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Ship’s Log, April 12: Sounders now more academy-powered than Dallas

The Sounders will likely start seven players who they either developed in their academy or drafted.

Last Updated
4 min read
Joe Nicholson - USAToday

Roster construction in MLS has never been more varied, and it’s about to get even more complicated and open (most teams will be able to sign more U22s and there’s more GAM to be injected into the system).

Some teams lean heavily into development (Dallas historically, Philly). Others lean into acquiring domestic talent (Nashville, Colorado). There are teams that sign huge names (Miami, Galaxy, LAFC, Toronto) and teams that sign lesser-known talents that succeed (Columbus, KC). Seattle, under Lagerwey & Co., was probably one of the most balanced. They had big names, big performers, acquired in-league performers and had some development – all while winning.

But the current Sounders are more similar to an ambition that Garth often aspired to but didn’t quite achieve – internally developed talent holding key roles in the squad. On Saturday night against Dallas, one of the league’s supposed jewels in player development, the Sounders are likely going to start at least five players who came through the developmental system plus two others they drafted.

Only one of those internal talents is a current star (World Cup attender, MLS Best XI, CCL Best XI, Gold Cup Best XI and two-time All Star). Two are fringe Olympians (Josh Atencio and Obed Vargas). The rest are still damn good soccer players who cost very little roster capital (Nouhou, Jackson Ragen, Cody Baker).

Dallas, who earns great credit for their ability to sell talent, has shifted away from counting on their internal talents to help them. They’ll start either two or three such players tonight. Yes, one has become a DP and could eventually match and/or exceed Morris’ honors and another bright talent is injured.

But the current version of Dallas is a lot like the Lagerwey version of the Sounders. The youth talents are the deep bench, not necessarily important for winning matches or trophies.

Some of why Dallas has shifted is because their success at selling means they have more money. Some of it has to be because they aren’t good at winning. Over the past five seasons they have 54 MLS wins and only made it as far as the Western Conference Quarterfinals twice. During that same stretch, Seattle has 70 regular-season wins, won a CCL title, an MLS Cup, made the final one other team and had an additional quarterfinal appearance.

It’s not that there’s a wrong way to build a roster. MLS teams that have leaned into every version of construction and have succeeded. But sticking to a construction ideal that doesn’t work is a flaw, and it’s one that Dallas did for too long.

Now that they've shifted, Dallas should be more difficult to beat, once healthy. Which is why the Sounders need to pounce now. The Toros are going to get healthy soon. They'll start to surge as Seattle is now. They'll do that because they drifted away from emphasizing development over wins.

– Dave Clark

Catching up on Sounder at Heart

Missed the week's Puget Sound soccer news? Here are our latest stories and our pro teams' schedules

Sounders | 1-3-2, +2 (12th in conference)

Previews for the match against FC Dallas on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. PDT on MLS Season Pass.


Reign | 1-2-0, -1 (11th in league)

Seattle play at Bay FC on Sunday April 14 on NWSL+ and KONG at 5 p.m. PDT.

Defiance (3-1-0, +3) play Sunday April 14 at North Texas SC on and YouTube at 5:30 p.m. PDT.

Velocity (2-2-0, -1) play Sunday April 14 at Lexington SC on ESPN+ at 1 p.m. PDT.

Purchasing the new jersey or planning to get MLS Season Pass? Use our affiliate links to toss some coin to your bloggers.

Looking back at the week’s news

Everything else you need to know.

The USL Championship was on CBS last weekend. It had more viewers than MLS did on FOX (against the men's Final Four), but that doesn’t mean it’s going to become America’s go-to league, as The Guardian claims. It was a fun 8-goal match in one of the USL’s largest soccer stadiums, but one that wouldn’t fit the worst-attended MLS team’s fans. The go-to leagues for soccer fans in the United States remain Liga MX, the EPL, MLS and the NWSL – attendance and total viewership numbers have shown this for some time now. It’s great that the lower divisions are growing. Having 100 options for professional soccer is better than having 27.

Gianni Infantino is the first FIFA president to address the MLS Board of Governors meeting. There, he advocated for some of the same things MLS fans do – more spending on rosters. MLS is making tiny moves that way by adding more U22 slots and increasing GAM, likely this summer.

NYFC’s slow crawl to a Queen’s stadium reached final approval. They’ll have a real soccer field in 2027.

Chicago Red Stars are playing in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field this year. That should be a great viewing opportunity and expansion of availability for the club.

Who will we see with the USWNT as they pursue a gold? Currently, Cook and Huerta aren’t likely.

Jordyn Huitema talks to Goal about Canada, Rapinoe and Sinclair. Sofia Huerta talks to the Attacking Third.

Why did Emeria Adames comes to the League earlier than expected? Because Reign were the perfect fit.

According to former players, Oregon’s women’s soccer coach crossed the line from harsh to abusive.

The Washington Post looks at the increase in POTS among athletes during the pandemic.

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