The year could have ended with an MLS Cup, another early playoff exit or — like it did — somewhere in between.
Sounders FC’s offseason plans weren’t going to change much.
“We’re still going to look holistically at where we’re at and try to get better next year and try to put together a team that can win a championship,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said after Sunday’s season-ending series defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference finals.
With the arrival of the offseason, Hanauer said the next few days would be “a bit of an autopsy,” but the team, he noted, is continually in the process of scouring the globe for players and evaluating its current roster and contract situations.
So what will be different in 2013?
Well, the Sounders’ didn’t win a major trophy this season for the first time in franchise history. As a result, the team didn’t qualify for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League, which means there will be four fewer games on next year’s schedule.
Hanauer indicated the lighter workload might lead to Seattle investing more in the quality of its top 11 to 14 players and less in its depth.
“But that’s really subtle, and it’s based on what opportunities arise,” he said. “It’s hard to just snap your fingers and say all of a sudden now I’m trying to go from 18 deep to 14 deep. The right deals have to fall into place.”
Coach Sigi Schmid said it’s important to make evaluations based on the whole season - not just after the recent playoff disappointment.
“You look at … consistency of effort, quality of play, all of those things, and you make decisions based upon that,” he said.
So will there be big changes?
Well, Schmid didn’t seem particularly pleased with two of the Sounders’ three designated players after Sunday’s game.
The coach subbed out star forward Fredy Montero in the second half despite trailing L.A. in the playoff series, explaining he just felt the team needed “a little more energy.” Schmid also indicated that Mauro Rosales, who was recovering from a hamstring strain, was reluctant to play until pressed just before kickoff.
And while contract details aren’t made public, defender Jeff Parke is one of many players whose deals are expected to be up.
“As I’ve said and as happens every year, it will not be the exact same group next year,” Hanauer said. “And soccer’s just like that. Players get opportunities, the club gets opportunities and obviously over the couple three months we’ll get that all squared away.”
Zakuani feels back at his best
One positive in the defeat Sunday was the performance of Steve Zakuani. A productive 81 minutes from the midfielder made it easy to forget he had missed more than 14 months due to a double leg fracture and related complications suffered April 2011.
While discouraged in the loss, Zakuani was proud of what he was able to do.
“I just gave everything I had,” he said. “A year ago, I was questioning if I’d play again. So to come back today and play like that, I don’t think anybody is going to question, ‘Is he going to come back?’ Those questions people kept asking me were just fueling me.
“I proved to everyone that I’m going to come back from the injury; I’m going to come back and reach my previous level. You can go back and watch all the tape I had before the injury and you won’t find many performances like that. … So that should put all that to rest.”
Sounders to pick Johnson’s option
Seattle Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer says the team intends to pick up the club option on forward Eddie Johnson for the 2013 season.
Hanauer spoke Tuesday as the Sounders management wrapped up the 2012 season, which ended with a loss to Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals.
Johnson finished with 14 goals in MLS play, 17 in all competitions and was voted the MLS comeback player of the year. Hanauer said Johnson’s option is less than designated player level. Johnson’s play this year earned him a call up to the U.S. men’s national team during World Cup qualifying.
Hanauer said the club will face some significant salary cap issues for the 2013 season because it has less allocation money. He said all options will be on the table to clear salary cap space.
Notes: MLS held a waiver draft Monday and Seattle passed on making any selections. The team hasn’t announced any roster moves yet, so no Sounders were among the 42 players available…Sounders FC’s next competitive games will be in the CCL quarterfinals in March against Tigres UANL of the Mexican Primera Division.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.