By ADAM SERRANO
After a debut season that could only be labeled a smashing success, the Seattle Sounders hope that their sophomore season brings even more glory to the Pacific Northwest. To achieve that glory however, the Sounders will need to find the goals that eluded them in 2009.
Head Coach Sigi Schmid brings back nearly the same squad that won the U.S. Open Cup and narrowly missed qualifying for the Western Conference final. In order to solve the club's goal scoring problem, the Sounders brass signed Swiss International Blaise Nkufo, who will be arriving in Seattle after the World Cup. In the mean time, it will be up to hardworking star Freddie Ljungberg to hold possession and generate offense for the Sounders.
To make up for the deficiencies in the offensive third, the Sounders are built on the defensive foundation created by the play of goalkeeper Kasey Keller and defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. While Ljungberg may generate the offense, Alonso is vital in providing the tireless organization and hard work that keeps the Sounders competitive.
Here is a look at the 2010 Seattle Sounders:
2010 SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Players to Watch– Freddie Ljungberg, Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
Key Arrivals– Blaise Nkufo, Jeff Parke, David Estrada, Miguel Montano
Key Departures– Sebastien Le Toux, Chris Eylander
Projected Lineup (New starters in bold)
BIGGEST QUESTION – Where will the goals come from?
The debut season of the Seattle Sounders was marred by inconsistency in front of net. Too often Sounders attackers were unable to convert the simplest of chances which left the Qwest Field demanding more. For the Sounders to have success, the two "Freds" Montero and Ljungberg will need to form an effective partnership. Too often, the pair of Sounders stars were on the wrong page leading to a stalled Sounders attack. Before Nkufo arrives, the focus will be on Montero to be more consistent particularly in putting shots on net.
X-FACTOR – Steve Zakuani
The first pick of the 2009 SuperDraft, Zakuani displayed the speed and ability to cut through defenses that warranted the first pick in the draft, however, far too often Zakuani's crossing and finishing came up short. In the off season, the speedy winger has hit the weight room to add a physical dimension that his game lacked in his debut season. Zakuani will need to prove that he can capitalize on his scoring opportunities if the Sounders are going to recover from their scoring woes.