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MLS 2011 Preview: Seattle Sounders Have Eyes On Multiple Prizes

How do you see the starting lineup shaking out?

Whether you call it a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 doesn't matter, as the Seattle Sounders will certainly use a target forward as they are three deep this season (as opposed to one in 2010) and the wingers will be as high as withdrawn forward Fredy Montero both offensively and defensively. Seattle will return to the CDM/CM pairing (likely Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso) rather than last season's less preferred CDM/CDM paring of Alonso and Nate Sturgis. There are several players who could slide in as starters as well with Patrick Ianni, Erik Friberg, Nate Jaqua, O'Brian White and even Mike Fucito offering Sigi options late in training camp. Danny Earls and Michael Tetteh should see starts in League play as well.

Which new player(s) will have biggest impact?:

No new players in the starting lineup but O'Brian White and Erik Friberg should get a lot of playing time. White could challenge as the comeback player of the year, except that he'd be coming back from high expectations and merely average performance.

Which player(s) loss will be felt the most?

Sanna Nyassi, not for his talent on the pitch but because of how that will adjust substitution patterns. This will shift the speed quotient on the right as Seattle starts the slower but much more technically capable Alvaro Fernandez with speed demons like Mike Fucito and O'Brian White as late substitutes.

At what point is this season considered success?

Seattle fans expect trophies, but this year it better be more than an Open Cup. An MLS Cup Final appearance is probably good enough, or a final week possibility at the Supporters' Shield. If Seattle gets 50-plus points, goes deeper in the Playoffs and makes the Group Stage of the CCL things will be just fine, though frustrating.

Whose performance do you think will be most indicative of the season as a whole?

Brad Evans. Last year his time as a forward probably showed how frustrating the game can be. He missed wide open shots from spaces that he created through brilliant runs. If in 2011 his late runs into the box result in goals, or he gets assists from shifting the attack from wing to wing at the top of the circle, Seattle will be a dangerous team finally realizing its capability in the attack.

What is the expectation for the Sounders in the CCL?

With a deep lineup that has speed on the offense and solid defenseive options Seattle has the opportunity to break out of the Group Stages, though their success will be determined by whoever is the keeper. Most Sounders fans see a very deep team, and since the Open Cup and CCL are so much about depth, the team has the opportunity to do things that few MLS sides do. The first 70 minutes in Monterrey showed that Seattle has the depth to win in Mexico. The next six showed that those dreams end quickly.

Who will win the Cascadia Cup?

Seattle, handily. While this Cascadia derby will get a ton of hype that will only be because of what is happening off the pitch. During the two-year head start Adrian Hanauer built a team challenging for multiple major trophies while the goals of the other Cascadia sides is to hopefully make the MLS Cup Playoffs. Think of it this way: How many non-Sounders would be on a Cascadia Best XI? Jay DeMerit, Kenny Cooper and... yeah, that's it. Even on in the second XI for a Cascadia team it would include as many Sounders as the other two teams, but with Seattle being clearly better up the spine in both of those exercises I expect at least seven points in the 4 matches.

- Report by Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart (Seattle Sounders blog)