TUKWILA, Wash. – From the time last season ended, Osvaldo Alonso knew the Seattle Sounders would look significantly different.
After the Sounders tumbled from the top of the Major League Soccer standings in mid-September to scrambling for a playoff spot by the end of October, the midfield stalwart who has been with the team since its inception in 2009 figured some fallout was inevitable.
“We made some changes, so it is what is,” said Alonso, a four-time team MVP and one of three Sounders with top-tier designated player status. “We have to help our new teammates get ready for the season.”
Those teammates on Saturday – the first day of camp – no longer include goal-scoring threat and U.S. national team member Eddie Johnson (traded to D.C. United), starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (contract option declined) and Mauro Rosales (traded to Chivas USA).
But on a foggy, frosty morning, Seattle’s group did include forward Kenny Cooper (32 goals in the last three seasons combined), two-time MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall (acquired from Columbus), and goalkeeper Stefan Frei (acquired from Toronto).
The Sounders eventually will have three U.S. national team candidates back with the team, as well. Midfielder Brad Evans and defender DeAndre Yedlin are currently in camp with the World Cup-bound American squad. Midfielder and U.S. national team captain Clint Dempsey is on a two-month loan to Fulham of the English Premier League.
Dempsey’s arrival late last August immediately sparked talk of an MLS Cup in Seattle. He wound up with just one goal and no assists in nine games, but coach Sigi Schmid expects better production this season, even though Dempsey will be spending time with the U.S. team until after the World Cup.
“It’s easier than last year because we know what he can bring,” Schmid said. “The guys know him better because they’ve played with him. I have a good idea of where he’s going to plug in.”
Alonso said that this team, even with all of its roster turnover, has to deliver.
“We have a lot of pressure. We have to win MLS,” he said. “We’ve been five years without winning MLS.”