The club’s two most consistent players reside in the midfield – Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans.
For the fourth consecutive season, Alonso was named the club’s MVP, starting 26 matches and continuing his run as one of the top defensive midfielders in Major League Soccer, earning his third All-Star nod. He even led the league in passing efficiency, completing 88.58-percent of his matches.
Evans, meanwhile, continued his steady climb as a leader with Sounders FC and as a regular contributor with the U.S. National Team. In Rave Green, Evans had four goals and five assists in 21 starts, after seasons of five goals and five assists in 2011 and four goals and four assists in 2012.
With the U.S., he had one goal and two assists in nine starts, including a memorable first international goal when he scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Jamaica in a World Cup qualifying match on June 7. While he starts all across the midfield for Seattle and occasionally fills in on the back line, he established himself as Jurgen Klinsmann’s right back with the national team.
“Brad, more and more every year, is becoming a leader of this team. He’s one of the top three or four guys who help keep this group together and help us going in the right direction,” Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “In a lot of ways I see in Brad what I saw in Kyle Beckerman when I played with him. Kyle’s had a fantastic career and I think Brad has a lot of those same qualities.”
Mauro Rosales also started more games than his previous two seasons and played his most minutes as a Sounder. While his production dipped from 13 assists in each of his first two seasons to eight seasons this year, he was still Seattle’s top playmaker, setting up goals in bunches during stretches. In one stretch of four starts from March 30-May 11, he had two goals and three assists. Then over another six-game stretch from July 28-August 31, he had one goal and four assists. Over the final two months of the season, though, he had one goal and one assist and Seattle slipped in the process.
The rest of the midfield minutes were dispersed among eight players at various points in the season.
The August acquisition of Clint Dempsey gave Seattle one of the league’s most talented players, although he wasn’t as productive as he had hoped, finishing the season with just one goal in nine matches, six of them in a starting role.
While the short-term returns left something to be desired, the long-term effects of his addition have Henderson excited for the 2014 season.
“I think adding Clint to the mix is amazing for us,” Henderson said. “He’s a guy you can give the ball to when you’re under pressure and he’s going to keep it and dictate the rhythm.”
Adam Moffat also came to the team late in the year, but was unable to get on the scoresheet in his six appearances. Along with Evans, he was a key component to the diamond-shaped midfield employed late in the season that got Seattle through the Knockout Round match against the Colorado Rapids.
Steve Zakuani hoped to get closer to his pre-injury form and started the first six matches of the season. He had spurts of the player that had 10 goals and six assists in 2010, but had just one assist in those six matches before injury struck again, this time a sports hernia that held him out of all but two late-season matches in a reserve role.
Another player that came in with high hopes that was ultimately undone by injury was Shalrie Joseph. The four-time MLS Best XI midfielder was recovering from a calf strain when he arrived at training camp and was eased into the lineup, but was unable to string together more than two starts all season, compiling just six starts in 10 matches.
Mario Martinez was another case of high potential that didn’t play out as hoped. The Honduras National Team midfielder played a limited role in his first half-season on loan in 2012, but did score the winning goal in the Western Conference semifinal series with Real Salt Lake that year. In 2013, he was again in and out of the lineup on international duty, playing just 10 matches before his loan expired and he returned to Honduras.
One of the bigger highlights was the bounce back season from Servando Carrasco.
The third-year midfielder started 12 straight matches from May 4-July 20 and Seattle was highly successful with him in the lineup, going 6-2-1 in the first nine matches of that stretch. He finished the season with one goal and one assist in 19 matches for his best season in three years with Sounders FC before being traded to the Houston Dynamo for Moffat.
Andy Rose and Alex Caskey also played extended minutes and had varying degrees of impact. Caskey struggled with an ankle injury throughout the season and finally came into his own late in the year, while Rose started in nine of his 18 matches, earning one goal and two assists.
During the offseason, Seattle has sent Rosales to Chivas USA for forward Tristan Bowen and the No. 2 slot in the allocation ranking and Moffat to FC Dallas in exchange for forward Kenny Cooper and allocation money. Zakuani also went to the Portland Timbers through the Re-Entry Draft last week. With Alonso and Evans in place and Dempsey joining the fold for a lengthier time frame, the midfield has the potential to be much more settled than it was in 2013.