offense return?

Against the regularly stout defense of Ahly the Sounders struggled to produce an effective offense. The first half, their stronger, the xG was a sad 0.33. The defense was extraordinary, giving up basically nothing.

Jordan Morris called out the attack’s failure postgame. “I think that’s where we let ourselves down today. We did a good job of building up to the final third but couldn’t put the last pass together or get a good shot off. Something work on early in the season and continue to get better.”

It’s an attack that has six players who have had at least one season with double-digit all competition goals, plus Cristian and JP capable of contributing in the attack too.

And yet!

Their final third passes aren’t quite there. Something is just a bit off. It’s a tiny percentage, acute angles to be adjusted not a plan without a foundation. Against Ahly the Sounders did a solid job charging forward, they were aggressive rather than patient. Going towards goal is a great start, scoring goals will lead to a wonderful finish.

Louisville City is coming to Seattle for one final preseason game on Feb. 17. Then the quest for the four other major trophies on offer in 2023 starts Feb. 26 against the Colorado Rapids at Lumen (5 pm PT, FS1, Apple TV).

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