After Monday's practice session Seattle Sounders FC GM/owner Adrian Hanauer gave reporters an update on the slow process of announcing a USL PRO team. The news is encouraging, not yet final and includes the name of the man that is running the project.
"We've made lots of progress," Hanauer told a small handful of media. "About two months ago we hired Andrew Opatkiewicz who is basically running the project for us - doing all the research, the planning, connecting with organizations all over the country that are running USL Pro teams, or are working toward potentially adding USL Pro teams. We are going through some of the process of figuring what a new entity looks like - the financial management of it, lease facilities for games, training sessions - the whole planning process. We feel like we're making tons of progress and we're still very much anticipating a USL Pro team in 2015, but not quite ready to say 100 percent announcing. But we're excited about it and we think some of the things we've talked about as it related to engaging our fan base and having it being a really good thing for development are really exciting."
Seattle area soccer lovers may remember Opatkiwicz from the Seattle Wolves. Soccer stats geeks could be familiar with his paper at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
It's on the verge of being a real thing. It's close enough to being a real thing that rosterbating is not futile. Using the rough guidelines to how the roster could be built if such a thing happens (it really looks like it is happening) one can start to bucket some names on the list.
|Keeper||Fullback||Centerback||Center Mid||Wide Mid||Forward|
|Various HGP||Hauser-Ramsey||McCormick, Rojas, Peterson||Prado-Heurta, Frago||Jones|
|USL PRO vets||Herrick||R.Cox||Fairclough|
|Former Trialists||Cunningham, Griffith||Morad||Rijssel||Catic|
In the "current" bucket are six players (one is actually a former, but fits the bucketing) who almost never see playing time. They need pro experience. These are men who need time, long loans not brief drops down a level, but consistent playing experience.
Various HGP includes only players that are not at four-year colleges right now, or who are finishing up their senior year.
- Jacob Hauser-Ramsey is a CB at a community college right now. JHR plays like a traditional large American CB, but shows the desires to integrate more modern passing and attacking structures into his repertoire.
- Duncan McCormick was destined to go to Wake Forrest. He's not there at this time. He's a CM that excels in leadership and reading the game. Likes to shoot from distance and make that late run. Good at picking up scrap in the box and scoring.
- Victor Rojas did not go to college and has a Venezuelan background. He's currently unattached. He's great in a fluid band of three, likes to dribble, good service from dead balls. Hard to knock off the ball.
- Troy Peterson is a senior at the College of Charleston. He's like a young Brad Evans-y type. Better passer and scorer than McCormick, bit worse defensively. Gets forward well.
- Isidro Prado-Huerta is also at a local community college. IPH is strong passer who enjoys working deft sequences. Good scoring threat from the wing. Can work centrally as well.
- Malcom Frago is the Costa Rican who played for the U18s last year. A regular off the bench on a deep attacking squad he was probably the most technical of players on the team, but needs time learning to read game situations.
- Darwin Jones is a senior at the UW and ready to be a pro right now. How far he goes will be entirely about effort and determination.
USL PRO vets - these three players fill positions of need and have connections to the Sounders. All currently play in lower levels and have been on MLS rosters. With the right organization they could make the leap to D1. Even without developing they can help youngsters learn what it is to be a pro soccer player. They are used mainly as examples of the type of player that make sense - love of place, driven to succeed and capable of joining the First Team.
Former Trialists - I tend to ignore trialists that don't sign so had a chat with SSFC_Rumors about who fills in some positional needs and would like the chance to become Sounders. Sean Cunningham played in a reserve match as a right back. Quinton Griffith is a fullback that Ezra Hendrickson saw at the Caribbean Combine. Tarek Morad is a CDM that plays for the Oklahoma Energy FC in the NASL. The team could use a pure CDM and it would be kind of neat to poach something from OKC. Stefano Rijssel was drafted by Seattle, but didn't really fit as a winger/forward at the time. He's another Caribbean Combine player that would be a project. His transfer fee was small enough that a USL PRO team could afford it. Dzenan Catic tried to make Sounders FC as a central midfielder. With the Michigan Bucks he was the PDL Golden Boot winner and the PDL Player of the Year.
In all these are really just examples as to how a roster could be built from players who generally have strong connections to the area and who, if they develop well, could contribute to the First Team in a year or two. The 26-man roster is almost certainly going to be supplemented by Academy players playing up while still in high school and First Team players playing down a match trying to regain fitness similar to baseball's rehab assignments.
The key is not the specific named players, but the process that is a mix of native not-yet-pro talent, First Teamers that need time and pro quality players who could become Sounders FC talent. Some of those men will make the jump. It's possible that the wins don't outnumber losses, but if a couple prospects become stars then the whole endeavor is a lot more exciting.