David Falk has followed soccer in the Puget Sound region since 1974. This blog covers Sounders FC, local college soccer, Seattle Wolves FC, Tacoma Tide FC and Kitsap Pumas. Send tips or comments to: goalseattle@gmail.com
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Seattle Soccer Examiner

Seattle Soccer Examiner

Monday, April 28, 2008

Realistic expectations for the 2008 Sounders

Sebastien Le Toux is already a "marked man" for the 2008 Sounders.
Jenni Conner www.GOALSeattle.com photo.

by David Falk

We've seen two away matches, and so far the Seattle Sounders have no wins and only one goal.

This is a typical start for the recent Sounders. It's been more than 5 years since Seattle won one of its opening two matches. In that time, between 2004 and 2008, the Sounders are 0 wins, 4 draws and 6 losses in their initial pair.

In that time the Sounders have also gone to 3 finals, winning 2 championships. Once they also recovered from a slow start to finish top of the table (2007).

I guess we should have expected another crawling out of the gate. Perhaps the return of all 11 starters gave some hope that 2008 would be different. Not so far. A 1-1 draw at middling Charleston was followed up with a 2-0 defeat at contenders Portland.

Where does that leave the Sounders? What are the realistic expectations we can have for our 2008 club?

Expect to see rookie players in tight situations late in matches. This season is about seeing what some younger players can bring. Sounders FC are watching to see who deserves a spot in MLS, and who has enough of an 'upside' to warrant another year. Already we've seen Andre Schmid (2nd year), Jason Cascio and John Fishbaugher (rookies) subbed in late during crucial periods of tight matches.

Expect a slow start. Two matches down, and another this Friday in Atlanta before the Sounders come home for three. I don't think we'll see the horrible 1 win in 8 matches to start that we had last year, but we may not see a homestand sweep in May, either.

Expect more players over the season. Right now French trialists are with the club, and rumors even have some recent cuban defectors headed our way for trials. Greg Howes may be back now that Milwaukee are out of the MISL playoffs. Adam West should be back in camp shortly. The roster will be in flux all season. So will the line-ups, no doubt.

Expect a desire to win, but more obstacles. The Sounders want to win. Period. However it will be much harder to do so in the USL-1 in 2008. Seattle's schedule is back-loaded with 7 home matches to end the campaign. Before that it is 15 out of 23 on the road. This for a defending champ that is also being 'promoted' to MLS in 2009. The rest of the league will see a Seattle match as their biggest of the season. Not just Portland. Not just Vancouver. Seattle will find every team is up for them. Gone are the patsies in California. This year the league is better, tighter. So far the Sounders have 'stood still' without adding any proven talent to keep pace.

The 2008 Sounders will very likely make the playoffs. That is really their main goal. Qualify and see if they can get hot at the right time. Adrian Hanauer has already stated that finishing top of the table is not a major goal. He will instruct coach Brian Schmetzer that seeing talent for MLS is more important that winning at all costs.

So far that is exactly what we've seen. Slow start. A look at young talent. A roster that has 'stood still' while many of the other contenders have added firepower.

Expect that to not be enough to win another title in 2008 unless we get some seasoned help along the way.

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