Sounders end Arizona stint with defeat of Whitecaps

The unofficial second session of the preseason is over for the Seattle Sounders FC, as they club will now head home from Tucson, Ariz. after going 3-0-1 with a +3 goal differential in the land of sun and not snow.

Several player impressed during the Arizona stint, some returners looking for another chance with the club, others are trailists and rookies trying to find a spot on an already talented roster.

The trip started with a 2-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes, where Obafemi Martins powered the Rave Green to victory with a first-half brace. Although Martins netted the two goals, the standouts were second-year left back Dylan Remick and third-year Englishman Andy Rose — a trend that would continue through the camp. Defensively the squad was strong, as newcomers Jalil Anibaba and Chad Marshall proved to be a good center back pairing.

Moving onto the second match, the Sounders defeated their rivals to the north in Vancouver, again by a score of 2-1. The goals in that one came from 4th round SuperDraft pick Fabio Pereira in the 8th minute, and trailist forward Kevin Parsemain, who along with Remick and Rose may have been the most impressive player in camp for the Sounders. This match also saw a change in keeper, as veteran Marcus Hahnemann took over for newcomer Stefan Frei.

The one draw in Tucson came Saturday night, as the Sounders and Portland Timbers battled to a 0-0 draw behind a pair of solid defensive performances. Both teams played a near-ideal starting XI, with Portland fielding the stronger side, and Seattle still missing a newly acquired Marco Pappa and USMNT captain Clint Dempsey. The match did feature Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin for the first time this camp after the two returned from their time with the national team. The draw was a solid showing for the Sounders, as they held on against a good Timbers attack.

The final match of the Arizona swing took place this morning, again against the Whitecaps. The result will go down the same as the first meeting — a 2-1 victory for Seattle — but the lineups were vastly different. Vancouver started a near-starting XI group, while Seattle put out a few more trialists and rookies, as judgement day nears for the final roster slots. Seattle opened the scoring with an absolute stunner of a goal from Parsemain, and after a missed PK from the Whitecaps, added a second off the head of Rose. A late Vancouver goal was not enough to salvage a result, as Seattle leaves Arizona unbeaten.

Looking back at the week, and the four matches played, the overall impressions are good for a side that has so many faces unfamiliar with the team — or even each other for a fact. There were some early-season disappointments, as there are always bound to be when training gets underway. The battle for the second forward spot got little-to-no resolution as both Lamar Neagle and Kenny Cooper didn’t stand-out as being particularly effective during the week. I could also see a major drop in the stock of players like Alex Caskey and David Estrada — both of whom came off the bench late today and didn’t do much in the time they were on the pitch.

But overall, the positives from this session outweigh the negatives — and if anything, there’s now more competition for spots than in recent memory going into the next week of training back in Seattle.

It’s unknown at this time how many roster spots are open for the club, or if players who are already signed may end up off the roster to make more room for one of the new faces. The best bet is that there are three spots available of the 30-man roster.  The players likely occupying a roster spot are as follows (Taken from soundersfc.com with several players removed that have likely not been signed).

6 Osvaldo Alonso Midfielder 28 San Cristóbal, Cuba 5-11 165 DP
4 Jalil Anibaba Defender 25 Fullerton, Calif. 6-0 185 @NigerianFuture
19 Chad Barrett Forward 28 San Diego, CA 5-11 185 @Cbarrett19
28 Will Bates Forward 22 Chester, Virginia 6-0 185 @WillBates10
7 Tristan Bowen Forward 23 Los Angeles, CA 5-11 170 @TristanBowen7
14 Alex Caskey Midfielder 25 Dunwoody, GA 5-10 152 @AlexCaskey14
33 Kenny Cooper Forward 29 Baltimore, Maryland 6-3 210
2 Clint Dempsey Midfielder 30 Nacogdoches, TX 6-1 170 LO @clint_dempsey
16 David Estrada Forward 26 Salinas, CA 5-8 160
3 Brad Evans Midfielder 28 Phoenix, AZ 6-1 170 @brad_evans3
29 Josh Ford Goalkeeper 26 Liverpool, NY 6-0 175
24 Stefan Frei Goalkeeper 27 Altstaetten, Switzerland 6-3 195 @Stefan24Frei
12 Leonardo Gonzalez Defender 33 San Jose, Costa Rica 6-1 174
1 Marcus Hahnemann Goalkeeper 41 Seattle, WA 6-3 220 @hahnemann1
11 Aaron Kovar Midfielder 20 Seattle, WA 5-10 155 HGP @aokovar
31 Damion Lowe Defender 20 Kingston, Jamaica 6-3 175 @ballanana
5 Chad Marshall Defender 29 Riverside, CA 6-4 190 @ChadMarshall14
9 Obafemi Martins Forward 29 Lagos, Nigeria 5-7 154 DP/I @oba_martins
27 Lamar Neagle Midfielder/Forward 26 Federal Way, Washington 5-11 165 @LamarNeagle
13 Sean Okoli Forward 21 Federal Way, WA 6-1 182 HGP @AskAboutUgo
Marco Pappa Midfielder 26 Guatemala City, Guatemala 5-10 155 @marcopappas16
15 Dylan Remick Defender 22 Inverness, IL 6-0 165 @dylanremick33
25 Andy Rose Midfielder 24 Bristol, England 6-2 170
20 Zach Scott Defender 33 Haiku, HI 5-11 175 @zkscott
18 Djimi Traore Defender 33 Paris, France 6-3 191 I @Djimi_Traore19
17 DeAndre Yedlin Defender 20 Seattle, WA 5-8 150 HGP @yedlinny
22 Eriq Zavaleta Forward 21 Westfield, IN 6-1 185 GA @_AIR_RIQ_

If these are indeed the 27 players on the roster as of now, there is room for three more players that would likely fall into the 21-30 slot on the MLS Roster Rules, which means the players don’t go against the team’s salary cap.

The first player likely to sign for a near-minimum salary will be the team’s second-round draft pick in Jimmy Ockford. The Louisville product has been good this preseason and is needed young depth at the center back spot.

That leaves two spots, which in my mind will both go to trialists in right back Michael Azira and Parsemain. At the right back spot, the current backup is Zach Scott — who isn’t getting any younger. Azira has been solid, if not very good this preseason. On the other end, Parsemain has just been too good not to sign. He can be used as a backup to Martins or in a backup CAM/withdrawn forward role.

The players left on the outside looking in include draft picks Pereria and Setfano Rijssel and trailists Gonzalo Pineda, Miguel Gonzalez, Tarek Morad, Long Tan and Dzenan Catic to name a few.

Although the list of players to impress and fall short in Arizona looks solid, there’s still a lot of preseason left, including the week in Seattle and the time in Charlston for the Carolina Challenge Cup at the end of the month.

In the meantime, here’s a look at my two-deep depth chart after the Tucson camp. (backups in parenthesis)

GK — Frei (Hahnemann)

CB — Anibaba (Damion Lowe)   CB — Marshall (Djimi Traore)
RB — Yedlin (Azira)                            LB — Leo Gonzalez (Remick)

CDM — Ozzie Alonso (Rose)
RM — Evans (Tristan Bowen)        LM — Marco Pappa (Rose/Caskey/Aaron Kovar)
CAM — Dempsey (Parsemain/Pappa)

FW — Cooper or Neagle   FW — Martins (Parsemain)

Other player who could work into consideration — Chad Barrett, Sean Okoli