HOUSTON – A few minutes after the Seattle Sounders’ season-ending, 1-0 loss to Houston on Sunday, coach Sigi Schmid was asked when he will start planning for 2010.
“Three or four minutes ago,” he said. “Next year begins now. You don’t stop coaching. You learn from things that happened today. … We’ll feed off of it, and we’ll be a better team because of this.”
General manager Adrian Hanauer started thinking about next season even earlier. He said that he and technical director Chris Henderson have jobs that demand 365 days of planning to improve the club.
However, the close of one season provides a moment to assess the club, take a breath, and then get back to the task of improvement.
“We’re obviously disappointed today, and proud,” Hanauer said from the visitors’ locker room at Robertson Stadium. “We need to take a little break, get away from each other a little bit and regroup and get better.”
One immediate task facing Hanauer and the Sounders is deciding on the players they will protect in the Philadelphia Union’s expansion draft at the end of this month.
All MLS teams are allowed to protect 11 players, which leaves Philadelphia free to select no more than one of the unprotected players from each team.
However, because of MLS rules, 12 and perhaps 13 Sounders players will be off-limits.
Freddie Ljungberg is safe because of his designated-player status. Steve Zakuani might be automatically protected, depending on his continuing status as a Generation Addidas developmental player.
However, there could be other issues involving Ljungberg. There has been considerable speculation that the attacking midfielder could return to Europe, where he had played the previous 10 season.
“I love it here,” Ljungberg said Sunday from just outside the locker room. “We’ll see what we’re going to decide.
“I said I’ll talk to my agent after the playoffs, and unfortunately now it’s after the playoffs. But like I said, I love it in Seattle and hopefully I’ll be back next season.”
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Kasey Keller has been clear about his intention to return for a second season.
However, the status and intentions of Fredy Montero are less certain. And various other Sounders on one-year contracts expressed their hope to return.
Schmid implied that he expects his core players to remain and to benefit from their added experience with each other and from whatever new players are brought in.
“We’re going to have a chance to work together as a group and have a better cohesion and understanding up front,” he said, adding that Ljungberg, Montero and Nate Jaqua will be around for preseason and that he will know more about their capabilities.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808