Sounders FC

Uncertainties ahead for Sounders

CARSON, CALIF. – Sunday didn’t simply mark the end of the Seattle Sounders’ second Major League Soccer season, it also signaled the start of their third.

Just minutes after their season ended with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, coach Sigi Schmid, general manager Adrian Hanauer and several players already were talking about 2011.

“After match is before match,” Schmid said. “We’re after the match, so we’re before the next match and the next match is next season. For me, it’s already a process of deciding, OK, these are the nucleus pieces we can build with, and this is where we need to get a little bit better.”

The Sounders head into the offseason with several high-profile uncertainties, including whether co-leading scorers Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani will return or export their talents overseas.

On Sunday, Zakuani simply said, “We’ll see.”

However, there is stability at goalkeeper, where Kasey Keller appears close to signing a new contract.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “ Adrian and I are, I think, very close to getting something. There was no point kind of finishing it off until the season was over. That just would have been a distraction. I’d like to play at least one more year, and hopefully we can get that done.”

Even once Keller’s deal is done, Hanauer recited a long to-do list.

“The preparation includes the expansion draft and our invitational combine and the MLS combine and the draft and scouting for foreign players and contract discussions with current players,” he said. “ As Sigi has said numerous times, ‘The losses make you want to work harder to get to the top of the mountain,’ and that’s certainly how we’re approaching this.”

The Sounders opened 2010 with hopes of building on their expansion successes, and in some ways they did. Despite a slow start, the team stormed back to win more games and score more points than they did the previous season, and they defended their U.S. Open Cup.

However, they dropped from third to fourth place in the West, and were largely dominated by the Supporters’ Shield-winning Galaxy. The Sounders not only lost their game Sunday, but they also lost 3-1 in the aggregate series, went 0-4 against Los Angeles in overall MLS play and were outscored 10-2.

For all that, Schmid seems not to think that his team has to be rebuilt with a specific goal of catching the Galaxy.

“There’s still nobody that we fear,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making us a better team. We just have to become better. We have to become more experienced. We have to become hardened. We have to play with a discipline, with a craftiness that L.A. has now that we don’t have. Those things are intangibles that make a difference during a game, and those are things we’re still trying to acquire.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808