Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - Seattle Sounders FC took a major step forward
last season by knocking off Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup quarterfinals before
falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy in the next round.
Since entering MLS in 2009, the Sounders have made the postseason party every
year, but last campaign's triumph over their Western Conference rivals was the
club's first playoff victory.
So, despite the loss, progress was made in 2012. Now the Sounders will look to
build on that progress this season, but will do so with one major piece out of
Star forward Fredy Montero was sent on a season-long loan to Colombian side
Millonarios in January, leaving the Rave Green with serious questions about
where the offensive production will come from in 2013.
Montero, 25, came to the Sounders ahead of their inaugural season in 2009 from
Columbia's Deportivo Cali and was one of the club's most recognizable faces
during his time in the Pacific Northwest.
He is the club's all-time leading goal scorer with 47 tallies in MLS
competition, which is good for the third most in MLS since the 2009 season.
Additionally, he contributed 60 goals and 43 assists in all competitions and
was adept at finding clutch goals for his club, scoring 23 match-winning goals
in all competitions.
"Fredy has been a fantastic player and pro for Sounders FC over our first four
years," owner/general manager Adrian Hanauer said. "We wish Fredy the best of
success with Millonarios as he continues to develop as a player. We hope this
move helps Fredy's chances of being called up to the Colombian national team,
as he has certainly earned it."
Naturally then, the question becomes how do you replace Montero?
The easy answer is you don't, but Seattle has several players on the squad
that can help to carry the scoring burden.
One such player is Eddie Johnson, who had a stellar 2012 season in which he
scored a franchise-record 14 goals -- many in spectacular fashion.
"I've been dying to get back to get with the guys. It's going to be a very
exciting year," Johnson remarked.
Another player who will need to step up his scoring pace is veteran forward
David Estrada. Estrada had a bit of a breakout year last term, appearing in 17
games, with 12 starts, and scoring five goals. He also netted a hat trick
against Toronto FC.
Moving away from the forward ranks, an argument can be made that Seattle has
the best midfield in the league with Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani, Christian
Tiffert, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales and newly-acquired Lamar Neagle.
Osvaldo is the rock that will boss the game in the middle of the park, while
the others are all capable of providing fantastic service to the forwards.
Defensively, Seattle lost Jeff Parke in a trade with Philadelphia, but is
still solid with Jhon-Kennedy Hurtado, Leandro Gonzalez, Zach Scott and
Patrick Ianni likely to be in the starting 11. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning is
excellent between the sticks as he had the lowest goals against average in the
league last term.
But Seattle's season will largely depend on how Montero's void is filled by
Johnson and Estrada.
2012 IN REVIEW: Seattle had another exceptional regular season, finishing in
third place in the Western Conference with 56 points. The Rave Green topped
Real Salt Lake 1-0 on aggregate in the MLS quarterfinals, but fell 4-2 in the
semis to the eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
ACQUISITIONS: Lamar Neagle (M), Eriq Zavaleta (F), DeAndre Yedlin (D).
LOSSES: Fredy Montero (F), Jeff Parke (D), O'Brien White (F).
OUTLOOK: The Sounders should have another productive regular season campaign
and no trouble reaching the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
CenturyLink Field will be a place where the home side rarely loses. Johnson
and Estrada must find ways to consistently put the ball in the back of the
net, however, if the Sounders want to progress further in the postseason and
compete for the MLS Cup title.
The Sports Network