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Sounders start fifth season 'in flux'

The Seattle Sounders begin their fifth season Saturday night at home against the Montreal Impact. 

The Sounders have made some changes in the offseason. And according to KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel, there are a lot of things still up in the air.

Out with the old and in with the...even older

Two key players left the Sounders in the offseason. The team traded their two-time Defender of the Year, Jeff Parke, to his hometown club of Philadelphia.

And they loaned career goals leader Fredy Montero to the Millonaires FC in his native Colombia. Art explains what happened there.

"Basically they were unhappy with Montero's inability to deliver in the playoffs. He's had concentration lapses and energy lapses. Very good player, spectacular goals but, clearly, if he would've meshed with Eddie Johnson, their other striker, he'd probably still be here."

New players not so new

"They've got two new guys who, basically, are over the hill - as the imports often are. Shalrie Joseph is a guy who's been a seven-time MLS All-Star but he's 34 and out of shape. He is a good friend of Eddie Johnson and I think that's a part of bringing him here. And then another import is Djimi Traore, who spent eight years with Liverpool in England. But he's 32 but he just flew in this week so he hasn't trained with the team. I don't expect either of them to play."

Key player out for opener

The Sounders' MVP from last year, Osvaldo Alonso, is sitting out the opener. He was suspended for one game following an altercation with referees last November when the Sounders were eliminated from the playoffs by the LA Galaxy.

"So, I think it's going to be a little awkward and uncomfortable for Sounders fans for the first month or so."

Hot pursuit of hot DP

The Sounders are trying to negotiate the acquisition of 28-year-old Obafemi Martins of Nigeria as a designated player. He's playing for a team in Spain right now. That team is in the playoffs and doesn't want to lose Martins. The Sounders are trying to throw enough money at the team to win them over.

Art hopes they're successful.

"Martins could be a real difference maker as the season moves on."

So, what's a designated player?

"A team can have up to three designated players. And they are players that each team can spend over the salary cap to hire. They don't (typically) come to Seattle because it isn't LA and because this is an artificial turf field. The Sounders can't do anything about it but they won't get the premiere guys."

Outlook for season

Art says the Sounders may get off to a rough start this season, but there's hope.

"I think the first month is going to not be pretty as they try to integrate these new guys. But they do have a solid young core of players led by Andy Rose that, if they improve incrementally, as most young players do, will still be a playoff team, will still be a contender. But I'm thinking they still will be a bridesmaid."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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