The Seattle Sounders are looking to utilize every inch of its roster as the team looks ahead to the 2023 season. From the veteran players to the latest additions to the squad, the depth of the Rave Green is an integral part in determining the team’s success this year.
With the Club World Cup on the horizon and the team only having four weeks of preparation leading up to the first match, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer stressed the significance of giving multiple players the opportunity to showcase their talents on the pitch.
“The Club World Cup could be three games in seven days, so we'll need to use our depth,” he said.
And with the U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup and MLS Regular Season play in the near future, the Sounders will be taking part in plenty of matches, making it crucial for entirety squad to contribute throughout the season.
“We can play upwards to 50 games, so we're going to need absolutely everybody this year to be able to compete for multiple trophies,” said veteran midfielder Cristian Roldan.
Josh Atencio, Danny Leyva and Obed Vargas are among the younger players expected to step up and embrace larger roles when needed.
“We need to have some of those young kids come into the spotlight," Schmetzer said. “They played significant minutes last year, so they'll have to continue their development. They'll have to earn those minutes, and I think they're very capable of doing so.”
Interchanging between the starting lineup and coming off the bench in previous seasons, the three Homegrown Players’ time on the pitch is anything but secure, however, Roldan emphasized the importance behind remaining “ready to step into a game.”
“I can't tell you how many times I was in the lineup just because I wasn't injured,” Roldan said. “We have a long season, so I’ve told them they need to stay fit and play simple in order to make the people around them better.”
Newer additions to the team like Jackson Ragen, who made his Sounders debut in 2022, or Sota Kitahara, who played a critical role for the Tacoma Defiance midfield this past season, are sought out as potential contributors for the Rave Green this year as well. Ragen started in 14 of the 23 games he played in last season, totaling 1383 minutes on the pitch. Only 19 years old, Kitahara comes from the homegrown pathway, where he’s tallied 61 appearances and 52 starts since 2019.
The Sounders are also looking for recent signing Héber to make an immediate impact come February. With previous MLS experience at New York City FC, the team is hopeful he will be a beneficial addition to the club.
“I'm happy that he's a part of the team,” midfielder Albert Rusnák said. “He’ll score goals whether he starts or comes off the bench…He’s really good.”
Utilizing the depth of the team and bringing success to the club also comes with impeccable leadership, and Schmetzer said the Sounders have exactly that.