At long last, 2014 has arrived and it is a year with a full plate in Seattle and U.S. Soccer.
Here are some of the things we are looking forward to most in the new year.
A full season of Deuce
From the time Clint Dempsey pulled off his sweatshirt in the middle of the field at CenturyLink Field on August 3 to reveal a Sounders FC jersey, he played an entertaining brand of soccer that had Seattle fans on the edge of their collective seats. With just one goal in nine matches, though, it was clear that he wasn’t at his absolute best after an abbreviated “preseason” with Tottenham before his sudden signing with Seattle. Now on loan at Fulham until the season starts and with the 2014 FIFA World Cup on the horizon, Dempsey should be running on all cylinders when the season starts on March 8. In addition, he should have fewer absences for international duty, which will mean more time with his Sounders FC teammates after he arrives.
Seattle right back DeAndre Yedlin had a stellar rookie season, earning a spot on the U.S. U-20 National Team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and was the first rookie to be named an MLS All-Star since 2005. With those experiences in tow, he now looks toward his second season in the league. Like his signature haircuts, he was once a bit wild and unbound, but has since learned to play with more control while still showing his personality on the field. That quick maturation should make for some great highlights like the goal and assist he notched in a losing effort in the playoff finale against the Portland Timbers.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is arguably the world’s top sports story of the year and it has a decidedly Seattle connection with Dempsey and, likely, Brad Evans playing for the U.S. National Team in soccer’s signature event. The U.S. opens the tournament on June 16 against Ghana and has a very difficult group that includes Germany and Portugal. Will the Stars and Stripes get past a Ghana side that’s had their number? Can they upset either of their European counterparts and reach the Round of 16? Will Dempsey and Evans be Seattle’s only representation in Brazil? All those questions won’t be answered for several months, but are a big reason to anxiously await the World Cup.
Spurs in Seattle
Another storied European club is coming to Seattle in the summer for a friendly, with Tottenham Hotspur paying a July 19 visit to CenturyLink Field. The one-time home of Dempsey and Sounders FC broadcaster and former goalkeeper Kasey Keller, Tottenham will be a big draw that will provide a great opportunity to showcase the city, the team and the fans to a team from the Premier League. It also is a chance for fans in Seattle to watch a side that has been among the top in England for the last few years.
UEFA Champs vs. MLS All-Stars
Last year, Yedlin and Osvaldo Alonso represented Sounders FC in the MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City against AS Roma. This year, Portland’s JELD-WEN Field will provide the backdrop to the annual exhibition as the MLS All-Stars meet European champion Bayern Munich on August 6. Seattle has had seven players represent the club in the All-Star game in five years and could likely see that number increased in this match in the Rose City.
40 years a Sounder
It’s a big year for Sounders FC, as the club will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the inaugural season of professional soccer in Seattle. The Sounders took the field in the North American Soccer League in 1974 and 2014 will be a year to remember some of the signature moments over the 40 years since the inception of Sounders soccer.
Open Cup redemption
In the club’s first four years in MLS, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup had become Sounders FC’s calling card. Three straight titles and a fourth appearance in the final had stamped the tournament as Seattle’s to own. However, a surprise defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round of the 2013 tournament left a sour taste for the team and its fans. That feeling will undoubtedly provide a rallying cry for Seattle in the 2014 tournament as Seattle looks to regain Open Cup supremacy.
The new-look Sounders
Every year, there is a bit of roster churn in MLS. However, this year Seattle has already undergone major changes, bringing in MLS veterans Stefan Frei, Chad Marshall and Kenny Cooper to add some grit to the team. With a central core of Alonso, Dempsey and Evans intact and rising talents like Yedlin and Lamar Neagle, there is a lot to look forward to on the field in 2014. How will this team gel in 2014 and who else will be added to the fold once training camp starts on January 25?