2017 MLS SEASON PREVIEW
The Seattle Sounders enter the 2017 season as champions after a stunning late turnaround saw the team claim the MLS Cup title.
Things didn't look good for the Sounders through most of the season, though. Coach Sigi Schmid's run with the club ended in late July after a loss against Sporting Kansas City, with the team languishing near the bottom of the table at 6-12-2.
Schmid was replaced by assistant coach Brian Schmetzer for the July 31 showdown with the LA Galaxy, which, coincidentally, was the first match for new designated player Nicolas Lodeiro — and the tide turned for the Sounders relatively quickly.
Despite health issues sidelining star forward Clint Dempsey in late August, the Sounders got a boost from the return of Panamanian defender Roman Torres and got hot at the right time of the year, losing only twice in the last 14 regular season matches before storming through the Western Conference playoffs and into the MLS Cup final.
Less than two months after the Sounders topped Toronto FC at BMO Field, Seattle is gearing up for its title defense. With Harry Shipp and Will Bruin joining the fold, Dempsey returning to full fitness, and much of the championship-winning core intact, the Sounders look like a sure-fire contender once more.
How did the Seattle Sounders perform in 2016?
2016 finish: Fourth in Western Conference (14-14-6), won the MLS Cup
The strong turnaround in the second half of the year pivoted the Sounders' season from complete disaster into a fairy tale, with the club capturing its first MLS Cup title on penalties after a 0-0 draw against Toronto FC.
Seattle Sounders' key losses during the offseason
The Sounders had several key losses this offseason, including four players who could be considered starters. Playoff hero Nelson Valdez is gone after a disappointing run as a designated player with the club, but he'll be well remembered for his contributions in the run to the MLS Cup.
Two veteran midfielders, Andreas Ivanschitz and Erik Friberg, are both out despite being big contributors in 2016, and starting right back Tyrone Mears was traded to Atlanta United.
And for the first time as an MLS side, the club will be playing without defender Zach Scott, who retired at the end of the 2016 season.
Seattle Sounders' key additions during the offseason
Will Bruin and Harry Shipp are probably the two biggest additions of the offseason to date. Bruin adds another option up front while Shipp offers depth in the midfield. Both should see plenty of playing time throughout the season, though neither will be penciled in as automatic starters from day one.
The club also brought in Gustav Svensson, a veteran Swede who most recently played in the Chinese Super League.
How will the Seattle Sounders' starting lineup look in 2017?
As it stands, expect Brad Evans to slide into the spot vacated by Mears at right back and for Alvaro Fernandez to fill in on the left flank. Former New England Revolution defender Darrius Barnes is in on trial and could challenge for the right back spot, while Shipp seems like the other option on the wing.
The rest of the starting side is pretty easy to predict so long as the players are healthy, which is a bit of an issue at the moment. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei is still recovering from an injury, Dempsey is working his way back to full fitness, and both Evans and Osvaldo Alonso have had minor knocks in the preseason.
Full Seattle Sounders roster entering the 2017 season
Goalkeepers: Stefan Frei, Tyler Miller, Bryan Meredith
Defenders: Tony Alfaro, Kyle Bjornethun, Brad Evans, Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brian Nana-Sinkam, Jake Stovall, Nouhou Tolo, Roman Torres
Midfielders: Osvaldo Alonso, Alvaro Fernandez, Oniel Fisher, Bakie Goodman, Aaron Kovar, Nicolas Lodeiro, Dominic Oduro, Cristian Roldan, Harry Shipp, Gustav Svensson, Henry Wingo
Forwards: Seyi Adekoya, Will Bruin, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris
Seattle Sounders' national TV coverage schedule
Seattle Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls - Sunday, March 19, at 7 p.m. ET on FS1
Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United - Friday, March 31, at 10 p.m. ET on FS1
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders - Sunday, April 23, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, May 6, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers - Saturday, May 27, at 3 p.m. ET on Fox
New York City FC vs. Seattle Sounders - Saturday, June 17, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders - Sunday, June 25, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders - Saturday, July 29, TBD on ESPN
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United - Sunday, Aug. 20, at 10 p.m. ET on FS1
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers - Sunday, Aug. 27, at 9:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy - Sunday, Sept. 10, at 9 p.m. ET on FS1
Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders - Sunday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN