In its ongoing run of two games per week, Sounders FC is getting plenty of opportunity to develop young players.
And while that helps, there also is the frustration of knowing that one or two of those players will likely blossom for the Portland Timbers or Vancouver Whitecaps.
Under the rules of the Major League Soccer expansion draft, which will be held Nov. 24, each of the 16 existing teams will protect 11 players. The rest of the roster becomes available for selection by the incoming clubs. Once a player is selected, his former team can protect one additional player. Then all the players not among the 12 protected are again subject to selection. No team can lose more than two players.
“We talk about it every day,” Sounders technical director Chris Henderson said Wednesday, as the club resumed training for its regular-season visit from Chivas USA. “The Portland coaches are all coming to watch the game Friday night. We expect with our roster we’re going to lose two guys – that’s the expectation.
“We went through it last year, and it’s so disappointing. You lose a guy who’s been with the organization so long, and he’s such a good player. It’s great to see him doing well because he came from us, but it’s hard to lose somebody. We’re trying to pick the right guys, but you never know.”
Last season, the Sounders lost Sebastien Le Toux to the first-year Philadelphia Union. And then Seattle had to settle back and watch as the forward blossomed into an All-Star and the Union’s leader in goals (13) and assists (10).
However, there was no clear mistake among the players the Sounders protected: Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Kasey Keller, Freddie Ljungberg, Tyrone Marshall, Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani. All went on to start games this season, and all remain possible starters when healthy – with the exceptions of Marshall, who has lost his starting job, and Ljungberg, who was traded.
Ljungberg was the club’s only designated player last season. Now there are two: Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez.
Among those players, only Marshall and Fernandez were in the all-reserve starting lineup Tuesday, when Seattle defeated Chivas de Guadalajara, 3-1, in a friendly.
The other starters – most of whom will be unprotected – were goalkeeper Terry Boss, defenders Zach Scott, Taylor Graham and Tyson Wahl; midfielders David Estrada, Mike Seamon and Roger Levesque; and forwards Michael Fucito and Nate Jaqua.
The latter pair have made the most of their opportunities in nonleague games. Jaqua was named player of the tournament for the recent U.S. Open Cup, won by the Sounders. And Fucito scored the first goal and assisted on the second Tuesday.
“I thought he did well,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “ ... I thought in the first half he was very dangerous.”
Fucito could be one of the most fascinating decisions when it comes time for the Sounders to submit their expansion list, one day after MLS Cup.
So could Sanna Nyassi, who has quickly evolved from a player with potential into the most sizzling Sounders starter, with five goals in his past four games.