Sounders FC will alter its roster before next season while seeking “that little jump forward” to the top of Major League Soccer.
“I think we’re at a stage right now where we need to add a piece here or there,” coach Sigi Schmid said Monday in a postseason press conference. “Obviously missing guys like Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White and (Mauro) Rosales at key moments for us certainly hurt our team; and having those guys back will help our team. But now we need to take that final jump. Based on the regular season we were the second-best team. We want to be the first team now. We want to go after Supporters’ Shield. We want to go after MLS Cup next year. So we’ve just got to take that little jump forward from here.”
Zakuani said he remains on schedule to return by March, when the Sounders begin their fourth MLS season while also moving into the quarterfinals of CONCACAF Champions League.
However, he also revealed that his recovery from a double break in his right leg has been complicated by a condition called “compartment syndrome.”
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“It’s a very serious issue where your nerves could die,” Zakuani said. “… The leg has been fine for a while; it’s just my nerves issue. … I lost a lot of nerves down my right side. I lost a lot of sensation in my foot; and as a footballer, you need your foot.”
Another of the club’s top offseason priorities will be signing a veteran goalkeeper to replace Kasey Keller, who retired after three seasons as the Sounders top keeper and captain.
His reserves this season were Terry Boss, who has a history of concussions, and rookies Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith.
But Schmid implied none of those is the heir apparent.
“I think we’re looking more for a veteran guy, so I think that will help in terms of that transition,” he said. “… You don’t want the guy thinking about, ‘Oh, I hope I can do this as well as Kasey.’ It’s just a matter of going out there and being yourself and establishing yourself.”
Keller might not be the only high-profile subtraction. Four top players who might draw interest from higher-profile leagues all said Monday that they hope to remain Sounders. Those players are Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and Osvaldo Alonso, along with Rosales, who said he expects to sign a new contract this week.
“I think it’s almost done – we have a few details,” Rosales said. “I will wait a little bit more, but I think in this week everything is going to be news about what it’s going to be. … I don’t want to put a limit in how many years I’m going to be here. I want to be a long time here.”
Three Sounders were named Monday among finalists for MLS awards. Schmid is a coach of the year finalist, along with Bruce Arena of Los Angeles and Peter Vermes of Kansas City. Rosales is a newcomer of the year candidate along with Eric Hassli of Vancouver and Luke Rodgers of New York. Keller is a goalkeeper of the year finalist along with Kevin Hartman of Dallas and Faryd Mondragon of Philadelphia. MVP finalists are Brad Davis of Houston, Dwayne De Rosario of D.C. United and Brek Shea of Dallas. … CONCACAF will hold its draw today to determine pairings for the Champions League quarterfinals in March. Sounders FC will be paired with either Los Angeles (MLS), Santos Laguna (Mexico) or Pumas UNAM (Mexico). … Fernandez said he will not join the Uruguay national team this week because of a hamstring injury suffered last week in the season-ending match against Real Salt Lake. … In other personnel matters, Schmid said no Sounders are scheduled for offseason surgery; that some might train overseas; and that plans are uncertain for 20-year-old forward Miguel Montano, who was loaned to Montreal.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer