In just over 24 hours 40,000 fans clad in Rave Green and Capitol Blue will decent upon the holy land that is CenturyLink Field to witness the start of a new era. The new MLS season is upon us and our beloved Seattle Sounders FC begin their eight-month quest for the elusive MLS Cup. The first opponent standing between the Sounders and history — the Montreal Impact.
This match though like last season’s opener against another Canadian side may look just a bit off as the Sounders come into the season with a couple injury and suspension concerns. Either way Seattle — on paper — will be the better team tomorrow night. Eddie Johnson will look to get his first full season as a Sounder off on the right foot, while most eyes will be on the back line and midfield rotations.
Seattle also comes into the season red hot after winning all four matches en-route to a Desert Diamond Cup pre-season trophy, winning in a final that featured reserves and trialists. Montreal though were no slouches in the pre-season as they won the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, defeating the Columbus Crew 1-0 in the final.
There’s also a few storylines still to follow off the pitch as well for the Sounders involving players coming in and maybe going out. Rumor out of Spain is that the transfer of Levante striker Obafemi Martins is nearly complete as the Sounders look to bring in the Nigerian speedster. Reports say that Martins transfer paperwork should be filed by tomorrow and that he will make his way to the states to join the club where his visa and other necessary paperwork will be finished. There’s a chance that Martins could be ready to play as early as the home leg of the Sounders CONCACAF Champions League bout against Tigres March 12.
The other news that has been avoided by the front office for about the past three weeks or so is the status of DP Christian Tiffert. The longstanding rumor is the club will buy out his contract and he’ll be free to join any team he wants. The other posibility is a transfer to a small league who’s window is still open (Turkey for example) or a trade to another MLS side. Either way, Tiffert’s DP tag has to go in order to bring in Martins.
Back to Montreal though, let’s take a look at the second-year squad and what the Sounders have to do to pull out a victory.
Last Time Out (LTO) — In the 11 games that Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning missed last season due to a hip injury, no loss was as bad as the one suffered on June 16 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal. The Sounders looked sluggish, slow and out-of-rythem as the Impact got the 4-1 victory over the Rave Green. Montreal midfieder Patrice Bernier knifed through the Sounders defense assisting on the Impact’s first three goals. The Sounders only goal came via Eddie Johnson to bring the scoreline to 3-1 before former and now current again Sounder Lamar Neagle scored the match’s final goal. The game’s fate was truly decided with a 56th minute red card to center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, leaving inexperienced net-minder Bryan Meredith fishing ball out of the back of his net all night.
This match should in no way, shape or form be an indication of what we’ll see tomorrow night. A no-longer-in-MLS keeper playing behind a three man back line in a terrible match is not how Seattle will play tomorrow.
Key to a Rave Green victory — This early in a season you can’t point out specific keys — we have no damn idea who will match up where, or who’ll do what. So the key to victory early in the season is to simply play your style of soccer. It’s the same style that won four pre-season matches against MLS clubs. Crosses from the flanks will be key as will acting as a unit in the back. If Seattle is able to hold tough and keep the Impact on their back heels this match could be over by the half.
Projected Starting XI — This is where those injury and suspension concerns come in for the Sounders. As you may or may not remember, at the end of the playoff game against the LA Galaxy last season where the Sounders were eliminated, a group of players surrounded the referee at which time midfielder Ozzie Alonso was shown a red card. Although a red card after being eliminated sounds like nothing, MLS carries over that one match suspension which means manager Sigi Schmid is without the Honey Badger for this match. Also appearing to be out is Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez who was seen in street clothes and limping this week at training. Schmid has said the injury is nothing serious but my best guess is he’s out for this one as well. The only other possibility is that Adam Johansson is out as well as he’s recovering from a pre-season injury, so I’m keeping him out my XI for now.
The biggest surprise here may be rookie Deandre Yedlin getting the start at RB, but if Johansson can make the start he’s the best option being that Brad Evans is needed at CM. The other possible switch is Zach Scott in for Djimi Traore who’s coming off a bit of an injury (although Traore is my starter this season). Other than that I expect David Estrada to start essentially in place of Martinez up top with EJ and Andy Rose to take Ozzie’s spot while he’s suspended for the match.
Prediction — The hardest part of any preview piece is predicting the outcome, especially when it’s the first match of the season. Seattle won’t have their full power starters out there, but with that said they’re facing Montreal, not LA to open the season. I don’t expect Seattle to give up any goals, but with that said I’m not sure they create a ton of chances either. Johnson and Zakuani both have solid outings and convert their chances to give Seattle the 2-0 victory.
Where to watch — Kick-off from the CLink is set for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, with the game being broadcast locally on KING 5. My guess is ROOT Sports will also have replays this season so check your local listings for that. Also make sure to check back here for the full recap.
Bring your voice, your heart and your passion tomorrow whether you’re supporting the squad at the pitch or from afar. MLS is about to start, and this is the season of the Sounders. #BoomBoom
Madison is the Digital Media Producer at the Yakima Herald-Republic. Originally from Spokane, Madison is a die-hard Seattle Sounders FC and USMNT fan. Along with loving soccer, he has an affinity for tacos and good bourbon — heck, even bad bourbon sometimes.