The Seattle Sounders report to training camp next month.
Yes, their season ended only Sunday, but Major League Soccer is a 12-month business, with teams reporting to training camp in January and the season stretching to the MLS Cup in December.
The Sounders had intensely hoped they would be part of this season’s MLS Cup, but a lone away goal surrendered in the second half of their weekend match with the Los Angeles Galaxy ended that.
“Certainly, the Galaxy are a very, very talented team,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “They are going to be a much different-looking team without (midfielder Landon) Donovan next year. They have a lot of emotional things playing into their court as well with Landon retiring. … I feel we can compete with them, and I feel we can compete with anyone and will continue to work to improve our team in any way possible.”
The Sounders finished three points ahead of the Galaxy to win the Supporters’ Shield, and matched them 2-2 in aggregate score over two playoff games. However, the Galaxy’s clean sheet in the 1-0 opener at StubHub Center outweighed their 2-1 loss at CenturyLink Field because of the league’s move to away goals as the first tiebreaker.
That brought Seattle’s season to an end while sending Galaxy on to the MLS Cup final Sunday against the New England Revolution in Carson, California.
Still, there seems to be a slim margin for the Sounders to overcome going into next season.
The club will likely have to replace right back DeAndre Yedlin, whose transfer agreement with Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League will probably have him playing somewhere other than Seattle in 2015.
However, most other key players remain under club control. And unlike last season, there seems to be no question about Schmid’s status.
The only coach the club has ever had said he hopes to return for a seventh season, and majority owner Joe Roth and general manager Adrian Hanauer have said they want that, too.
The team also appears set with all three designated players: forwards Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. And unlike last offseason, Seattle seems settled at goalkeeper, where Schmid said he believes Stefan Frei capped a season of improvement by allowing three goals over a four-game playoff run.
“We stuck with him early on when I’m sure some people (questioned our acquiring him from Toronto),” Schmid said. “I think over the last eight or nine games everyone has seen the reason why we made the trade and why we brought him here and the reason why I feel he has the potential to be one of the top goalkeepers in the league.”
Still, MLS rosters churn every season, and the process will begin quickly.
A half-day trade window opens Monday, when clubs may trade or re-sign their own players in advance of the Dec. 10 expansion draft. Then all MLS teams will protect 11 players before losing a maximum total of two players to the new Orlando and New York City franchises.
Also on the 10th, the trade window will reopen and the MLS waiver draft will be held. The first phase of the re-entry draft will begin Dec. 12 and the second phase on Dec. 18.
The MLS SuperDraft will be held Jan. 15.
Then — barring a work stoppage while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement — training camps will begin opening within a matter of days, marking the start of the league’s 20th season and the Sounders’ seventh.
“This year was a blast and one that all the years will be compared to,” central defender Chad Marshall said Sunday. “Disappointed obviously today, and it will hurt, but very excited for what next year holds.”