2013 SEATTLE SOUNDERS SEASON PREVIEW
After an offseason filled with promise and posting a stellar record during the 2012 season, the Sounders prevailed over Real Salt Lake in the first round of the playoffs before they were knocked out by the eventual MLS Champion, Los Angeles Galaxy, in the Conference Championships. Looking ahead to the 2013 season, it's MLS Cup or bust for one of the league's most talented teams. The Sounders will open their season with a two-game homestand against the Impact and Timbers, but all eyes will be on their late May matchup with the Galaxy in Carson, Calif., when the Sounders look to avenge their early playoff exit and take the top spot in the West.
As one of the younger teams in the MLS, founded in 2007, the Seattle Sounders made great strides during the 2012 season by finishing third in the Western Conference and winning their first ever playoff series against Real Salt Lake. All around Seattle, spirits were high that the Sounders had a legitimate shot at taking the MLS Cup for the first time, but the team was knocked out in the Conference Championships by the Los Angeles Galaxy and forced to go back to the drawing board to look for answers.
Over the course of the offseason, the Sounders and head coach Sigi Schmid made significant changes to the roster, losing forward Fredy Montero, trading away defensive stalwart Jeff Parke and parting ways with other players like Mike Seamon, O'Brian White and Andrew Weber. While the roster certainly experienced its share of turnovers, the squad did manage to pick up a series of big-time names like midfielder Shalrie Joseph, defender Djimi Traore, as well as solid depth players like midfielder Lamar Neagle, defender DeAndre Yedlin and forward Eriq Zavaleta. Zavaleta is expected to pick up many of the goal-scoring opportunities from the departed Montero, who also boasts the ability to play solid defense for the club.
As the Sounders approach the 2013 season, the team looks to have a solid all-around scoring attack thanks to players like forward Eddie Johnson, who was acquired in a trade with Montreal during the 2012 season. Johnson, a Colombian forward, has made great strides in his game and could be an up-and-coming superstar for the team. Additionally, the team's scoring attack will also be strengthened by the return of Steve Zakuani, who missed the majority of last season with a broken leg. Another player who could see more playing time is Mario Martinez, who couldn't crack the starting lineup last year and could provide valuable minutes for the club.
Defensively, the Sounders have a series of proven veterans in Joseph and Osvaldo Alonso, as well as goalie Michael Gspurning, who proved to be a valuable centerpiece in the net. With a roster that has seen plenty of changes over the course of the offseason, the Sounders still have an abundance of major pieces in place to make a run at the 2013 MLS Cup and capture the team's first championship in its short history.