Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

Ship's Log, Jan. 12: Camp battles

There are several position battles to watch during Sounders preseason.

Last Updated
5 min read
Can Raúl Ruidíaz reclaim his starting spot? | Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

When the Seattle Sounders training camp opens there will be few contests for starting roles. The entire starting lineup that led the Sounders into the playoffs is back, though two of those spots could have hot contests considering the new talent added and the hoped-for return-to-form of Raúl Ruidíaz.

Here are the lineup battles we'll be watching as the team trains at Starfire, in Spain and then at Longacres.

Starting Forward

Jordan Morris ended the season as the team's starting forward, scoring 9 of his goals in the 13 matches in which he played that spot. Two years ago Raúl Ruidíaz was one of the most threatening scorers in the game. He's aged and been injured, reducing his starting opportunities. While Jordan is in the driver's seat, if Raúl can come back strong the cascading impacts in the attack and its general quality increase.

Expectation: Morris earns the majority of starts.

Left Winger

Preseason will start with Léo Chú present and Pedro de la Vega expected to join soon after. Plus, maybe Ruidíaz shows he's back. There could be anything between a one-horse and a three-horse race for this one. If Chú is sold and Morris earns the forward spot de la Vega slots in easily. Or this could be the hottest seat in Rave Green if Ruidíaz is the No. 9 starter and Chú sticks around.

Expectation: De la Vega earns the majority of time on the left wing, but flexes into the other two attacking mid roles regularly.

Left Back

What if I told you the Sounders have three starting quality left backs again? Nouhou is the in-prime defense-first some-time star who had a half-season in 2022 at Defensive Player of the Year quality. But last year both Reed Baker-Whiting and Cody Baker burst on the scene. Baker-Whiting finally claimed a position as his best when he started on the left and provided quality service in the attack and decent on-man defense. Baker can start on the left or right and even in a pinch at CB.

Expectation: Nouhou edges RBW in preseason, but this becomes a shared role by the All-Star break.

Third Centerback

Xavier Arreaga helped Seattle win major trophies, but lost his starting role to local Jackson Ragen. Now Arreaga will compete with Nathan, the new signing from the San Jose Earthquakes. Xavi is a better passer, but Schmetzer tends to prefer a defense-first sub in this role. Jonathan Bell is also expected to compete.

Expectation: Arreaga shows his value and is traded.

Third Defensive Mid

With the big contract for Josh Atencio there's no doubt about the top two in this position. That leaves open space for two former phenoms to show the form that earned them each a Sounder at Heart Young Player of the Year recognition in the past. Obed Vargas offers a lot of safe possession, while Danny Leyva looks to break lines. A third HGP could emerge, as Sota Kitahara sees his role as a destroyer when at DM.

Expectation: One or both of Obed and Danny are loaned/sold, turning this position of depth into one of need.

Backup Goalkeeper

Seattle has been blessed with backup keepers who stick a long time in the league. With Stef Frei locked in for two years, the Sounders will look to develop Andrew Thomas or Jacob Castro into his heir. Former Defiance coach Wade Webber says that Thomas is the best athlete in the organization. Plus Andrew can change games with his long passing. Castro has a large wingspan and is as good a shot stopper as the other.

Expectation: If a loan is available one will go. The other starts every Defiance match and Seattle signs a fourth keeper to be the backup for both teams.

– Dave

Catching up on Sounder at Heart

Did you step away from the computer for a bit? Here are our latest stories.

Looking back at the week's news

NWSL draft Friday night; Washington Spirit add coach, player; Gavin Wilkinson joins Sporting KC; and more

Seattle Reign FC don't pick until the later rounds in tonight's draft (ION, ION+), which is why they aren't featured in CBS mock draft. If you want to watch the draft live it's easy. If you have an antenna in the Puget Sound area you can watch on channel 33.1. For those with Comcast the channel is 103. Both ION and ION+ are available on most FAST platforms, to include Roku, Freevee, Plex, Pluto and more. Ride of the Valkyries will be hosting a live thread on the website.

In what's becoming a trend, Washington Spirit are mimicking Minnesota United and starting the season with an interim coach. At least Spirit already know who will be taking over – the current head coach of Barcelona. They also signed free agent Casey Krueger.

How NWSL is combating 'a lack of understanding of female physiology' in women's soccer.

Arsenal bolster defence with USWNT's Emily Fox

Senior players tell Chelsea: We want a woman to replace Emma Hayes. Laura Harvey and Casey Stoney are both mentioned as targets to bring their coolers to London.

Gavin Wilkinson is now the GM for Sporting KC. He was fired by Portland Timbers/Thorns after it was revealed that he had a pattern of poor personnel choices that most related to the mistreatment of women. Portland Thorns were fined a $1 million by US Soccer after the findings of the Yates Report. Sporting says no women were involved in the hiring and they will be putting Wilkinson in front of supporters soon. As the Timbers GM, his team made the playoffs in 7 of 12 seasons, which is average in a league where more than 50% of teams make the playoffs each year.

Not everyone Inter Messi is signing has played with Messi before. Sometimes they sign people who played for Tata in MLS back in Atlanta.

Cincinnati won the 2023 Shield. Their reward? Losing their best player. They also have a player being blackmailed over a stolen video of him doing possible illegal acts.

Troy Lesesne takes road less traveled to DC United: "We have a lot of work to do"

Bridgeport, Connecticut is joining MLS Next Pro as an indie team. They're United, because of course they are.

Follow Sounder at Heart on Mastodon, Bluesky and Threads.

fullpullwines This newsletter was made possible through the support of Full Pull Wines, a boutique wines reseller that has been sponsoring us since 2011. You can join their mailing list here.

If you're interested in supporting Sounder at Heart and independent journalism, reach out.