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They are one of the youngest franchises, the 15th to join the MLS. At the same time, they are one of the oldest clubs in America, as they participated in the golden years of the NASL, collecting no more than two playoffs finals. But if changing the past is impossible, improving your present is still a feasible goal. This is what the Seattle Sounders are working on and, according to recent achievements, the current season could definitely be their year.
Founded or, if you are an NASL nostalgic, reborn in 2008, the Sounders did not take too much time to become one of the leading franchises. The Washington state-based team won three consecutive US Open Cups, the American equivalent of the FA Cup, and has moved forward into the Concacaf Champions League, where they are expected to face Mexican side Santos Laguna. Manager Sigi Schmid, who took up his career in Seattle since the launch of the franchise, has been working with patience and commitment until now, and his efforts may now be awarded.
Such great exploits, however, would not have never been possible without the strong support by the ownership, formed by Hollywood producer Joe Roth, businessman Adrian Hanauer (he also invested $250,000 in Cambridge United a few months before the launch of the Sounders), Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and actor Drew Carey, who has worked as a photographer at the matches played by the US national team.
Being backed by these solid investors coincided, almost naturally, with the opportunity to sign gifted players and, consequently, to be immediately competitive regardless the year of foundation. Ex Arsenal star Freddy Ljungberg was the most remarkable signing, alongside with veterans such as midfielder Peter Vagenas and, especially, Washington-originated goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who played internationally as well as in the English Premier League, in the German Bundesliga and in the Spanish La Liga. Nothing whimsical, as the Sounders used to bring on the Pacific coast names such as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Harry Redknapp during the NASL years.
Three years later, they are no longer members of the first team, who in the meantime raised the personal ranking in the MLS. The Sounders have always centered the Western Conference semi-finals, while they improved their performance in the Champions League reaching the round of 8 in the current season. And, of course, the three US Open Cups in a row should not be forgotten.
Well-furbished in every sector, the Sounders appear to be the ideal antagonist of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Austrian goalie Michael Gspurning, who spent the past four season in the Greek top-flight, overcompensated the void left by Keller’s retirement. The rearguard is strenghtened by the arrivals of Marc Burch and Sweden international Adam Johansson, who will complete a line whose pillar is Patrick Ianni, former MLS Cup winner with Houston Dynamo.
The midfield is undoubtly the added value of the team. Young Congolese Steve Zakuani is expected to come back with great expectations after a painful injury, and Cuban halfback Osvaldo Alonso will certainly try to emulate what he did in the last season, his personal best one since he joined the Sounders.
However, all attentions are going to be driven on three foreigners. Christian Sivebæk, son of former Denmark international John, left his homeland after five years with Midtjylland, one of the best acadamies in Scandinavia. In the dreams of Sounders ownership he will form an excellent side with Uruguayan Álvaro Fernández, who played in the 2010 World Cup, and former young promise Mauro Rosales.
Landed in Seattle just one year ago, the Argentine instantly won the Newcomer of the Year Award and contributed with five goals in 26 appearances. The MLS Cup could be another shining trophy to keep in his personal showcase, as he won domestic competitions in Holland and Argentina and an Olympic gold medal and a Youth World Championship with his national team.
The South American fantasy players should provide their fellow stikers with plenty of assists. Nothing better to desire for Colombian Fredy Montero, who scored 18 goals last season, and new signing Eddie Johnson, who is starving for goals after three disappointing years spent amidst England, Greece and Wales.
That seems to be enough for challening the Galaxy on the domestic soil and, who knows, even on the international stage.