BY Stanley Holmes 04:43PM 01/27/2011

Sounders preseason: who stays, who goes?

Following three days of practice, we take the first crack at assessing what players stay and which ones will be packing their bags.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid has a lot of roster decisions to make over the next five weeks / Noel Zanchelli, Sportspress Northwest

With two days of scrimmaging with the ball and two days of fitness training behind them by Friday, the Sounders will take off for Arizona to begin the real serious preseason preparations.

This gives us a moment to assess who likely goes, who stays and who is hanging on. Of course much can change over the course of the next three weeks, where coach Sigi Schmid and his staff will put the players through the fitness ringer (two-a-days) and begin to evaluate them on a full pitch in 11 v 11 matches.

The Sounders have brought in 40 players to contest for 28 roster spots. Players have about a month to prove they are starters or prove they can play in the MLS.  March 1 is the league deadline for submitting the final roster.

But some may never make it that far. The Sounders are expected to make some player cuts before the team leaves for Arizona as well as throughout the next month.

Hometown boy Sean Morris, for example, drafted by Seattle in the MLS Supplemental Draft, has gone to the Montreal Impact in the USL-1 and won’t be returning to the Sounders.

Defender Julien Baudet, who came to Seattle from the Colorado Rapids via an expansion draft trade, has yet to agree to contract terms and has not participated in preseason, Sounders officials say. His status remains unclear.

So, here’s our take on who is most likely to stay and who is most likely to leave based on a 4-4-2 formation:

The Untouchables (the likely starting 11 against LA barring any injury or trade):

  • Kasey Keller
  • James Riley
  • Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
  • Jeff Parke
  • Leo Gonzalez
  • Osvaldo Alonso
  • Erik Friberg
  • Alvaro Fernandez
  • Steve Zakuani
  • Blaise Nkufo
  • Fredy Montero

The Second Team (some more secure than others):

  • Terry Boss
  • Zach Scott
  • Patrick Ianni
  • Taylor Graham
  • Danny Earls
  • Brad Evans
  • Michael Seamon
  • Michael Fucito
  • Michael Tetteh
  • Nate Jaqua
  • O’Brian White

The Bubble (veterans and rookies who should be concerned about future employment opportunities):

  • David Estrada
  • Roger Levesque
  • Miguel Montano
  • Pat Noonan
  • Tyson Wahl
  • Servando Carrasco, rookie midfielder
  • Alex Caskey, rookie midfielder
  • Leone Cruz, rookie defender
  • Bryan Merideth, rookie goalie
  • Josh Ford, rookie goalie

Invited players getting a good look but it could be brief:

  • Lamar Nagle, midfielder, who has looked sharp and has been invited to the past two Sounders preseasons. He played for the Charleston Battery last year, in the USL-1.
  • Jesus Gonzalez, a defender from California.
  • Jonathan Prieto, midfielder from University California-Irvine.
  • Cole Peverley, midfielder from New Zealand.
  • Edouard Kabamba, forward, from Standard Liege FC, Belgium.

Interesting battles:

In the defense, Wahl, Scott, Graham, Earls and rookie Cruz (who has shown well, so far) are fighting for precious few spots. Tetteh, who is on the team, plays either left back or left mid, so he complicates matters for the others. If Baudet were in the mix, and he could be, I’d say goodbye to Graham, Wahl and Cruz. Baudet’s absence is giving hope to someone.

Veterans Levesque and Noonan could be kicking their last ball for the Sounders. With Noonan’s injuries and his age, it appears his days are numbered especially since Schmid appears to be high on White.

Levesque may have outlived his usefulness as a runner up and down the right flank. The level of technical quality among the team is getting higher; he may have reached his ceiling. Estrada, top pick last year, should be worried, too. He underperformed last year but has been sharp in preseason training. Montano is another one who could go either way, but youth will be on his side. Schmid keeps him.

Of the rookies, Cruz and Carrasco have looked solid and could slip into one of the final slots. Merideth has looked really sharp as a third keeper, but coaches say Ford is working hard, too. Only one will remain. Of the invited players making an impression: Nagle has stood out and Kabamba is highly rated.

FITNESS DAY

For the group of veterans, draftees and invited players, the intensity level has been high over the past three days. Schmid said he is pleased with the overall base fitness levels of the players following their first day of fitness training.

Last year, 24 players went through the fitness test and nine fell below the minimum mark, Schmid said. This year, 31 players took the fitness test and five of them dropped below the minimum mark. Of those five, three were rookies.

“We are really pleased with the overall level of fitness and guys made some good jumps and we are pleased that our overall base level of fitness is higher than it was last year,” Schmid.

That makes Schmid’s job easier and harder at the same time. Fit players battling for a spot will make it difficult to decided who should stay or who  should go — if other factors are equal.


YourThoughts

  • gunndawg

    Zach Scott is terrible, I would drop him and move Leveque up to a solid reserve. Roger has consistently been a top sub for SSFC.

    • Stanley Holmes

      I don’t disagree but he’s better than Tyson Wahl — more versatile — and Wahl is fighting for a left back position where the competition is stiff. I think both players could be gone. Levesque is the hardest working player in the MLS. He has a big heart and an even bigger engine. But he lacks the technical quality that others have and so faces an uphill struggle. He’s defied the odds before, so his hard-working utility could still snag him another year.

      • Scott

        Zach Back-Pass Scott has got to go!

  • gunndawg

    Stanley, Great coverage on the SSFC, thank you. I agree with your assessment of Levesque. Sometimes you have a player that has the motor, not the skill, yet is always in the right spot and finishes goals. Roger isn’t a beautiful player, but he is effective.

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  • trokita

    Let Brad evans go already- we have saw the best he had several years ago.

    • Stanley Holmes

      Evans is going nowhere. He was playing CM with the first team today.

  • trokita

    HA HA (Seen)) !

  • willie

    Wahl, Montano, and Estrada should be kept. Wahl isn’t a left back, he is a central defender. Zach Scott is definitely worse than Wahl. Levesque is very sloppy with the ball on the field but he’ll probably stay. I like Montano and Estrada better than Levesque. I don’t get why people say Estrada underperformed, he didn’t get much playing time and with the playing time he did get I thought he looked really good on the ball.

  • casey

    First I believe we get a total of 30 players, which include the developmental players. see link:
    http://www.mlssoccer.com/2011-mls-roster-rules
    It a bit more complicated re: salary and ability to play but for simplicity let’s come up with 30.

    From the 2nd team I would drop:
    Graham – always injured, hasn’t really shown much in 2 years other than being the defacto spokesman and interpreter. We are deep at CB and with addition of Cruz we should be okay here…gotta give the rookie a chance.

    Scott: not the best defender. With Tettah and earls backing Gonzales, and with Evans ability to play RB and back up Riley I think we’re deep enough to let him go and take a flier on a rookie or invitee. plus Ianni or Parke could play RB as well. We’ll probably keep him though b/c 50+games and needing RB depth. I’d vote him out. If we get injuries we could always pick up somebody later in season….not ideal but I think worth the gamble.

    20 out of 30 then keeping all of the 1st and 2nd team except for Graham and Scott.
    1. Montano: gotta keep him. he looked real dangerous early last year prior to his red card. and he’s only like 19 or 20 years old.
    2. Kabamba: from what I’ve briefly read, this guy is worth taking a flier on…fast, can score and only 24. He’s a keeper.
    3. One if the Keepers: either Ford or Merideth.
    4. Levesque. He works his tail off and with Vagenas gone (finally) we should keep somebody around to lead by example during practices. He’s a great personality for the team…and despite relatively lagging techinical skills he has found a way year in and year out to put the ball in the net when we need him.
    5. Cruz. He’s young and physical from what I’ve gathered. and if he was worth an early pick then we should go with him over Graham and Wahl.
    6. Carrasco. Sounds like he’s a good CDM that could devleop into a Sturgis-esque player. Give him a shot.
    7. Seedy Bah. guy is young at 18 and appears to be a great passer and pretty quick.

    8 – 10. honestly I don’t feel that strongly about the rest. I’m sure we’ll hear more as camp continues.
    So at this point, I’d probably keep Scott just for the depth at RB (having a hard time coming up with more). I’d drop Noonan for salary and injury reasons. I’d probably keep Estrada for a one more chance run at things and see how he does.

    • Stanley Holmes

      Yes, that’s true, but only if the Sounders have a development player, or two, to put on the roster. These dev players have to come through the Sounders Academy, and there are no players yet (program barely a year old) ready to step up. It needs some time.