Eugene Rupinski, Brotherly Game) Seattle started slow but has lost only once in their last fifteen. This seems to be the same pattern as last season - what about Seattle makes them come on strong down the stretch?
Dave Clark, Sounder At Heart) Part of it is not adding top talent until late in the season. This year they added Dutch right back Kelvin Leerdam (who only has a single loss as a Sounder), Barcelona raised midfielder Victor Rodríguez, Puget Sound native Lamar Neagle and Calum Mallace. That's two TAM players and a 39-goal scoring forward with gas left in his tank.
It's something they did pre-Lagerwey/Schmetzer too. Adding significant talent that immediately contributes is game-changing.
tBG) Clint Dempsey is 34 and seems to be on the decline. How much longer is he a Sounder, and what does a post-Dempsey Sounders look like?
SAH) Seattle has an option for 2018 and that may be the most difficult decision that Garth Lagerwey faces this coming offseason. Clint Dempsey is still good, and still worthy of a DP deal. But he may no longer be what the Sounders need. They can get a better player at his salary and their willingness to pay transfer fees. There is no guarantee that would be able to get such a player
I expect him back in 2018 because the team already has the ability to add a DP even without moving on from Clint. I also think that will be his last season.
tBG) Why will Seattle repeat as MLS Cup winners - and what will stop them from repeating?
SAH) The Sounders will repeat because their defense isn't just better, but possibly the best in the league. Even when injuries drop top talents those players are replaced with a TAM quality (thanks China!) DM/CB in Gustav Svensson, Jamaican national team player Oniel Fisher and young Nouhou. There's not just talent in the backline, but a defense that engages throughout the pitch with Osvaldo Alonso and Cristian Roldan stopping many attacks before they ever start.
But it's not just Seattle that is better than they were in 2016. Toronto FC improved; Chicago improved; New York City improved; Atlanta was born. While my confidence in Schmetzer's ability to win the West is rather high the talent out East is too much.
Injuries, suspensions, etc: Jordan Morris, Brad Evans, Calum Mallace and Osvaldo Alonso are out with injury. Victor Rodríguez flew back to Barcelona for the birth of his child. Román Torres left the last match early due to injury.
Projected lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones; Tony Alfaro, Chad Marshall, Kelvin Leerdam; Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson; Lamar Neagle, Nicolas Lodeiro, Aaron Kovar; Clint Dempsey