Following an off-season filled with acquisitions and trades, Seattle Sounders FC plays Santos of Mexico in its first competitive match of the 2012 season Wednesday.
Seattle Sounders FC launches its competitive schedule at 7 p.m. Wednesday with a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match against Mexico’s Santos Laguna at CenturyLink Field. The clubs will meet again March 14 in Torreon, Mexico, before the Sounders return to the Clink to open their MLS schedule against Toronto FC March 17.
In anticipation of the CONCACAF match, the Sounders made numerous acquisitions — the team’s technical director, Chris Henderson, played a major role in the roster shuffle — and trades during the off-season in order to better equip itself for a run at a CONCACAF championship as well as an MLS title.
Most significantly, the Sounders added goalkeeper Michael Gspurning as a replacement for the retired Kasey Keller, defender Marc Burch, Swedish defender Adam Johansson, striker Eddie Johnson and Danish midfielder Christian Sivebaek.
Here are the new Sounders (with dates of acquisition, how acquired and former club): G Michael Gspurning (Dec. 7, free agent, Skoda Xanthi); D Marc Burch (Dec. 12, re-entry stage 2, D.C. United); D Adam Johansson (Dec.12, free agent, Göteborg); M Christian Sivebaek (Jan. 11, free agent, Midtjylland); D Andrew Duran (Jan. 12, SuperDraft); F Babayele Sodade (Jan. 12, SuperDraft); D Tim Pontius (Jan. 17, supplemental draft); M Andy Rose (Jan. 17, trade from Real Salt Lake); F Cordell Cato (Jan. 18, free agent, Defence Force FC); F Eddie Johnson (Feb. 17, trade from Montreal); G Andrew Weber (March 2, free agent).
These are the goners: G Kasey Keller (Nov. 2, retired); D James Riley (Nov. 23, to Chivas USA, via expansion draft); D Tyson Wahl (Nov. 23, trade to Montreal); GK Terry Boss (Dec. 22, retired); D Taylor Graham (Dec. 2, retired); F Nate Jaqua (Dec. 12, re-entry stage 2, New England); F Pat Noonan (Dec. 12, re-entry stage 2, L.A. Galaxy); M Erik Friberg (Dec. 12, transfer, Malmö); F Mike Fucito (Feb. 17, trade to Montreal); M Lamar Neagle (Dec. 17, trade to Montreal).
The new Sounders listed above are first-team players expected to have the largest roles with the club this season. Alan Hinton, who provides his observations below, coached the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League and is one of the most respected soccer figures in the Pacific Northwest:
MARC BURCH / 6-1, 185, Defender
A veteran of 103 regular-season MLS matches, Burch is a left back who can add to Seattle’s attack while focusing mainly on defending. When the Sounders acquired Burch, he said, “I fight and battle for every ball on every play, for every minute of the game. I want to be a role player and if I can stand out, I will stand out when I can.”
A six-year MLS veteran, Burch made 81 starts in 103 regular-season appearances. In 2011, he played in 17 games, starting 11, in 2011. He has three career goals and 10 assists.
Once a standout at Maryland, Burch was drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second round of the 2006 SuperDraft, then traded to Columbus later that season, where he played for Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. Columbus swapped Burch to D.C. United in 2007.
Hinton’s Take: He’s going to be a left fullback or central defender and he’ll be challenging Leo Gonzalez. It’s always healthy for the coach to have that kind of competition. He has a very good lef foot. He’s a good defender and he’s good in the air.
CORDELL CATO / 5-9, 150, Forward
The 19-year-old Cato is a native of Trinidad and Tobago and was selected to his country’s squad for the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championships. He most recently played with Port of Spain’s Defence Force FC. Cato joined that club as a youth before moving to San Juan Jabloteh FC.
Cordell gives the Sounders a lot of athleticism and youth.
“Cordell provides speed and versatility. He can play on the flank and up front,” said Schmid. “He’s a young player with a good future.”
Hinton’s Take: He’s got a lot of speed and he’s raw. He needs to settle into the system and impress on a day-to-day basis to give himself a chance to play.
MICHAEL GSPURNING / 6-5, 209, Goalkeeper
Kasey Keller’s replacement, Gspurning (pronounced guh-SHPURN-ing), 30, has been capped three times by Austria and played the past four seasons for Skoda Xanthi of Greece’s top flight. Gspurning made 96 career appearances in the top leagues in Austria and Greece and was a two-time All-Star in Greece’s Super League.
“We like Michael’s background and pedigree. We like his size. He’s got good feet so we can play through him and he’s very good on crosses, takes good angles and has good hands,” said Schmid.
Hinton’s Take: He has a very charming personality. He respects the fact that replacing Kasey Keller, and that he has to establish himself as his own man. When we’re on offense, he’ll be about 20 yards further out from his goal than Kasey was. He’s superior on crosses. So far, he’s done everything they want him to. He wants to do well here.”
ADAM JOHANSSON / 5-11, 165, Defender
Johansson played the past seven seasons for IFK Goteborg, making 129 appearances (two goals). He has played nine times with the Swedish National Team.
“He has been a mainstay at Goteborg for years and we are very happy to add him to our defense,” said Henderson. “His leadership and experience are going to be a great compliment to the growth of our team.”
In 2009, Johansson made his full international debut for Sweden in a friendly against the United States at Carson, CA., and later started in three World Cup qualifiers, playing the left and right side. His ninth and most recent cap came against Cyprus in February 2011.
EDDIE JOHNSON / 6-0, 180, Forward
A veteran of 41 appearances with the U.S. national team, Johnson (12 goals in those competitions), became available to Seattle after he was selected by Montreal with the No. 1 pick in the MLS allocation process. To get him, the Sounders sent promising youngsters Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to Montreal.
“He is a high-quality striker who is a very good finisher,” said Henderson. Johnson scored eight goals in nine FIFA World Cup qualifying appearances, and is the only U.S. player to score a hat trick coming off the bench (Oct. 13, 2004).
Johnson is one of the most prolific scorers in U.S. Youth National Team history, tallying 37 career goals in 51 international games with the U-17s, U-20s and U-23s.
Hinton’s Take: I always used to have a format: If you’ve lost your way, you still have a chance. Eddie fits that profile, of a player who has not been happy the last few years with the club’s he’s been with. But he’s only 27 and he’s not been injured. I think Seattle is ready to embrace him. I think he’ll find a real home here. He’s going to be a star player. He’s got a wonderful soft touch on the ball, he’s quick and he’s good in the air. He has all the credentials.
CHRISTIAN SIVEBAEK / 6-3, 195, Midfielder
Playing for Midtjylland in Denmark’s Superliga, Sivebaek appeared in 80 league matches between 2006-11, scoring six goals. “He’s a good one versus one dribbler who can provide consistent quality to our strikers. He has good speed and physical presence,” said Henderson.
“I am looking forward to playing in MLS and for one of the best and biggest teams in America,” Sivebaek said after signing. “I am very impressed by the professionalism of the club, the high quality of players and staff, and the great number and passion of their fans.”
Hinton’s Take: He’s got good feet, he’s strong and he’s quick, but he’s going to have to break into the team. I think he’ll put a lot of the stars under pressure because he’s a good player. I don’t think he’ll start, but he’s got the potential to come in and do a good job off the bench.
BABAYELE SODADE / 6-3, 183, Forward
Sodade scored 29 career goals at Alabama-Birmingham, including 13 as a senior in 21 matches. He’s on temporary duty with the Canadian national team.
“Sodade is a big presence up front, he’s got good pace,” said Schmid. “He showed well at the combine. He’s had a good career at UAB and he’s the kind of player who could be a surprise guy like (Sporting Kansas City forward) C.J. Sapong was last year.”
Seattle Sounders FC 2012 Schedule
|4/7||at DC United||4:30||KING||—||—||—|
|5/9||at FC Dallas||5:30||KING||—||—||—|
|6/30||vs. New England||4:30||KING||—||—||—|
|7/15||at New York||1:00||ESPN||—||—||—|
|8/11||at San Jose||7:30||KING||—||—||—|
|9/2||at FC Dallas||4:00||KING||—||—||—|
|10/28||at LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer