The Sounders have made the MLS playoffs in their first year in the league, and it’s about time certain players got the credit that’s due to them, for better or worse.
Kasey Keller – I think every member of the Sounders’ fandom knows that Keller is a great goalie. Even then, I think it’s quite possible that the man is undervalued. He has acted as team captain and played the role to perfection, especially after disappointing losses. After seeing him play this year, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for him to stay with the team for a few more years.
Fredy Montero – Montero went through all sorts of ups and downs, going from scoring three goals in his first two games to being accused of rape and not scoring again for weeks. He hit another lull in the clincher against Kansas, missing a couple of easy shots. That said, he has been the guy for the Sounders when they’ve needed a goal, and is by far their biggest threat from outside the box.
Freddie Ljungberg – Fredy and Freddie almost have to be talked about together. Almost any conversation involving one involves the other. Freddie may not be wearing the captain armband, but he was most certainly a leader on the team, and has been the best at picking up the team’s intensity after a string of bad luck.
Osvaldo Alonso – Like Ljungberg, this team didn’t function nearly as well when Alonso was out. The subject of early MVP talk, Alonso is arguably the best player on the team.
James Riley – For Seahawks fans just getting familiar with the beautiful game, Riley may look a little bit like Hawks star Marcus Trufant. Riley is the star cornerback of the Sounders, and should be a defensive cornerstone for years to come.
Tyrone Marshall – Marshall was the glue that held a relatively inexperienced defensive group together. Like LjungbergFreddie and AlonsoOsvaldo for the midfield, the defense just didn’t play to the same level without the old man of the bunch.
Leonardo Gonzalez – Gonzalez came in halfway through the season and immediately solidified the left side of the field after a valiant job by his predecessor. His biggest contribution may have been on offense, where he was able to steal balls and push them up the field quickly.
Sebastiean Le Toux – Is there a more energizing player in the league? Whenever Le Toux entered a game, the momentum immediately blew in favor of the Sounders. He supplied such a spark to every game in which he played in that I’m shocked he didn’t take more playing time from other players.
Steve Zakuani – The first pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Zakuani quickly made a case for a starting position with his quick feet and strong leg. Beating defenders 1-1 became more a tradition than a random occurrence.
Sigi Schmid – The Sounders would not be the Sounders without Schmid. The winningest coach in MLS history took his first chance to put his own team together from scratch and turned it into an Open Cup and a playoff berth. I’m excited to see what he does with this team next year and in years to come, as he joins a league of Seattle coaches including Mike Holmgren, Lenny Wilkens, and Lou Piniella
The Bench – Some players only got a few oppourtunities to make a difference, but should be recognized nonetheless. Remember Patrick Ianni’s bicycle kick goal? What about Roger Levesque’s Open Cup winner? How about the stellar play by Tyson Wahl before Gonzalez took over at the position? Perhaps the best part of the season was watching the little guys make big plays.
The Fans – Thirty-two thousand can’t be wrong. Way to go Seattle, setting attendance records and creating the best home atmosphere in MLS.
Peter Vagenas – Vagenas is undoubtablyundoubtedly the most overpaid player on the team. Supposedly he manages a game well, but any touches that go to Vagenas almost inevitably end in disaster. His passes make him seem colorblind, his clearances don’t leave his personal space, and he is a complete liability on defense. Play anybody in his position, just not Vagenas.
Nate Jaqua – You wouldn’t know by watching him that he had the second most goals on the team. He can’t head the ball, he can’t pass the ball, he can’t outrun defenders, and for a guy his size, he sure gets bullied off the ball a lot. The team would be better served playing Le Toux or Levesque throughout the postseason. Jaqua actually seemed to play well before the friendly against Chelsea, but since then he has not been the same player.