Keeping Sounders FC together is key to long-range success
Keeping the core of the team intact is crucial for Sounders FC, players say.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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RENTON — Sounders FC achieved unexpected success its first season with a group of players that had never played together.
The players say the first year brought everyone closer together, a belief shared by the front office. To the point that the team Seattle fans saw on the pitch last season is almost the same outfit in training camp for Year Two.
There are new faces — rookies and trialists now, and more players will be added as camp goes on — but the club clearly didn't feel the need to revamp the roster after a 2009 season that included a playoff spot and a U.S. Open Cup championship.
"We're a deep team, and having the core guys that you can keep together for a while is really what's important to make a team that's consistently good over the years," forward Nate Jaqua said.
That's Sounders FC's plan — to get good and stay good. The club is off to a strong start toward that goal, and the return of its top scorers, playmakers, defenders and goalkeeper was a priority in the offseason. Sounders FC protected all four of its All-Stars from last season from the expansion draft — Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg, Kasey Keller and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — and retained its starting defense, midfield and forwards.
"We know what we did last year. We were very close," defender Tyrone Marshall said. "We just need to add a few more pieces to the puzzle, and hopefully those pieces can help us get past the first round (of the playoffs). And if that can happen, the sky's the limit."
Those pieces could include some scoring punch to help Montero, and depth in the midfield. The strength of Sounders FC was in its back four in 2009, along with Keller, and all of those players are back — James Riley, Marshall, Hurtado and Leo Gonzalez.
"This puts another year on our belt of us playing together. We know all our strengths and weaknesses," Marshall said. "We know what it's going to take to get us to the next level."
Jaqua recalled the Houston Dynamo teams in recent years on which he played that won Major League Soccer titles with a core of players that started together in San Jose before the franchise relocated.
"The goal is always to win a championship," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. "But the other part of the goal that has really changed for us is now establishing a consistent approach. We want to be there every year. We don't want to be a fly-by-night, where we're there one year and then we're down for a couple of years. We want to establish a real good rhythm and a real good core and a body of work that allows us to be amongst the elite teams year after year."
Season tickets going fast
Sounders FC said Wednesday it will cap season-ticket sales at 32,000, and has less than 1,000 season tickets remaining. The season-ticket package is for 15 MLS games plus three international friendlies at Qwest Field.
The team capped season-ticket sales at 22,000 last season, and 96 percent of those ticket buyers renewed for 2010. Capacity at Qwest Field will go up to nearly 36,000, as upper-bowl loge seats have been added to the configuration for regular-season play. Sounders FC averaged 30,943 fans in 2009, setting an MLS record for average attendance.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
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