Sounders FC will begin work for its third Major League Soccer season today.
On-field work, that is.
In other ways, the Sounders have been preparing for this since the Los Angeles Galaxy eliminated them in the first-round of the 2010 playoffs.
“With the draft and the invited players and some other foreign players we brought in, it’s going to be tough competition because there really aren’t going to be a lot of roster spots open – which is great for the club,” technical director Chris Henderson said Monday. “So, we feel good about it. We wanted to get some depth at different positions behind some starters, and I think we accomplished that. We’ll see this week now with the veteran players. We’ve had some of the rookies in training, but I think when you see how they stack up against the veteran returning players then you really see where they are and how much development they need.”
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Here is an overview on changes heading into the new season.
There seem to have been more significant additions and subtractions than in the previous offseason.
The expansion draft to stock two news teams and a new veteran re-entry draft cost the Sounders midfielders Nathan Sturgis and Sanna Nyassi and defender Tyrone Marshall, who started 26, 23 and 22 games, respectively, last season.
The club used its first pick in the SuperDraft – No. 20 overall – on Michael Terreh, a defender/midfielder from Ghana who attended UC Santa Barbara.
With its other seven picks, the club added one midfielder/forward, two midfielders, two defenders and two goalkeepers.
“It’s never perfect until you have them in training and you see how guys do,” coach Sigi Schmid said after the SuperDraft. “Some guys adjust very quickly, some guys adapt, and some guys move on. But in terms of addressing our needs … we were able to do that.”
The two rookie goalkeepers and veteran Terry Boss will compete for two jobs behind 19-year veteran Kasey Keller, who signed to play his third season as the Sounders’ No. 1 keeper.
Meanwhile, midfielder Brad Evans and defender Jhon Kennedy-Hurtado, who both missed most of last season because of injuries, have been cleared to begin full training.
The club moved to strengthen each line by adding veteran pros in forward O’Brian White (Toronto FC), midfielder Erik Friberg (BK Hacken of Sweden) and defender Danny Earls (Colorado Rapids).
However, one acquisition that would have turned heads apparently will not happen.
On Monday, the club released a statement from general manager Adrian Hanauer shooting down international rumors that Seattle was negotiating for the services of Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan.
“We have watched and admired the play of Diego Forlan for a number of years, and we would be thrilled to have a player of his quality join Sounders FC,” Hanauer said. “However, there is no substance to these current reports that Sounders FC is negotiating with Atletico Madrid and the player to bring him to Seattle.”
WHAT’S NEW IN MLS?
Most notably, MLS grew to 18 teams with the addition of the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.
The decision to continue with a balanced schedule will stretch the regular season from 30 to 34 games.
MLS increased playoff qualifiers from eight to 10.
Rosters were expanded to 30 players and a reserve league was reinstituted.
The club considered expanding seating in Qwest Field by opening the Hawks Nest, but that idea has apparently been dropped.
That means the most notable gameday change might involve uniforms. Some silver striping has been added to the rave green jersey, while the club’s secondary jersey will switch from blue to Cascade shale – sort of charcoal gray.
Training opens this morning at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
Other key dates:
Saturday: Open tryouts at Starfire. Register by Wednesday. See SoundersFC.com for details.
Next week: Full 2011 MLS schedule to be released.
Sunday-Feb. 12: Training shifts to Casa Grande, Ariz.
Feb. 15-17: Club returns to Starfire for training.
Feb. 19-26: Training shifts to IMG Soccer Academy at Bradenton, Fla.
March 4-6: Cascadia Summit of preseason games at Starfire involving the Sounders and Northwest rivals Portland and Vancouver.
March 15: MLS opener: Los Angeles vs. Sounders at Qwest Field.
March 19: First road game, Sounders at New York.