MLS Season Preview: Seattle Sounders

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Despite once again making the playoffs, 2013 was a forgettable campaign for the Seattle Sounders.

Yes, the club did manage to acquire Clint Dempsey but they started poorly and unraveled at the end of the season amidst rumors of infighting. This offseason they brought in a number of fresh faces, strengthened the defense and got rid of some deadwood.

Players In: Stefan Frei (trade from Toronto); Tristan Bowen (trade from Chivas); Chad Marshall (trade from Columbus); Kenny Cooper (trade from FC Dallas); Corey Hertzog (Re-Entry Stage 2); Aaron Kovar (Homegrown); Sean Okoli (Homegrown); Chad Barrett (Re-Entry Stage 2); Jalil Anibaba (trade from Chicago); Damion Lowe (SuperDraft); Marco Pappa (allocation)

Players Out: Michael Gspurning (option declined); Marc Burch (option declined); Blair Gavin (option declined); Steve Zakuani (12/9/13 – out of contract); Mauro Rosales (traded to Chivas USA); Adam Moffat (traded to FC Dallas); Eddie Johnson (traded to D.C. United); Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (traded to Chicago); Patrick Ianni (traded to Chicago); Fredy Montero (transfer to Sporting CP); Will Bates (waived); James Ockford (loaned to New York Cosmos); Eriq Zavaleta (loaned to Chivas USA)

source:  Key Player: Osvaldo Alonso

The midfield destroyer, along with Dempsey and Brad Evans, is one of the key leaders of this Seattle squad.

To ensure collapses like that of last fall don’t happen again, the four time team MVP must produce both in his play and his leadership.

Manager: Sigi Schmid is seemingly never at fault for anything that goes wrong in Seattle but after completely losing the squad at the end of the 2013 season – resulting in only one win in their final 10 matches (playoffs included) – the 60 year-old will be hard pressed to produce consistent quality in 2014 or else face the possibility of moving on.

Outlook: The Sounders front office has done well to right the salary cap and clear out a number of highly paid players who failed to contribute down the line last year. With the revitalized budget the Sounders made a number of smart moves, including making Osvaldo a DP, strengthening the defense by adding Chad Marshall and Jalil Anibaba, and bringing in Kenny Cooper to add power to the front line.

Brad Evans hit the nail on the head earlier this year when he said “I think, in years past, we probably had better players. But I think we filled those shoes with better people. And it’s something that had to happen.” In other words, getting rid of Eddie Johnson was massive.

If Dempsey can work well with Cooper and Obafemi Martins, the Sounders could be a dangerous team down the line. Winning championships isn’t likely but anything less than making the playoffs would be hugely disappointing.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.