by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. The Sounders FC travel to Dowling Street, Houston, Texas, to face Houston Dynamo for their initial test of the 2017 MLS fixture list. We will be competing in the US Open Cup starting with the 4th round in June, in the CONCACAF Champions League starting in August, the league, and if we qualify, the MLS Cup again. So four competitions, squad depth and management will be key.
The Good News
Dempsey is back, which should take some of the scoring load off of second year pro Jordan Morris. We added Will Bruin and Harry Shipp in the offseason, which should provide some reliable goalscoring and veteran experience. Although we still have several veteran players, we have overall become younger throughout the squad. Houston were the second worst team in 2016, perhaps they haven’t made any significant improvements.
The Bad News
The offseason lasted five long months that saw three of last seasons players retire (Gomez, Scott, and Farfan), and another 11 (including three or four starters) from last year’s squad waived. If you’re squad size is between 23-25 players and you drop 14, it seems like a squad re-build. One wonders if this type of yearly upheaval is a necessity forced by the utterly insane salary cap structure of MLS? Or is it indefensible restructuring for the sake of itself? Of the starting eleven that lined up against Toronto in the Cup final, three (Valdez, Friberg, and Mears) are gone. The Sounders’ five pre-season friendlies contained no nary a win and saw us finish last in the four team Carolina Challenge Cup. Is that kind of a red flag to start the season? We were only able to manage a draw against hosts, Charleston Battery. Having said that, we lost all of our Desert Friendlies last pre-season and hoisted the MLS Cup that December. Of the 11 waived players, it looks like nine of them had no trouble finding another club – which begs the question: Why didn’t the Sounders retain them? Either Sounders’ GM, Garth Lagerwey is a genius setting up the firmament of the club’s future, or he has us in essentially the same position we were in after the last offseason when we lost over half the squad. Will Brad Evans or O’Neil Fisher be able to replace the experience of Tyrone Mears at Right Back? Is Tony Alfaro an option? We have six midfielders capable of earning a regular place in the first team. Will Roldan and Fernández lose their places to Svensson and Shipp? We’ll have to wait and see. After Dempsey and Morris, there isn’t a lot of depth at striker. Bruin and a 21 year-old kid with five pro appearances are the understudies. Evans and Kovar are both injured to start the season. Aside from any of this, we generally don’t fare well in our trips to Dowling Street. We have never won there. In seven attempts we have drawn four times and lost the other three. We have scored seven goals all time at Houston, conceding 12. The Creamsicles didn’t seem to have the same pre-season problems winning their matches against NY Red Donkeys and New England, I’m guessing that’s a bad thing for us. Of the 19 players to score a goal for the Sounders against Houston, only three of those remain with the club (Fernández, Marshall, and Evans), and only two are available for tonight’s match (Evans is expected to not dress due to his calf problem).
Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – I wouldn’t describe any of the goalkeepers for Houston as “top-shelf”. Between Deric, Brown, and Willis they only have 107 MLS appearances between them. Willis won a US Open Cup with DC United in 2013. Otherwise not much to write about.
Defender – A generally aging, but experienced group. Highlighted by the presence of US National Team hero, DaMarcus Beasley.
Midfield – Two skillful but old men, Clark and Boniek Garcia, complimented by Alex, Alexander, and Cabezas (were he not suspended). Pretty light on scoring punch.
Forward – Erick Torres, Wenger, Elis, and Quioto are legitimate scoring threats. Vicente Sanchez brings experience but could be held back by his 37 year-old body. The rest of the Houston striker crop are young prospects.
Anibaba played 16 times for Sounders FC in 2014. Remick made 44 appearances for Seattle and was a substitute defender for us just last season.
Selections for Last Match
The last matches for both clubs were friendlies. No lineups were available at press.
MATCHDAY DECISION: Willis (knee)
OUT: Evans (calf), Kovar (surgery)
MATCHDAY DECISION: Fisher (concussion), Morris (ankle), Frei (ankle), Alonso (knee)
Houston – Cabezas (Sent Off in his last match for Independiente Medellin with a second booking in the match, MLS is honouring the Columbian league’s ruling as per Article 12 of the FIFA regulations)
New boy Gustav Svensson has never scored a goal for any club other than during his over 150 appearances for IFK Göteburg,in Sweden.