Sounders begin offseason after a frustrating end to a promising year
Changes, perhaps extensive ones, look to be in store for the Sounders after another underwhelming postseason performance.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Books. Documentaries. TV specials.
Once again, the Sounders FC franchise was a widely celebrated success this season from a business and branding perspective, earning vast acclaim even from non-soccer sources.
On the field, however, the team has gone another year without the lone prize fitting for its record achievement in attendance, merchandise sales and relevance in the local marketplace — an MLS Cup.
Stars were brought in at a high price, but an underwhelming playoff performance continues to be the Sounders’ downfall.
“It’s disappointing,” coach Sigi Schmid said after a 5-3 aggregate loss to rival Portland in the Western Conference semifinals, having been four goals down in the series at one point.
What else is there to say?
Seattle’s season, disjointed with injuries, international call-ups and marred by a disastrous collapse the last five weeks, ended well short of expectations — again. The team has advanced out of the conference semifinals just once in five years and held a meaningful lead in just 72 of its 1,200 playoff minutes.
Having the season end against the Timbers didn’t help, as the Sounders lost three straight games to Portland in the past month.
All that is left to do is look forward. Additions and subtractions, possibly extensive ones, are anticipated.
“We’ll meet with players ... and we’re going to make our plans for next year,” said Schmid, whose own future could be in jeopardy. “Every year the group changes a bit, so there will be some changes in the group again. We’ve got to become a little more consistent than we were this year.”
Among the players awaiting decisions are Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales, Steve Zakuani, Michael Gspurning and Marcus Hahnemann. All are believed to be out of contract or going into team-held option years, and other teammates are likely in similar situations.
Some were optimistic looking ahead to 2014.
“I would love to continue my career in Seattle,” said Evans, who had a big year individually, breaking into the U.S. national team and becoming captain for the Sounders. “Hopefully things work out and we get something settled.”
Johnson and Rosales have also expressed interest in coming back.
Others were measured.
“I’ve loved being here for two years,” said Gspurning, who had a rollercoaster past few weeks in goal. “You never know in soccer.”
One was uncertain.
“I don’t know if I’m coming back,” said Hahnemann, a 41-year-old veteran who competed for the starting goalkeeper job late in the year. “I need to decide quickly.”
However the Sounders end up looking, they can be sure that championship expectations will remain until the team’s record support is equally rewarded.
• Evans has been offered the chance to serve as King County Sheriff for a day. The idea was first set in motion when Sounders fans organized write-in support for the Sounders midfielder in the sheriff’s race during this week’s elections.
Incumbent winner John Urquhart took notice of the opposition and proposed the idea of Evans serving for a day if Seattle came back to beat the Timbers in the playoffs. Urquhart then tweeted Friday that the offer still stood despite the Sounders’ elimination.
• The Sounders-Timbers series was the only one of four conference semifinals that didn’t go to extra time. The 25 combined goals were most in MLS history for the round since the playoff format changed to two-game, aggregate-goals series in 2003. The eight goals between Seattle and Portland were the league’s most for a series that ended after 180 minutes.
• Nine of the Sounders’ 11 postseason goals have come after the 55th minute.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers