Seattle Sounders Season Preview
Note: Ahead of the 2015 MLS season, I contacted fans and bloggers to learn more about some of the teams. You can find the podcasts here. For the Seattle Sounders, Greg and I recorded this podcast by phone but the audio quality was poor. (Totally my fault.) We had a such a good conversation that I wanted to share it, so here is the transcription of our conversation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Austin: Greg Mockos, one of the Presidents of Seattle Sounders Supporters Group Emerald City Supporters is on tonight to talk about the upcoming campaign for the Sounders.
The Sounders are the defending Supporters Shield champs but lost an agonizing series to eventual champ LA Galaxy last year. What were your impressions/thoughts on last season?
Greg: Thought that last season was a very successful season. I think that any fan, Sounders or not, would have to agree with that. Obviously the club is an ambitious club so they’re always going to feel like they fell short. The last two or three years, the mantra in the club has always been, and this is from the top down, to get to MLS Cup. This is year is the same, and you’re already starting to hear that because the Sounders are in the CONCACAF Champions League, there are ambitions on a more global scale, which is to win the CONCACAF Champions League and progress to the Club World Cup.
So last season was a successful season but it was a pity not to win the Cascadia Cup. We lost that due to a poor result at home against Vancouver. That would have made the season a little sweeter but otherwise, from a supporters standpoint, the emotion in the stands when we beat LA 2-0 at home to win the Supporters Shield was definitely one of the highlights of supporting the Sounders.
The last two games at the end of the year were amazing. The Supporters Shield was a nice reward, and the Sounders also won the US Open Cup and just fell short for the Treble. I will be interested to see how they compete in the Champions League later this year.
The Champions League can be a frustrating league. The games can be frustrating to watch because there are different standards for pitches and refereeing. However I think it’s exciting. I have not had a chance to travel to Central America for it but I plan to do so this time around. It’s similar to Europe, what clubs go through during the season, especially prestigious clubs, and emulating that in our region is something that I find interesting.
As you alluded to the club is ambitious and has not stayed still this offseason. What are your thoughts on the changes in the squad thus far?
My thoughts primarily focus not on players because there hasn’t been a lot of changeover. I really like the acquisition of Garth Lagerway from Real Salt Lake and his ambition to increase the scope and breadth of our team.
S2 is obviously a great addition. It used to be we would get draft picks in and if they didn’t make it in the first couple of weeks of preseason they would fall off the edge of the earth, whereas here you are allowed to keep tabs on them and follow their development. It also allows the team to sign players that already know before they come in the door that they are borderline but they have potential.
ECS has a group of supporters and has invested financially in S2, which is a first in the United States. So we have a stake, not as great as the multi-million dollar owners of the league, and we’ll be supporting them fully. A lot of members have been down there at their first training events, scouting out future stars of the Sounders and MLS.
Back to your point about players, I’m pretty excited to see Christian Roldan and how he develops into a player at MLS level. We have also had glimmers of hope for Kévin Parsemain, the Martinique international, and he seems to be a pretty decent finisher. We are a very deep team so a lot of these young players have a mountain to climb but at the end of the day we are an old team when compared to a lot of other MLS teams. There’s going to have to be some replacement in the next cycle and Garth’s strategy is widening the club’s presence and expand that down to the lower levels with S2 and the Academy system, and I think it’s going to make the presence in the player world that much bigger. The Sounders are popular already in terms of fan base and following in the United States but I feel like our connections in the player network in North, Central and South America are expanding greatly. From that we can reap greater benefits in the future.
You mentioned that you have a deep team, so do you see much change in the starting lineup? I have heard a little bit about Brad Evans maybe changing his role or is there anything that has come to light?
Tyrone Mears is going to be a consistent performer and he’s an excellent replacement for DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin sometimes had extremely good matches but I think you’ll see more consistency with Mears, as he’s probably less adventurous and attacking than Yedlin. For center back, I would like to see a pure center back brought in this off season. Brad Evans is a versatile player, he’s a good communicator, he’s got a physical presence and he’s a good passer of the ball, but he wouldn’t be my first option at center back. Otherwise I don’t see a whole lot of changes in the lineup. One concern is Osvaldo Alonso and his recovery from surgery.
If you’ve been watching MLS, you’ll know that accruing points at the beginning of the season is not crucial to winning silverware at the end of the season. It’s more crucial to pick up your game at the later stage of the season and I think we’re well suited for that.
Speaking of the schedule, when I looked at the slate of the games for the Sounders, there are two long stretches away from home, one in May and one in September. Then the team closes the season away to Vancouver, away to SKC, home against the Galaxy, away to Houston and home to RSL. What are your thoughts on the schedule as a whole and what are the matches you are looking forward to?
The transition of Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo to the Western Conference is going to make it very formidable. Also Chivas USA was removed and we collected a lot of points from them so we’ll have to make those up somewhere else. I like the schedule. It’s better than years past. There are some afternoon games and I prefer night games but that’s a small complaint.
Games I’m forward to are obviously Cascadia Cup games. Those are the ones that thrill me the most. Due to our history with LA Galaxy, any game against them is going to be a thrilling match. Plus with the talent coming into the league, the Galaxy have added Steven Gerrard in the middle and to see him against Martins and Dempsey and others is going to be an exciting event.
So Seattle has been a successful team since joining the league in 2009. How do you see the season going and where do you see the Sounders finishing this season?
My minimum expectation is to be Supporters Shield contenders and MLS Cup contenders. In 2009 I recall doing similar interviews prior to our first game on March 19 against the New York Red Bulls and then we were just happy to be there but now that we have made the playoffs ever year of our existence, the expectation is higher. We are at a point where there hasn’t been much of a shuffle in the team, we have a good core, the locker room is solid, so it’s only going to get better this year. I fully expect us to be challenging for the Supporters Shield with Los Angeles and Kansas City and from the East, DC United, and many people will doubt them, but I still think the Red Bulls are going to have another decent run.
As a fan I value the Supporters Shield greatly and I find I very satisfying that a supporter created, supporter driven and supporter maintained competition has gained such prestige and the fact that it gains you access into the CCL, I’m quite appreciative as supporter and as a member of supporters group that has contributed to this
So one question I have been asking guests during this series is, if you were GM/Sporting Director/King of the World, what would change about the club?
I feel sometimes that we are spoiled here. We have a very ambitious club that wants to do nothing but the best. I guess the one thing I would like to see more is for Seattle to establish itself very strongly as a global brand. Their ambitions are global and I think establishing themselves outside the Pacific Northwest is something I would look into.
Also, you often hear in the American soccer conversation a discussion about children and youth soccer, but I think there’s a huge wealth of adult amateur players in Washington State and the United States that are ready to spend their dollars on the Sounders and supporting them. Here in Seattle, the leagues are vibrant, every field is packed with players every day of the week and I think that’s a huge fan base that can be tapped into a little bit better.
From a soccer perspective I would really love to see S2 evolve and grow and hopefully maybe a S3 and S4 and creating the depth of a system. It’s only going to create more competition in the club which is only going to result in better players. The interesting side effect of that may be the diminishment of the college game in the United States. I think a lot of players are going to prefer the professional environment of a professional soccer team that plays year round in a competitive league rather than a shorter season in the college game. I would like to see every MLS team completely integrated vertically all the way from the youth teams to the first team.
You’re heavily evolved in Emerald City Supporters, so talk about what the group does and how people can find you.
ECS is the largest independent supporters group for the Seattle Sounders. We were founded in 2005 so this season is our ten year anniversary. This is an important landmark for the supporters group, because many times supporter groups are volatile organizations that come and go, so to reach ten years is significant. This year our membership kit will be the Decade of Dominance and this is an allusion to a tifo displayed against the Portland Timbers and our dominance over our rivals to the South.
You can join the Emerald City Supporters at https://www.weareecs.com/ and click on the join tab. Our membership kit is $30 and this year’s membership comes with a booklet about our history, a lightweight summer scarf, a traditional knitted scarf, and a membership card that gets you discounts at all of our partner bars.
Follow us on twitter @WeAreECS and like us on facebook. Feel free to come out if you are the Seattle area or you can find our sub groups that are regionally based around the United States and the world on our website underneath the sub groups section. Join them on our away travel or at a local viewing place.
I want to thank you for coming on. I was out in Seattle a couple of summers ago and met you guys at Fuel, and did the march to the match and stood with you with at the match and I had a great time. You guys were awesome and I love seeing you guys on TV and seeing what you come up with. And beyond the soccer, the leagues that you are working to develop and the work in the community are all great things and I love watching you guys grow. Thanks again and we’ll talk to you later.
As a reminder you can find me on twitter @austinlong1974 and you can get more podcasts at http://austinlong1974.podomatic.com/ or subscribe through iTunes by searching SoccerNomad. Also look around the this blog for recent posts on kits, memories and more.