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.

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire

Late action (10:30 p.m. ET kick off)

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.