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January 20, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Preseason camp starts Monday, but expect a few changes before games kick off

Seattle Sounders FC Logo.jpgThe offseason is just about over.

Sounders FC kicks off its preseason training camp Monday morning and the team could be in action up to the MLS Cup on Dec. 7/8. Yikes. That’s a long time.

In the past few weeks, many fans have noted the imbalance when it comes to departures (Fredy Montero, Jeff Parke, etc.) versus additions (a homegrown signing and two draft picks), but expect a good amount of roster activity before the March 2 opener versus Montreal.

So what’s the timeline for such moves?

“Obviously we’d like to make moves as quickly as possible,” said general manager Adrian Hanauer, “but not if that compromises quality in the decision-making process and negotiations and all the things that go into it. We’re not going to jump to quick decisions.

“We’re talking with a lot of players in a lot of different categories within the roster — whether it’s minimum-salary guys, mid-salary guys, DP’s — in multiple positions, but the process will just sort of happen when it happens. We understand that we have an important Champions League quarterfinal coming up, so we’re cognizant of that. But at the same time, we don’t want to make a quick decision to try and get ready for that (and have that) compromise us as we head into the season and ultimately … toward our big goal, which is winning MLS Cup.”

DP’s huh? That’s something always sure to catch the eye of Sounders FC fans.

I asked Hanauer recently if a summer signing of a DP make be more financially feasible for a salary cap-constrained team. For those who don’t know, the cap hit of a summer DP signing is half that of a preseason DP signing.

“Back to my other answer, which was all of our signings — including a potential DP — will happen when all the factors line up together, which is we’ve got the right player, we’ve had the right quality of contact with that player, and the negotiation has gone appropriately,” he said.

“So it could be this summer. Our transfer window is open for a while, so I would hope that we could get something done prior to the summer window, but no guarantees.”

Some departures should be expected, too, as both Hanauer and coach Sigi Schmid have noted the team is looking to acquire some allocation money.

Heading into the start of preseason camp, Schmid was also asked how he feels about the team.

“I felt last year that we got very close to our ultimate goal, which is to win an MLS Cup,” the coach said. “We’re getting to the point where we’ve learned how to win playoff games. Unfortunately when we lose them, they end up being a little too big a number for us, and we’ve got to eliminate that.

“The team is very close. The ability to have Steve Zakuani there from Day 1 this season, to have Mario Martinez in the group from Day 1 as we begin our first seasonal games and so forth, I think it helps us make a stronger group in the midfield. We’re going to continue to work, continue to make us stronger in all parts of the field, but I feel the nucleus is still there. We were able to keep the nucleus of the team together and I think the spirit and the desire to bring home the MLS Cup is stronger than it’s ever been.”

Don’t forget that DP midfielder Christian Tiffert is another player that will have a whole year with the group, and remember Alvaro Fernandez had a huge leap in production in his first full year after a midseason arrival.

So does Hanauer think this group has the potential to be better than last year’s group, which has already lost its two-time Defender of the Year in Parke (traded to Philadelphia) and is set to lose the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in Montero (close to officially joining Colombia’s Millonarios on loan)?

“Look, we wouldn’t have done (what we’ve done) and we wouldn’t be in the process of doing some of the things we’re doing if we didn’t think that,” Hanauer said. “Ultimately, our goal is to have an even better team than we had this past year, so I’m confident, but I’m also not one to let confidence turn into cockiness. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and ingenuity and good timing and, frankly, a little luck, which everybody needs to get there. But that’s what the ultimate goal is.”


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