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March 7, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Sounders FC season preview: big games, key questions, player bios

I’ll re-post some of the items from our Sounders FC season preview here. Posted below are five big games to watch, five key questions and some short player bios:

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Saturday vs. Sporting K.C. (NBC Sports Network)

What better way to get rid of 2013’s disappointment than with a home win against the defending champs?

April 5 at Portland Timbers (NBC Sports Network)

The country’s best soccer rivalry took a big swing in Portland’s favor last year. This is the first chance at payback.

July 26 vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (ESPN2)

Could mark the first meeting between Clint Dempsey in Rave Green and Landon Donovan after the stars return from World Cup.

Aug. 2 at San Jose Earthquakes (NBC Sports Network)

Expect a huge crowd at the first game at Levi’s Stadium, the new home of another Seattle rival, the San Francisco 49ers.

Sept. 20 at New York Red Bulls (Ch. 5)

Blowing a lead to the Red Bulls was the start of last season’s collapse; the rematch will be broadcast on NBC proper.


Will a talented group of newcomers fit together?

A wave of offseason moves has the roster flush with quality, but significant changes at every position means the team will likely need time to jell.

What will we see from Clint Dempsey?

Arrived with huge acclaim in August, but his production so far hasn’t matched expectations. Fans of club and country will be paying close attention.

How much will international call-ups affect team?

Last year was riddled with inconsistency, in part by sharing several players with national teams. That challenge will remain through the summer due to the World Cup.

Will the Sounders win any trophies?

Sure, the MLS Cup is the primary aspiration, but the team has also failed to bring home any hardware — e.g. U.S. Open Cup, Cascadia Cup — the past two seasons.

Do nice guys finish first?

Word has been the state of the locker room is much improved, but will a positive attitude and renewed team spirit lead to wins, and maybe that elusive championship?


Goalkeepers (3)

24 Stefan Frei: Newcomer from Toronto is coming off a couple of tough years but will have a chance to become the franchise’s long-term starter.

1 Marcus Hahnemann: The elder statesman of the group (or the league, for that matter) is back for another season with his hometown club.

29 Josh Ford: No. 3 option has had a strong preseason after a couple of years ravaged by injury.

Defenders (9)

12 Leo Gonzalez: Left back is in the final stages of recovery from offseason groin surgery after being the team’s defender of the year in 2013.

4 Jalil Anibaba: Athletic addition from Chicago is transitioning to center back after being a regular for the Fire at right back.

14 Chad Marshall: Newcomer from Columbus is dominant in the air at 6 feet 4, which also makes him a threat to score on free kicks and corner kicks.

17 DeAndre Yedlin: Many eagerly await his encore after being an all-star, rookie of the year finalist in Year 1. Recently earned his first national-team appearance.

18 Djimi Traore: Former Liverpool starter was a solid addition last season and scored some unforgettable goals.

20 Zach Scott: The lone holdover from the lower-league Sounders has been with the team since 2002 and is coming off perhaps his best year.

15 Dylan Remick: Young left back led the team with three assists in preseason and could push for playing time.

31 Damion Lowe: First-round pick has impressive physical tools but will need to refine his game before he’s able to contribute in meaningful minutes.

Jimmy Ockford: Signed with the Sounders as their second-round pick but was immediately loaned to the second-division Cosmos for the 2014 season.

Midfielders (12)

2 Clint Dempsey: Missed the preseason while on loan with Fulham, but boasts world-class talent that could propel this franchise to new heights.

6 Osvaldo Alonso: Four-time team MVP became a designated player with a well-deserved raise in the offseason.

3 Brad Evans: Team captain’s confidence should be at an all-time high after putting himself in good position to make the U.S. World Cup team.

27 Lamar Neagle: Federal Way native can also play forward, where most of his production came in a breakout 2013 season, leading to a new contract.

10 Marco Pappa: Offseason acquisition will add offensive punch from all over the field, primarily the flanks but also in the middle.

5 Andy Rose: Two-way midfielder has focused on becoming more of an offensive threat, and it showed with preseason production.

8 Gonzalo Pineda: Former Mexican international and World Cup veteran signed with the team this week.

7 Tristan Bowen: Ex-Galaxy homegrown player is just 23 but entering his sixth season as a professional.

11 Aaron Kovar: Homegrown player from Seattle has proved especially dangerous providing service with his left foot.

21 Fabio Pereira: The last pick of MLS SuperDraft, No. 77 overall, earned a contract “because of his effort,” coach Sigi Schmid said.

42 Michael Azira: Versatility helped the Ugandan make the team with an ability to play both attacking and defensive roles in midfield and also as a defender.

Shalrie Joseph: MLS veteran is signed but hasn’t been with the team. Expectation is his contract will be bought out before the season begins.

Forwards (6)

9 Obafemi Martins: The prize piece of the position group had a great preseason and, best-case scenario, could make a run at the Golden Boot.

33 Kenny Cooper: Accomplished newcomer (72 career MLS goals) will be called upon to replace the presence and production of departed Eddie Johnson.

19 Chad Barrett: Veteran joins his fifth team in eight years but never sells his team short on effort. Could be steady contributor off the bench.

16 David Estrada: Will look to regain his 2012 form (five goals) after his role was diminished last season.

13 Sean Okoli: Homegrown product from Federal Way was one of the breakout stars in preseason after playing a part in multiple goals, either as the scorer or playmaker.

22 Eriq Zavaleta: The team’s top pick in 2013 has been loaned to Chivas USA for the season and could be converted to defender.

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