Seattle Sounders FC 2018 Season Preview

Although by almost any definition Seattle enjoyed another successful campaign last season, fans’ final memory will be one of complete disappointment. After miraculously managing to beat Toronto FC in in the 2016 MLS Cup Final, Seattle returned to the same scene in 2017 trying to defend their trophy. It would not go as well this time. Seattle were completely outclassed all over the pitch and when the previous season ends with a parade, it can be a little bit underwhelming to be left with nothing but a long, quiet trip home. Still, winning back to back MLS Cups isn’t an easy thing to do and full credit to Seattle for getting back to the final for a second time in a row.

Offseason Grade : C-

There is still some time left, and Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey has hinted a few more additions to the squad, but while those remain to be seen, Seattle’s offseason has been extremely quiet. While teams around them are making moves to strengthen for next season, Seattle seems to have taken a less urgent approach to setting their 2018 roster.

Seattle’s biggest loss is left back Joevin Jones who has already had a fine start to his career in Germany. Last year Joevin chipped in a goal and 11 assists on his way to being arguably the best fullback in the league.

The Sounders lost one of their original players as Brad Evans was signed out of free agency by Sporting Kansas City. The bespoke center back, right back, center midfielder, wide midfielder scored in Seattle’s first ever MLS match. The former Seattle captain has had a difficult few years struggling with injuries and a change of scenery could do wonders for the US international. Evans’ versatility and leadership were crucial to Seattle for many years and he will surely be missed by fans as they wave goodbye to one of the last two players who have been there from the start.

As far as new blood, Seattle have added Waylon Francis who will compete with Nouhou Tolo for the spot vacated by Joevin Jones. Additionally, Norse midfielder Magnus Eikrem was signed using TAM and will be competing for starting minutes in a well stocked Seattle midfield. Eikrem is nominally a #10, but it’s hard to see him unseating Dempsey and will more likely spend time rotating with Victor Rodriguez on the wing opposite Lodeiro.

Key Player: Nicolas Lodeiro

I got a sense from a lot of fans that they felt Lodeiro had a bit of a down season. Insofar as 7 goals and 12 assists can be considered a let down, a look at underlying numbers shows that Lodiero was not just good but elite in Major League Soccer at creating chances. Nobody made more passes in the final third than Lodeiro and with an expected pass completion rate of 64.7%, his actual success rate  69.7% is very impressive indeed. Our friends at American Soccer Analysis are able to show us even more interesting stuff about Lodeiro. Seattle led Major League Soccer last season with 58.33 expected goals and Lodeiro’s xBuildup was 41.5% of that. Lodeiro also had a league leading xChain of 28.43. Seattle’s offense lead the way for producing chances and no person was a bigger part of that than Uruguayan.

2018 Best Case Scenario: MLS Cup

The last two years have shown that Seattle are in the enviable position of considering anything less than MLS Cup a disappointment. The western teams have done a lot of retooling this offseason while Seattle have the luxury of being a little bit more patient with regards to their roster. Expect them to once again start kind of slow out of the gate but go on a tear to end the season.

Bold Prediction: Will Bruin will score more goals than Jordan Morris. Again.

Last season I predicted that Will Bruin would score more goals than Jordan Morris. I was told that I was crazy. I bring this up for no other reason than to point out that I was right you were all wrong. This year I’m going to double down on that one again. I can do that. Right?