If you're like me, you maybe don't pay that much attention to everything going on with the rest of MLS, so may not know all that much about other teams in the league. To help out with that, I'll be doing a regular-ish feature, inviting a blogger from Toronto FC's upcoming opponents to answer a few questions and give us an idea of what to look out for when TFC play them.
Here to prepare us for Saturday's game and introduce us to Seattle Sounders is Dave Clark from SBN's Seattle blog Sounder At Heart, which is well worth a visit before the game. So, Seattle, how you doin'?
Waking the Red: How's O'Brian White looking these days? On the flip side of that, wasn't Nathan Sturgis actually decent for you guys?
Sounder At Heart: OBW has looked quite good. His speed in the target forward role has been an asset, and his ability to win headers in the box has produced this season. He still needs to improve his work with Fredy Montero, but considering White wasn't partnered with him in training that should come.
Sturgis wasn't necessarily good, but instead was adequate. But that adequate was exactly what was needed. He's better defensively than anything else, but not really spectacular. He also has this odd inability to not pass to an open man on his left.
WTR: Steve Zakuani's obviously a huge loss. Do you have a direct replacement for him to be able to keep the same formation, or will you have to change around the formation and style.
SAH: Wow, I just wrote about 900 words on this, but to do it quickly, Seattle really has only a few options. If they want to remain tactically similar they only have Mike Fucito (unlikely as he hasn't played 90 yet) or Michael Tetteh (unlikely because he's the left back of the future). So there's probably going to be a shift in style to more possession, less speed and designated player Alvaro Fernandez is who I expect to get the start.
That article's well worth checking out, as is the comments section with plenty of other options debated.
WTR: Are fans expectations rising now you're in your third year in MLS, would simply making the playoffs be enough for management to keep their jobs when the fans get to vote?
SAH: Making the Playoffs without another Open Cup won't be enough I don't think. With the state of Seattle sports right now there is a little more pressure on Adrian Hanauer as the Sounders are really the only hope at a title. One major trophy will keep him safe, and contending in many should as well. Of course he could decide to just step down and be an owner rather than both that and GM.
And here's my answers to their questions, sent off before the Edmonton game. Feel free to offer other answers in the comments section.
SAH: Aron Winter is trying rebuild a broken team, and institute a completely new system during the season. How can he expect this to go well?
WTR: I imagine he asks himself that question a lot as well, along with 'what the hell have i got myself into here?' Seriously though, the only way it's going to go well is with a lot of time. He's committed to the long term, getting rid of players like Dwayne De Rosario and Chad Barrett who could have helped them stay competitive this season. It's going to be a long learning process, not least because the squad is nowhere near good enough yet. A lot of players look uncomfortable in the new system, and generally the passing and build up play is too slow to be able to break down an organised team. If he can build that squad over this season so we have a decent core in place before the 2012 season starts, well that's probably the best TFC fans can hope for this year.
SAH: Team Re-invented no longer has Dwayne DeRosario, who are the attacking threats replacing him?
WTR: Alan Gordon. Yes, seriously, that Alan Gordon. In 5 games since De Ro left, we've scored 3 goals, Gordon's got 2 of those so for now I guess it's him, and that's the problem really. We've got some useful components to build an attack, but there's no-one standing out as being the man who'll consistently score the goals.
Gordon's been very effective as a target man, and done very well dropping deep to link the play, drawing the defence out of position and releasing others. Javier Martina looks like being a good signing as well. The Dutch winger's tricky, if a bit inconsistent, and often looks dangerous, but much like Gordon, he'd be better as the set up man for someone who can score consistently. Maicon Santos has been a big disappointment in the number 10 position, he hasn't really looked good at all there yet. It's all very much a work in progress.
SAH: Julian De Guzman missed significant time due to injury, he is now back. Should the defense look better?
WTR: Yes it should. The defence has looked about as well as could be hoped for given the overall lack of quality players so far, generally solid, never dominating and occasionally disastrous. A fully fit De Guzman should help a lot, both with and without the ball.
His DP status will always be controversial in Toronto, as he's very rarely a noticeable player, but he'll be a key piece in Aron Winter's more patient, possession based play. His organisational skills, movement and ability to make himself available for a pass out of defence, play a simple ball and quickly keep a move going are very valuable, but he's very rarely effective when trying for a more spectacular pass. Similarly when defending it's the simple off the ball stuff that is his strong point, reading the play and using his positioning sense to disrupt attacks, rather than being a tough tackling physical prescence. So yes, though it won't always get noticed, he'll definitely make the defence look better.