With the MLS Expansion Draft coming up later this month, I'd like to
open a dialogue about which 11 (then 12) players should be protected
by the Sounders. Here are my thoughts on who we should keep in the
1. Osvaldo Alonso: he is the heart and soul of this team, no question.
The energy and passion he brings to every game is unparalleled. When
he was injured for a time, you could clearly see the difference in the
entire team. He sets the tone early, gets stuck in every time and does
things no one else can do. He does the dirty work. Ossy should be top
2. Blaise Nkufo: I've heard plenty of grumblings about him over the
course of this season, but if you take a second to analyze Blaise, you
will clearly see why he is a player to protect. First of all, he is
massive. He's tall and incredibly strong, something lacking in some of
our other tall and lanky front runners. There are few players in the
MLS that can hold the ball, win the ball or play through fouls as well
as he can. Because of his post up strength, he has gives Montero more
freedom. Fredy's play really picked up during the playoff run. I'm
sure there were a lot of contributing factors, but I'm going to give
Nkufo most of the credit:)
3. Fredy Montero: I saw something this year out of Montero that I
hadn't previously seen. He actually had some strength in his game. I
wasn't super impressed with the way he flopped last year, but this
season he really added a dimension of toughness that made his play
even more effective. The goal he scored off a Keller punt when he held
the defender and then spun him was something I've been waiting to see.
Fredy is young and will only continue to get better.
4. Alvaro Fernandez: can you imagine how good this guy is going to be
when he finally gets settled in Seattle with his family and isn't
traveling around the world? He understands the game very well and I
like watching his distribution of the ball. I think he can be a key
addition as he gets more playing time.
5. Leo Gonzalez: this guy is my favorite player. Well I guess one of
my two favorite players along with Alonso. He is a tall, aggressive
defender with deceptive speed. There are times when a wide player is
on a break down the sideline and Leo catches him seemingly out of
nowhere. He is a solid backline player with a good offensive mind.
Gonzalez combines well with the players in front of him and starts the
attack. And not to mention the half-volley goal he had against New
England was frickin' amazing.
6. Kasey Keller: still one of the top goalkeepers in the MLS. With all
his experience, there's not much he hasn't seen, making him an
invaluable asset. If the team starts to listen to him, we may never
get scored on. Keller is the fine wine of the Sounders.
7. Steve Zakuani: much improved this season. He demonstrated that he
has even more one-on-one skill when he's going at players. Also showed
consistency in being calm and finding targets when he goes endline and
whips in a cross. Great speed. Continued growth from Zak will only
mean good things for Seattle.
8./9./10. James Riley, Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado: all three
are tough defenders. They each bring something a little different to
the backline, but could come together as a very cohesive unit, along
with Gonzalez, for the next season. Hurtado was doing great until he
sustained a knee injury, but should come back strong. The ease at
which Riley plays and the strength of Parke work well with what Leo
and Hurtado bring to the table. Look for this to be one of the better
back lines in the MLS.
11. Patrick Ianni: a versatile player that can be used in the defense
or midfield. Stepped up and played well when injuries arose. He's a
good all-around player that fits into the system.
12. (After a player is selected, each team is allowed another player
to protect) Mike Fucito: if nothing else, this little guy is fun to
watch. But don't let his size fool you. He is built like a tree and
uses his strength well. Is capable of creating something out of
nothing, like his goal he had off an Evans' throw in. Good young
prospect that is high energy.
Players to keep an eye on: I might be a little crazy, but I love Pat
Noonan. Maybe it's his resemblance to a mountain man, but he is a
savvy veteran that can be used anywhere on the field. I thought he
would be a great role player for us until he sustained injuries.
Hopefully he can recover and give us good minutes.
Nate Jaqua: he'll probably be gone if we don't protect him. Great
target up front, but saw less PT with the addition of Nkufo and due to
Sanna Nyassi: might also be a player we lose. Saw some good flashes
from him this year. Young and fast.
Let me know your thoughts on who we should keep and why!