Season two of Major League Soccer has been a turbulent one for Seattle Sounders FC, and with the league’s transfer window set to open Thursday, change could be in the air.
Actually, change has already happened in terms of starting lineups for Seattle, which is off to a 4-8-4 start after making the playoffs in its inaugural season. And it is already known that a new player will be on the field soon for Sounders FC – perhaps as soon as Thursday when Seattle plays at D.C. – when Swiss forward Blaise Nkufo joins the team.
Nkufo’s arrival means at least one player will be sent packing soon, but with the team struggling to find its winning form from last season, more roster moves could be coming.
“There are jobs on the line all the time, so we’ll see,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’ll make the appropriate roster adjustments that we have to do to make that happen. I really couldn’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen at this stage, but certainly that’s something we’re talking about and thinking about.”
There have been rumors that midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, whose contract expires after the season, could be on the move, possibly to New York to join former Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry, who is expected to join the Red Bulls soon. And while Ljungberg said he loved Seattle and has praised the fans, saying “There’s absolutely nothing I can complain about,” he also didn’t give an outright denial that he could be on the move.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Ljungberg, who sat out Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. “It’s the transfer window and my contract is up here in November. We’ll see what happens, we’ll see.”
Even if the roster remains relatively intact between now and the end of the season, don’t expect the starting 11 to stay the same if the struggles continue. After a lineup made up primarily of reserve players won a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal over Los Angeles last week, Schmid rewarded some of those players by starting them in Sunday’s league game against Dallas. Starts for players like Mike Seamon and Patrick Ianni meant a seat on the bench for regulars Peter Vagenas and Tyrone Marshall.
“When you’re struggling, you have to try to look for whatever you can to get a little edge and get back on a winning track,” said Marshall. “It was the coach’s decision, and you’re a professional so you’ve got to live with it and support the guys on the field.”
But while Marshall can accept a coach’s decision to change the lineup, even at his expense, the 35-year-old defender isn’t buying the idea that an infusion of youth is needed for the team to win.
“When they say that, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you put guys out there that are willing to work, one through 11, then it doesn’t matter, youth or whatever. It’s a bunch of malarkey.”
And while a younger lineup did seem to spark the team Sunday, it also led to Seattle playing a man down for most of the second half, allowing Dallas to come back and salvage a tie late in the game. Miguel Montano, a 19-year-old midfielder who started in place of Ljungberg, was red carded in the 57th minute for taking a swing at a Dallas defender who fouled him.
“Obviously when you put energy on the field that’s helpful, but you also live and die by that energy sometimes,” said Schmid, who a day after the game had no qualms with the red card.
“The same energy that had Montano playing well is the same energy that got him tossed, so you live and die with that.”
Young or old, everyone on the Sounders FC roster knows wins need to come in a hurry if there is any hope left for this season.
“Obviously we didn’t expect this to happen, but I still think we can get this ship right and get it going,” forward Nate Jaqua said. “It’s one of those things where we have to figure it out quickly.”