Pre-season Primer — Sounders confident heading into 2013

Yeah, it’s that time again.

And just like that, the 2013 Major League Soccer season is upon us — and there’s no team more confident heading into the campaign than Seattle Sounders FC.

For my final pre-season report, we’re going to cover all the latest news and links surrounding the Rave Green, a quick analysis from the pre-season matches, our final pre-season depth charts and finally we’ll get into what kind of coverage you should expect to see from us here at NASORB this season.

We’re five days away from the Sounders first kick, so we better get going.

News & Links 

Sounders looking to secure La Liga forward — After the departure of Fredy Montero to Columbia this off season, the club’s future seemed to be in Spain. Of all the rumors of who GM Adrian Hanauer and Co. would bring in to replace Montero this season, the most likely names were forwards out of Spain’s top division. And from that list of names like Joan Verdu and Nelson Valdez, the one that is seeming more like a possibility is Levante’s Obafemi Martins.

According to SI’s Grant Whal, a Sounders official is currently in Spain to discuss terms with Levante and to “woo” the Nigerian forward. It then came out this morning that the number for a transfer is reportedly 3 million Euros ($4 million) while Martins total cost — salary included — is around 10 million euros. Martins also spoke with Spain’s Radio Cadena SER Valencia this morning where he said that he has received an offer from the Sounders and could leave as early as this weekend.

Bottom line is Seattle has been looking for the second forward to pair with Eddie Johnson, and the 28-year-old (or is it 32?) World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Inter Milan and Newcastle striker may just be the big name Seattle fans have been clamoring for. He’s a true forward that is very quick with the ball, and at only 5-foot-7-inches is very shifty in getting through or behind defenses.

We’ll keep you updated as the week progresses on the Martins move, but it appears now that the ball is in Levante’s court.

New kits to be launched this week — In a very MLS move, this week is being branded as “Jersey Week” for a few teams across the league, one of which is the Sounders. Teams will be holding kit launch events in various cities to drum up support for the very expensive shirts (which I’m not ashamed to say I own a few of). Seattle’s event will launch a new primary and secondary kit — although from those photos only the shale seems to have really changed.

Christian Tiffert still a Sounder… I think — As I promised on the Shalrie Joseph report, here’s the update on the Christian Tiffert situation — nothing new. Although nothing formal has been announced on whether or not the German will be in Seattle this season, the heavy persuit of Martins means that Tiffert’s DP spot may need to open up ASAP. The two options from that are Tiffert is no longer a member of the club (contract buy-out/trade) or that the club has bought down his $700k salary under the DP level opening up that spot. The first option there though is much more likely since the Sounder did add Joseph into an already crammed midfield.

The only statement the club has made on the Tiffert situation is this from manager Sigi Schmid, another indication Tiffy may be out of here — “Obviously Christian is not in camp right now,” he said. “It’s a situation that’s in a process right now. It’s something that Adrian Hanauer is dealing with and something that will get resolved in a short period of time.”

Pre-season recap 

We’ll win all the cups — After going 3-0 in what I guess equates to the group stage of the Desert Diamond Cup over the past two weeks, the Sounders took to the pitch Saturday with their B- team to face Real Salt Lake’s presumed starting XI — and guess what? We beat ’em 1-0.

That is the extent of my pre-season cup gloating, but it is one hell of a confidence boost for the club knowing that every man on the pitch for the Sounders in the win will be on the bench come this Saturday’s MLS opener (look for the preview Friday). The goal, coming from the left foot of Alex Caskey, showed that Seattle’s depth may be better than ever, especially in the midfield and in goal — neither of which are really surprising. The shock in the match though was how well the back line made of three rookies and Marc Burch held up against the attack of Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley. This only shows that guys like Eriq Zavaleta, Deandre Yedlin and Dylan Remick are the future of Seattle’s defense — and that future is very bright.

Couldn’t quite Veracruz to victory — The night before the DDC final, the Sounders actual starting XI played a match in Tuscon against Mexican second-division side Veracruz, a match that drew 0-0. Although the random highlights show that the Rave Green were constantly on the attack and created several chances, none were finished against a team much worst than the Sounders CONCACAF Champions League opponent Tigres. The team does have the one MLS match against Montreal before heading to Mexico for the first leg March 6, so hopefully the finishing kinks can be worked out there.

Depth Chart(s)

Originally, this post was only going to have one depth chart, the Starting XI, but due to the addition of Joseph and the hunt for Martins, I figured I’d add in an extra couple just for fun.

Best Current Starting XI (4-4-2) —

GK – Gspurning
CB – Traore             CB – Hurtado
RB – Johansson                      LB – Gonzalez
CDM – Alonso
RM – Martinez                 LM – Zakuani
CAM – Joseph/Evans
FW – Rosales           FW – Johnson

Best Current Starting XI (4-2-3-1) — It should be noted that this is my formation of choice with the current roster

GK – Gspurning
CB – Traore             CB – Hurtado
RB – Johansson                      LB – Gonzalez
CM – Alonso  CM – Joseph
RM – Martinez      CAM – Rosales       LM – Zakuani
FW – Johnson

Starting XI with Martins (4-4-2) —

GK – Gspurning
CB – Traore             CB – Hurtado
RB – Johansson                      LB – Gonzalez
CDM – Alonso
RM – Martinez                 LM – Zakuani
CAM – Rosales
FW – Martins           FW – Johnson

Starting XI analysis — The Sounders already have a “too many good players” problem, especially up top — now add in Martins and we’re talking two/three guys who should be starting having to come off the bench. The odd men out in most situations right now (without Martins) are Brad Evans, Shalrie Joseph and Mario Martinez — basically all three of them are battling for two spots. Add in Martins and Mauro Rosales bumps back to the midfield making it one spot those three are fighting for.

Right now Martinez is playing maybe the best soccer of anyone on the squad, and he’d be nothing short of pissed if he’s playing this well for both his club and country and is being forced to come off the bench. On the flip side you can’t have Joseph as a DP coming off the bench — makes that move look even worst that it already does, and finally Evans is a rock-solid player, but us the most likely to come off the bench and be OK with it.

Then you have your key reserves that make up a whole new XI

GK – Hahnemann
CB – Ianni             CB – Scott
RB – Yedlin                      LB – Burch
CDM – Carrasco
RM – Caskey                 LM – Neagle
CAM – Rose
FW – Estrada           FW – Ochoa

Of those guys, the most likely to make the 18 and see time are David Estrada,  Yedlin, Lamar Neagle, Andy Rose and rarely Alex Caskey. Basically our midfield is too stacked. It’s a problem, but a good problem.

What to expect from us

Here at NASORB it’s pretty clear when we look at the site stats that our reads come from Seahawks and Mariners coverage — we’re hoping to add Sounders to that list too this season. Before every match (MLS, CONCACAF, US Open Cup or friendly) you’ll get a full preview with videos, links, starting XI, projections, keys and more. Basically you’ll be able to sit down to every match and know exactly what to watch for, even if you’re not yet a soccer fan. Then following each match there will be a full game recap, scoring summary, highlight video, manager and player reactions and quotes, heat maps and a tactical breakdown.

This is the time to get into soccer in Seattle if you haven’t yet. I could go on for another 2,000 words about the passion surrounding Seattle Sounders FC, but I think everyone pretty much knows that by now. My final plea to you, the reader, before this season starts is to give the Sounders — and with that our coverage of them — a chance. With all the changes and turnover in this team, it’s almost like the inaugural season again, so take that as a sign to find your love of the game and team as we prepare for nine months of BoomBoom.