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Changes Afoot For Sounders After MLS Break

SoundersMorrisAfoot.jpg
Ted S. Warren
/
AP Photo
Seattle Sounders' Jordan Morris makes a shot on goal against the Columbus Crew in the second half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat the Crew 1-0.

 

The Seattle Sounders head into a two-week Major League Soccer break on a high note. They beat D.C. United on Wednesday, giving them their first road win of the season and breaking a three-game losing streak.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says changes are coming soon that could help the Sounders turn their season around.

A Sign Of Things To Come?

Thiel said it took 13 games for the Sounders to get a win on the road. "That really is a bad sign when you're thinking 'Is this a playoff team?'"

"They're four points shy of the final playoff spot and we don't have to worry about that until October but it gives you an idea that they're not doing well this season. A lot of it has to do with the changing personnel," he said.

Changes And Absences

"Certainly losing three games in a row, as they did before [Wednesday's] game, was causing some grumbling in the fan base. And, I think, a lot of it had to do with some absences," Thiel continued.

"Clint Dempsey did not play because of international duty, nor was Nelson Valdez available. And Chad Marshall, probably their best defender, was out with an injury. So they are short-handed and I do think that's going to change.

"There's a transfer window coming up starting July 4th and they're going to be acquiring players. General Manager Garth Lagerwey has already said they're going to pursue a Designated Player, which is an international player who can be paid a lot more money than everyone else on the club.

"That would be the replacement, financially, for Obafemi Martins who left before the season, abruptly, for China. They've also got allocation money available for another player who would be, presumably, a starter. And also they're getting Roman Torres, a Panamanian who was a big part of the second-half of last season, who's been hurt," Thiel said.

MLS Breaking For International Tournament

Those changes are expected to happen in July.  In the meantime, the MLS is breaking for the Copa America Centenario.

"What's happening here is this very cool tournament that's never been held in the U.S. before," Thiel said. "It's completely in the U.S. - 10 cities - and Seattle gets to host three games, starting Saturday. Teams from Haiti and Peru will be playing Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.

There's going to be another game on June 14 with Argentina vs. Bolivia. That's going to be a special occasion because Argentina is the favored team, among the 16 in the field, and they're bringing the world's best player, Lionel Messi.

"He's very good, a lot of fun. I think there are many fans here who are going to be excited to watch him play. He's been here for friendlies with his club Barcelona. But he's going to be representing the national team [on June 14]."

Copa Good For The Casual Fan

Thiel said Copa is a big deal.

"It's not as big as the World Cup but it's meaningful for all the nations who are participating and you're going to see full-throttle play. I think a lot of casual soccer fans should really look at that Argentina-Bolivia game.

"I've heard that there are several hundred fans coming from Tierra del Fuego, which is the tip of the South American continent, and they're coming all the way to Seattle to watch their team. So, it should be really colorful and a lot of fun. If people are new to soccer, they should really pay attention to this.

"And then, on June 16, the U.S. Men's National Team is likely to play here. We don't know who the participants are in the quarterfinal game but if it's the U.S. Men's National Team [with Sounders star Clint Dempsey], it'll be a rare treat to see them in Seattle."

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

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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