Talented, driven Seattle hopes to reach MLS elite

By Tim Booth

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The midfield was bolstered by the return of MLS newcomer of the year Mauro Rosales and Evans being healthy for the first time since the beginning of the 2010 season. He also got a bit more experience with a U.S. national team call-up in January for a pair of matches against Venezuela and Panama.

Seattle's most important player may remain midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, but Seattle also attempted to strengthen the backline with the addition of Swedish defenseman Adam Johansson to team with veterans Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado on the backline.

Still, the one that will get most of the attention early in the season will be new goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, simply because of who he is replacing. Keller wasn't just a fixture in American soccer, he was a revered figure hailing from the Seattle area only to conclude his career by making sure the Sounders were successful.

Keller was also Seattle's captain, a role that will likely not be determined until part of the season has passed, and as if Gspurning needs anymore pressure, Keller will be watching from above while working as a broadcaster for the club this season.

"We are very hungry. The first day ... we had a session in the gym and then the team decided to go out and have a game for ourselves to 11 goals and no one was stopping," Gspurning said. "... I've played many years of professional soccer and this is really unbelievable. The team is really hungry."

Seattle also wasn't given any favors in terms of the schedule. Through the new unbalanced league format, the Sounders will play 24 matches against Western Conference foes — three matches against each side. While they get the Galaxy twice at home, Seattle has to play twice at rivals Portland and Vancouver, and don't get the Timbers at home until October.

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