Sounders Head Into 2015 Season With Good Shot At MLS Cup
The Seattle Sounders kick off their 2015 season Sunday night. They host the New England Revolution at 6:30 at CenturyLink Field.
The Major League Soccer season begins with a brand new contract between the league and its players’ union.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says there are two significant gains for players in the new deal.
“The biggest thing is they lifted the floor of the minimum wage," he said. "I don’t think a lot of fans appreciate the fact that in MLS the minimum wage was $36,500. That’s below your average teacher’s salary.
“They had to do something more about that because these seasons are incredibly long. I mean, the MLS Cup was in December and here we are starting again.
“So, it’s a long season, it isn’t much money for the entry-level players. They corrected that. The new floor is $60,000 per player, which is sort of livable in Seattle and New York,” Art quipped.
“They also granted some limited free agency to MLS players who’ve been in the league eight years and are 28 years old or older,” Art said.
“That was a big deal because, even though there were not a lot of players represented, there has been no free agency in MLS and now there is.”
Biggest Change: Off The Field
So, the Sounders start the season with a new contract but not much has changed on the field.
“They were a very successful team last year,” Art said. “They had the MLS’ best regular season record. They fell short in the playoffs, again. The LA Galaxy eliminated the Sounders for the third time in five years but there really wasn’t much wrong with the team.”
The biggest change has come in the front office. Art called it “intriguing.”
“They hired Garth Lagerwey to be general manager. Adrian Hanauer, the part owner and former general manager, relinquished his position to concentrate on the Sounders’ business dealings.
“Lagerwey has been given much credit for building Real Salt Lake into a powerhouse in the Western Conference in the smallest market in the country.
"That is really a big deal for the Sounders in terms of talent acquisition. And it’s a way for them to maintain their quality up to this point,” Art said.
Hometown Hero Yedlin Gone
The biggest change on the field is the offseason departure of DeAndre Yedlin. The homegrown superstar from O’Dea High School in Seattle now plays for Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in English Premier League.
“They replaced him with 13-year English Premier League veteran Tyrone Mears,” Art said. “That’s the only lineup change of note.”
Count The Stars
The rest of the Sounders' starting lineup remains pretty much the same as last year.
“Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are the best strike combination in MLS. They’ve come back,” Art said.
Dempsey had a lot of success last year on the Sounders and as the captain of the U.S. men’s national team in the World Cup. And Martins was No. 2 in the voting for most valuable player last year.
Art points out that Dempsey will be around a lot more this season.
“He won’t have much international play to get in his way. There’s no World Cup. There is a (FIFA) Confederations Cup that he’ll be playing in for the U.S. but it’s not nearly as onerous as the World Cup demands,” he said.
“The midfield is still anchored for the seventh year by Ozzie Alonso and the backline has Chad Marshall again, one of the best defenders in MLS last year.”
2015 May Be ‘The Year’
“So there’s a lot to look forward to for Sounders fans," Art said.
"This is a team that was very good a year ago. And with Dempsey around full time, I think they’ve got a real good chance to finally get that MLS Cup.”
You can find Art Thiel’s work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.