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January 3, 2012 at 1:41 AM

POLL: Which position group concerns you the most?

Seattle Sounders FC Logo.jpgThe Sounders FC roster has undergone a fair amount of change since the end of the season and will continue to for the next couple months. But now seems like a good enough time to take a closer look at the squad by position.

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GOALKEEPERS Returning: Josh Ford, Bryan Meredith. New addition: Michael Gspurning. Departures: Kasey Keller, Terry Boss.

Overview: Things are pretty straightforward when it comes to the No. 1 spot: Keller has retired, Gspurning takes over. Issues arise, however, when it comes to the backup and third-string ‘keepers due to the unfortunate and unexpected retirement of Boss. The team will almost certainly only carry three goalkeepers in 2012, and while officials say they’re pleased with Ford and Meredith, both are young and only in their second years. Will they be the backups? Will just one? And if so, will he be the No. 2 or No. 3? Coach Sigi Schmid has indicated that another goalkeeper, potentially an MLS veteran, will be in camp at the start of preseason, which will provide for some healthy competition. But with 45-some games projected next season, more than one will need to play and play some important minutes.

DEFENDERS: — Returning: Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Michael Tetteh. New additions: Adam Johansson (Marc Burch is expected to sign). Departures: James Riley, Tyson Wahl, Taylor Graham.

Overview: Three of the starters appear to be pretty clear-cut: Parke, Hurtado and Johansson. The top options at left back, as it stands right now, are Gonzalez and Burch, but neither is the cause of too much excitement. The former wasn’t the first choice for the Sounders last season (MLS minutes went 2-to-1 to Wahl) and the latter was acquired through the re-entry process (meaning one team, in this case D.C. United, opted against keeping him). And Tetteh, at least for now, remains a question mark heading into his second year. At right back, the team seems confident that Johansson will be an upgrade. They’d been tracking him for a while, which makes me think the move wasn’t just about filling the hole of the departed Riley and would’ve happened regardless. Ianni and Scott provide above-average depth.

It should be said that this position group was arguably the weak link of 2011 — though, to be fair, that could be a function of playing with the league’s top offense. 37 goals allowed in 34 games isn’t disastrous by any stretch, but GM Adrian Hanauer has stated a hope of getting that average under a goal per game. Lastly, a few guys have had their knocks the past couple seasons, could the group survive an injury and still play at a championship level?

MIDFIELDERS Returning: Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Alvaro Fernandez, Steve Zakuani, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle, Servando Carrasco, David Estrada, Michael Seamon, Amadou Sanyang. New additions: Neither move is official, but the team has reportedly agreed to terms with Cordell Cato and Christian Sivebaek. Departures: Erik Friberg, Miguel Montano.

Overview: Friberg represents one of the biggest losses of the offseason. His versatility helped all over the field throughout the year, but the Sounders have the personnel to make up for it. A starting four of Rosales-Alonso-Fernandez-Evans would be superior to perhaps every other unit in the league. And that depth allows Zakuani to get back at his pace.

Neagle and Carrasco each provide quality off the bench and should be counted on to continue those positive contributions in Year 2. This could be a last chance for guys like Estrada and Seamon to prove their worth and perhaps Sanyang too, though we’ve only seen glimpses of him so far. If the Cato and Sivebaek deals go through, I expect them to start out as reserves. Injuries again will be a concern with this group. Though if they stay healthy, the main issue might be finding playing time for everyone.

FORWARDS Returning: Fredy Montero, Sammy Ochoa, Mike Fucito, O’Brian White, Roger Levesque. New additions: None. Departures: Nate Jaqua, Pat Noonan.

Overview: Montero is the main man, yet again, and finding a consistent, reliable partner remains the familiar issue. White started off as such in 2011, but he’s still on the road back from the blood clot issues. Ochoa was protected in the expansion draft and would appear to have the slight edge over Fucito on the depth chart, but both will likely get their minutes. The question is: Is it enough? Will anyone besides Montero be a game-changer in 2012? Each complement had his moments last year, but will someone be able to provide six or seven goals?

As a side note, with the departures of Jaqua and Noonan, Levesque is the only one over 26 years old — and I only put him in this group to make the numbers somewhat even. The ever-versatile Levesque could also be listed as a midfielder (maybe a defender, too, but I’ll assume for now that the right-back experiment is on hold). Some veteran savvy and experience could be lacking amid the youth. Though to be fair, such veteran savvy and experience didn’t translated into many goals in 2011 either. Lastly, guys like Rosales, Neagle and Zakuani could see some time up high in a pinch.

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There’s my breakdown, now it’s your turn…

Which position group concerns you the most for 2012?


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The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

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