The Seattle Sounders rode a true rollercoaster in 2021. Seattle started the season with a record 13 game unbeaten streak while missing Jordan Morris and Nico Lodeiro. Cristian Roldan got ragdolled by Tim Melia in a moment so gif-able that The Rock chimed in. Seattle finished the regular season second in the West. Over the final six games of the season they went 0-3-3 and limped into the playoffs.
It got worse from there. In their first round playoff game against Real Salt Lake, Seattle held RSL shotless and somehow managed to lose. It was only the third time in league history that a team had been held without a shot and somehow, RSL won the match.
So heading in to 2022, how does Seattle look and where do we expect them to finish?
Potentially the biggest single acquisition of the offseason, Seattle added Albert Rusnak as a designated player via free agency. Rusnak has been a designated player since his arrival in Salt Lake City in 2017. In the five years he played for Salt Lake, Rusnak scored 41 goals and chipped in 29 assists. Pairing him in the midfield with Nico Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan, and Joao Paulo creates one of, if not the best, midfield in the league.
Brad Smith was traded to DC United for $750,000 in GAM and a 10% sell on fee. Smith was in competition with Jimmy Medranda and Nouhou for playing time but was one of the most dangerous fullbacks in the league last year. Smith scored three goals and had four assists with a xG+xA per 90 of 0.25 which put him in the 87th percentile of all MLS fullbacks.
Centerback, Shane O’Neill, left in free agency for Toronto FC. O’Neill was often the third centerback for Seattle and logged 1,800 minutes. With O’Neill’s departure, Seattle look to be a little light on depth in the back. Xavier Arreaga and Yeimar are both terrific centerbacks but it leaves Abdoulaye Cissoko as the presumptive backup.
Midseason acquisition, Nicolas Benezet, is out of contract with the club and is currently a free agent.
Seattle has depth and quality all over the field. Adding Rusnak will only make their attack more dangerous. The Sounders were able to keep the majority of their team together while only losing Smith and O’Neill.
One potential cause for concern is Nouhou’s performance for Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations. He was credited with largely shutting down Egyptian mega-star Mo Salah. The winter transfer window is closed for a number of countries, but there is still some opportunity for a team to make a huge offer to Seattle for Nouhou before the MLS season kicks off. If not, he could also potentially depart the club in the summer. IF, he were to leave, that would further weaken Seattle’s depth at the back. But as I sit here on my couch today watching a bizarre rotation of the Olympics, basketball, and obscure European soccer matches, Nouhou is still a Sounder and will be ready to bomb up and down the left side of the pitch.
On paper, Seattle might be the best team in the league. They’re certainly in the conversation. The Sounders are competing in the CONCACAF Champions League, which has notoriously ruined seasons for plenty of MLS squads, but Seattle has to be one of the favorites to finish at the top of the Western Conference and make a run at a trophy.
What do you all think? Will Tim and Roldan square off in a cage match officiated by WWE legend Stone Cold Steve Austin? Will Seattle ever stop playing on that godawful turf? Will MLS ever get justice for Benny for 2016?