In case you haven’t been paying attention this year, the Sounders roster is a bit more sparse than in previous years. Of the 30 possible roster spots for the First Team, only 24 are currently filled.
With the next transfer window opening on July 10th, and the Sounders near the bottom of the standings, here is my take on what positions need to be filled, as well as some suggestions about who could fill those spots. Fair warning, money is not a huge factor in the below, it’s more of a “realistic dream” scenario.
With the return of Brad Evans as the presumed starter, he joins Joevin Jones as the only two starter-quality outside backs on the team. Oniel Fisher remains as the primary backup for both spots, and is a good replacement in small spurts, but is not yet ready to become the incumbent. After that, the quality drops off significantly with Gustav Svennson, Jordy Delem, and even Cristian Roldan taking turns. Unfortunately, the most used of that bunch, Delem, shouldn’t be on the team sheet from week to week.
With that said, my personal favorite right back in the league is Andrew Farrell from New England. His size and strength would partner well with either Roman Torres or Svennson, depending on who’s in the middle. He might be good enough to unseat Brad Evans as well. Other than Farrell, the only MLS backs I’m interested in are Harrison Afful or Alvas Powell. This may be a spot to bring in a newcomer to the league.
Both Ozzie Alonso and Roldan have been amazing this year, but the depth beyond those two for pure defensive midfield is nowhere to be found. Svennson, Harry Shipp, and Zach Mathers are the intended backups. Svensson proved to be far too slow for that spot on this team. Shipp is too creative and needs to be found in more advanced positions on the field, and Mathers is still far too raw to be in a matchday squad for a team with this amount of resources at their disposal.
Wil Trapp would make the most sense in the league from an ability perspective, but that would be a tough ask to come and be a backup. No, the most likely scenario here is to find a USL prospect with a longer history/pedigree than Mathers to act as a solid backup.
To be honest, this is the position that, for me, is pretty flexible and could be used anywhere on the field. I do believe that the Sounders traditionally lack a bit of creativity coming off of the bench. Sometimes there are teams who park the bus and dare the long-ball but, with more creativity on the bench, maybe unlocking those defenses becomes easier.
Currently led by Dempsey, Nico Lodeiro, and Shipp, a bench quality creative player of any sort would be welcomed with open arms. Think of someone like the aging Javier Morales, or go search through the USL for someone who loves racking up assists.
Probably the most obvious position of need at the moment are true wingers that push the width of the field and help keep the team from an over-reliance on overlapping fullbacks. The current bunch of outside midfielders are more suited to come inside to find the game, but that leaves some clogged up lanes in the middle of the park. Young players like Henry Wingo and Seyi Adekoya are possible future players, but again, for a team with the aspirations that the Sounders have this feels like an area of possible improvement.
This also feels like the most likely spot for the team to splash the cash on another Designated Player (DP), by buying down Alonso’s cap hit with Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). That being said, it’d be nearly impossible to try and track down who might be a good target for one or more of these positions. Can we just lure back Steve Zakuani? Once the money has been spent, it would make logical sense to add another, less expensive, traditional winger as a backup, or to push the limits of the current set of starters.
Don’t get me wrong, WIll Bruin has been solid in his time on the field, but he’s not really a target forward for me. He has lighter than average feet for his size, and lower than average hold-up skills. He reminds me of Nate Jaqua quite a bit. The problem is that he can’t hold up and distribute enough to be as effective as the team needs. A high caliber (TAM or DP level) player makes sense here. A player with the pedigree was here last year, in Nelson Valdez, that unfortunately only worked out right at the end of the season. The idea was sound, and that type of player proved to be very valuable, even if Valdez was the wrong player.
For me, this is another one that’s extremely difficult to pinpoint some options, as there are so many out there. One of my favorites of anywhere would be Christian Benteke, but I think that someone that we haven’t really heard of from the German second tier, or something similar, would make great sense to add to the roster to help bring the type of target play that’s needed.
So I’m sure that many people will disagree with how I would fill out the roster, and as mentioned above, I didn’t focus too much on the money aspect, but for me, this would be the most effective use of the additional roster flexibility that’s currently available for the Sounders. Hopefully soon we’ll get to see the front office take action and bring in some much needed reinforcements.