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Everything you need to know to be ready for Sounders in 2024

There's plenty of reason to be excited about the Sounders' chances in 2024.

Last Updated
10 min read
Emma Ottosen / Sounders FC Communications

The Seattle Sounders’ 50th anniversary season kicks off on Saturday when they visit LAFC for their regular-season opener. If you’re the type of person who stops paying attention once the Sounders’ season ends and don’t start paying attention until it starts again, this is the article for you. Let’s get started.

Remind me, how did they do last year?

The Sounders finished second in the Western Conference with 53 points; beat FC Dallas 2-1 in the first-round, best-of-3 series; and then fell 1-0 to LAFC in the Western Conference semifinals. The Sounders had the best defense in the league with just 32 goals allowed, but were undone by an offense that scored only 41 goals during the regular season.

Who left?

The biggest departure was Nicolás Lodeiro, the player who certainly deserves the most credit for guiding the Sounders through their most successful period ever. Without going through all the recrimination of why he left, let's just leave it at he and the team not seeing eye-to-eye on his best role going forward. He ended up signing with Orlando City.

Other notable departures included Kelyn Rowe (retired), Héber (option declined), Stefan Cleveland (option declined), Ethan Dobbelaere (option declined), and AB Cissoko (out of contract). It also looks very unlikely that Fredy Montero will return, although he's not yet officially retired.

Scouting report: Pedro de la Vega
“Pepo” de la Vega has plenty of flashy skill and potential.

Who did they replace them with?

Here's who they've signed so far:

  • Pedro de la Vega: The Argentine midfielder's signing took a bit longer to come together than the Sounders hoped, but eventually joined as a Young Designated Player on a transfer fee of about $6.5 million. Unfortunately, he got hurt while at the Argentina U23 training camp and was only able to play in one preseason game. In the limited time we saw him, though, he looked pretty good. Combined with film from his time with Lanús, expect de la Vega to be a very aggressive dribbler, a willing defender and someone capable of creating genuine highlight moments.
  • Danny Musovski: A relatively late signing, Musovski signed after the team was already in Spain for preseason. The forward is expected to provide depth and has mostly come off the bench in his four previous MLS seasons, but he has consistently produced when he plays with an average of .72 non-penalty goals+assists per 90 minutes.
  • Nathan: Centerback didn't really seem like a position of need, but when Nathan became available for relatively cheap, the Sounders pounced. Nathan appears to be fully recovered from an ACL injury that cost him all of last season and played with the starters in all four preseason games. The Brazilian has displayed some impressive passing and is aggressive in jumping passing lanes.
  • Jon Bell: Although Bell had trouble breaking into St. Louis City's roster last year, he was pretty effective as a backup centerback and left back when he was with the New England Revolution in 2021-22. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer seems to really like the idea of Bell being a like-for-like replacement for Nouhou.
  • Braudilio Rodrigues: After setting a S2/Defiance record with 17 goals last year, he made the jump to the first team. He's a bit older (24) than most Sounders prospects and counts as an international (he's Portuguese), which speaks to the faith the Sounders showed in him. Rodrigues can play any of the attacking positions, is great on the ball, can shoot from distance and has good vision. Unfortunately, he's barely played in preseason first due to visa issues and now due to an injury.
Scouting Report(s): Danny Musovski and Nathan
Two quality additions provide the Sounders with enviable depth

I'm not seeing a new starting No. 9...

Your eyes are not deceiving you. I know a lot of people – myself included – suggested that was a real possibility, but the team has opted to show some faith that one of Jordan Morris or Raúl Ruidíaz can claim the spot. Morris – who it should be said was a Top 10 forward by most objective measurements last season – is going to get the first chance and has been starting throughout preseason. Ruidíaz – a Top 5 MLS forward when he's been healthy – has so far looked pretty good in preseason with three goals in four games, albeit mostly against backups.

It's not the No. 9, but the Sounders have also put a good deal of faith in Albert Rusnák improving his productivity now that he's being moved farther up the field. Rusnák did score five goals in his last nine appearances as the No. 10 and prior to joining the Sounders reliably posted double-digit goal and assist seasons with Real Salt Lake.

If those plans don't work out, the Sounders do appear to have the salary-cap flexibility to make a significant summer signing. Based on our estimations, even if the Sounders don't make another move they should have about $1 million of maneuverability.

Sounders salary cap position
News, opinion and analysis of Seattle Sounders and Seattle Reign.

How did preseason go?

The Sounders played four different opponents; three European teams while they were in Spain and the USL Championship's Sacramento Republic on Saturday. Sounders outscored those opponents 9-8 over 570 minutes. But that probably paints a rosier picture than is accurate. The Sounders starters were held scoreless in their last 180 minutes, while the reserves scored six of those nine goals.

But at least they're healthy ... right?

Well, kinda. Among the presumed starters, no one is seriously hurt. There are, however, several niggling issues. A quick rundown: Alex Roldan has been dealing with a hamstring injury for a couple of weeks but recently returned to full training; Yeimar missed most of training camp while dealing with visa issues and is still working himself into shape; and João Paulo missed the final preseason game with a hip issue, although Schmetzer indicated he's at least reasonably likely to play against LAFC. Musovski and de la Vega are also something short of fully fit, although they should at least be available. The most significant injury is Reed Baker-Whiting, who is probably at least another week away from fully training while working his way back from the injury that he suffered at the end of last season.

What’s their lineup probably look like?

My assumption is that de la Vega, Roldan and Yeimar will all eventually take their spots in the starting lineup, this is probably how it will look against LAFC:

Organizational depth chart
News, opinion and analysis of Seattle Sounders and Seattle Reign.

Should we expect any breakout performances?

I suppose that depends on how you define the term, but if we can agree that Jackson Ragen was the player who broke out last year (he went from occasional starter to written-in-ink starter), I think the best candidate is Josh Atencio. I feel like we've been predicting this from him ever since he burst onto the scene in 2021, but I really think this is the year he develops into an elite No. 8. Atencio has impressive passing range, is two-footed, puts up elite disrupting numbers and can even score if he gets the opportunity.

If you're looking for a slightly less obvious pick, I think Baker-Whiting is a good shout. It's taken a lot longer to recovery from the hamstring injury he suffered in the regular-season finale than I think anyone expected, but once he gets fit I fully expect him to push both starting fullbacks for minutes. Don't be at all surprised if he ends up being the player who breaks the Sounders' outgoing transfer record.

How do you think they’ll do?

My expectation is that they'll compete for trophies on multiple fronts. The Western Conference looks to be the weaker of the conferences and the Sounders certainly don't look any worse than they were last year, they have a very favorable Leagues Cup draw and their roster is deep enough that they should be competitive in the U.S. Open Cup. But don't take my word for it, check out how the folks at predicted they'd finish:

Did I hear something about a referee strike?

Well, there's not a strike but PRO has decided to lock out the referees after contract negotiations failed to yield an agreement the referees found acceptable. That means that at least for the first week and maybe longer, MLS will have replacement (AKA scab) referees. PRO is putting on a good face about the qualifications of these replacements (AKA scab) refs, but the reality is that the vast majority of these refs (AKA scabs) have never called first-division games before. You may remember that something similar happened in 2014, but the league has five more games per week now and those games all require two additional VAR officials. That's 38 more referee assignments per week now than they had to fill in 2014 from a pool that's already stretched thin.

What about that new training center?

Sounders FC Center at Longacres officially opened on Feb. 13. It's a beautiful facility that gets the entire sporting and business departments under the same roof for the first time ever. The players have access to state-of-the-art workout and recovery equipment; are getting catered meals; and are surrounded by reminders that this is the most storied soccer team in the United States.

Everything you need to know about Sounders’ new training facility
Longacres is as much a statement of purpose as it is a physical building.

Anything going on with the 50th anniversary stuff?

There is! You probably remember that they redesigned their whole visual brand last year, which is highlighted by a new crest that they're using this year. There's also going to be a Heritage Match on May 18 against the Vancouver Whitecaps and then there's going to be a week of activities around the June 15 match against Minnesota United.

How's the new jersey look?

Interestingly, this might be the most polarizing Sounders jersey ever, though. I really dig it, especially as the full kit. A bunch of people who pay attention to such things have graded it as one of the best in the league. I think it does a really good job of nodding to the past without being a literally throwback and it looks like it works pretty well as street wear, too. But a lot of people really don't like, too. Decide for yourself:

Are they still on AppleTV?

Yep. Just like last year, if you want to watch every game you'll need MLS Season Pass through AppleTV. As of writing this, T-Mobile isn't currently offering it for free like they did last year. It's $99/year or $79/year if you also have AppleTV+. If you use this link, Sounder at Heart will also get a cut of the subscription cost.

What would a successful season look like?

The Sounders haven't played in a cup final since the 2022 Concacaf Champions League. Sure, that wasn't even two years ago but by their own standards this is a real drought. Since joining MLS in 2009, the Sounders have never gone two consecutive seasons without playing in a final. There's no reason they should end that string of success. The Sounders brought back every starter from last year's playoff team and bolstered that with some potentially game-changing talent. This year's team should be better than last year's.

But let's not leave our expectations at making a cup final, there's also no good reason they can't compete for the Supporters' Shield. The Sounders haven't really competed for that trophy since they actually won it in 2014, finishing no closer than nine points in any of the subsequent nine seasons.

The 50th Anniversary seems like a perfect time to re-assert ourselves as the premier team in MLS.

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