Rave Green Report — A whole new year

The bittersweet year that was 2012 is gone. I say bittersweet because there were a lot of moments, both good and bad, for Seattle Sounders FC that will ultimately make them a better team in the future.

2012 will be known as another year the Sounders failed in the spotlight, losing before the MLS Cup Final and for the first time as an MLS club losing the US Open Cup. But the team also gave us fans our first CONCACAF knock-out stage appearance (including a 2-1 home win over Santos Laguna), the return of winger Steve Zakuani, Michael Gspurning, our first MLS Cup Playoff series win and most importantly — faith that this was not “the year we had to win it.”

Moving onward though, it’s a new year, and for MLS fans that means the MLS Super Draft in only 15 days and then training camps there shortly after. This by the way is why everyone should strongly support the Sounders — sports shortest offseason. So let’s take a look at both the news that broke over the holidays and start to preview this season.

EJ asks the USMNT to “Call Me Maybe?” — After a monster season in Rave Green, Sounders and US National Team forward Eddie Johnson tipped his hat to a possible Natty Camp call for the January friendly against Canada (January 29, 6 p.m. PST, ESPN2) in Houston and the first of 10 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers away against Honduras (February 6, 1 p.m. PST). Unlike his last appearance with the team where EJ announced on his Twitter that he was called up before the official announcement, this time he just re-tweeted a news site congratulating him — different, but not really. Either way it’s huge news that a Sounder is on the US radar and should get several calls this year. Also there’s rumblings of a Brad Evans call for this camp as well, so stay tuned for the announcement which could come Monday.

Ozzie possibly staying with West Ham — The details are really fuzzy here, but “The Sun” in England is reporting that West Ham is trying to get Osvaldo Alonso either on loan or short-term placement from Seattle to fill a void they have at CDM. With their normal stater Mohamed Diame out for two months with an injury, Alonso was brought in to train with the team for a week, and as all of us already knew — he impressed the club. Nothing solid is being reported yet, but a move — say until mid-March — would give Ozzie EPL experience and the Sounders an even more aggressive honey badger. Then again, the red card against LA may have been the last of Ozzie in Rave Green — stay tuned.

Other transfer news still quiet — Outside of the Ozzie news, nothing new has been swirling around the rumor mill regarding the Sounders. Fredy Montero is still being very loosely tied to Millonarios in his native Columbia, neither of the Honduran defenders who were linked to a Seattle move have made any noise and it sounds like a move for Espanyol’s Joan Verdu is now a no-go as he wants to stay in top-flight Spain (which won’t happen the way his club is playing). Now that the international transfer windown has opened up, look for a move or two to be made in the coming week(s).

With that said about a lack of transfer news I want to bring up a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now — do we need a big move? The one that had us all licking our chops was an essential Verdu for Fredy swap and now that’s stalled and I don’t know what to think. Both GM Adrian Hanauer and majority owner Joe Roth have expressed the willingness to spend, but with the Sounders still over the salary cap and no DP spots open, a big move can’t be made. What changes all of this though is if a DP (Montero) leaves the club, which would open a DP slot and allocation money to come in, of if Ozzie leaves and we get a chunk of allocation from West Ham which could be used to buy down a DP contract to non-DP (Mauro Rosales). Here’s what I’d say to watch for in the coming weeks if any moves do get made.

1. Ozzie gets sold for cash to West Ham

2. Adam Johansson is also sold back to Sweden or another MLS club

3. Wilmer Crisanto and Jose David Velasquez are the two major additions to the squad

That leaves the opening day lineup as follows in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ozzie gone. Also if Montero leaves replace his CAM slot with either Mario Martinez or a new DP CAM.

GK – Gspurning
CB – Ianni/Velasquez             CB – Hurtado
RB – Crisanto                      LB – Gonzalez
CM – Tiffert              CM — Evans
RM – Rosales                 LM – Zakuani/Martinez
CAM – Montero
FW – Johnson

So there’s the first of many bold predictions of the new year, let’s see how close (or more likely far away we land on that one.