Two years in the MLS has brought the Seattle Sounders two US Open Cup titles, two playoff appearances and two first round playoff losses while only scoring one goal in the four playoff games.
Seattle has some of the craziest and loudest fans in the MLS, fans that are looking for more than another US Open Cup banner hanging from the rafters. This year they are looking for a MLS Cup to add.
That won’t be easy. Hell, the West won’t be easy either. Not only will there be the Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and Houston to battle with this season, Portland and Vancouver join the MLS to challenge Seattle in the Northwest corner.
On paper, the 2011 Seattle Sounders look young and strong. They should dominate the new neighbor teams in Portland and Vancouver to take the Cascadia Cup. They should also make the playoffs again and go far in the postseason. While not a top shelf team, Seattle is definitely close to being one of the top teams in the league.
Head coach Sigi Schmid is 26-17-17 in his third season leading the Sounders. He will benefit from a full season with Blaise Nkufo, as well as having no World Cup break in the middle of the season.
New Sounders for 2011 include midfielder Erik Friberg from Sweden, forward Lamar Neagle from Finland, forward O’Brian White, and defender Micheal Tetteh.
The big departures for 2011 are defender Tyrone Marshall (to Colorado), midfielder Sanna Nyassi (to Colorado), and defender Nathan Sturgis (to Toronto).
Of the subtractions, Seattle will likely miss Nyassi the most. Marshall provided key veteran leadership in the back line in 2009 but by 2010 had lost his starting position. After Marshall’s replacement, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, went down with an injury, Marshall showed why he lost his starting job.
Before the defensive issues though, Seattle suffered last season from a massive shortage of offense despite Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani each scoring 10 goals. Another veteran leader from 2009, midfielder Freddie Ljungberg spent most of his 2010 time in Seattle arguing with the officials instead of leading and was gone to Chicago by the middle of the season.