Sunday, January 27, 2013

NEAGLE IS BACK: Sounders reacquire Federal Way Native from Montreal

By Money Mike

Earlier today there was a tweet saying that there was going to be a roster move made by the Sounders with a player coming to the Emerald City. Out of all the players over thinking, hoping, or expecting, I don't think anyone would've predicted the return of this man. The Seattle Sounders reacquired Lamar Neagle from the Montreal Impact in exchange for an international roster slot. The Sounders now have seven international slots and four of them are currently occupied by Andy Rose, Adam Johansson, Christian Tiffert and Mario Martinez. Neagle rejoins the Sounders for a third stint and will surely be with the Rave Green for more than a year, unlike his first two stints with Seattle. Last February, the Sounders traded Neagle to the Montreal Impact along with Mike Fucito in exchange for Eddie Johnson in what almost the entire Sounder nation considered to be a dumbass move because of his horrible stint in Europe and his lack of form, but EJ proved everybody wrong with he scored 17 goals in 38 appearances in all competitions for the Sounders.

So as all of you know, Neagle has been in and out of this roster these past five years. He signed with the Sounders in 2009 as a Developmental player (not a Homegrown player), however he didn't made an appearance for the Sounders in 09' and was released. In 2010, he joined the Charleston Battery of the USL Second Division and led them to their third League Championship in club history. He made 19 appearances that year and led the league with 12 goals and also recorded an assisted. He also scored in the USL Second Division final that turned out to be the game winner. Following that, he moved to IFK Mariehamn in Finland for a short stint and scored two goals in five appearances. After his stint in Finland, Neagle returned to Seattle on trial and ended up signing a contract with the Sounders after impressing the Sounders coaching staff during preseason. At the start, people weren't expecting to see much of Lamar Neagle in 2011 but after Steve Zakuani suffered a double fracture at the hands of Brian Mullan, Neagle stepped in and made a huge impact for the Sounders, making 23 appearances and scoring five goals including a hat trick at home against the Columbus Crew. And of course last season, he gets traded to Montreal where he made 23 appearances and scored two goals for the Impact including one against the Sounders. Now here he is back in his home town of Seattle, ready to make a bigger impact with the Sounders.

Thoughts on this move:

I have to admit, I'm just about as shocked to see Neagle back in Seattle as I was seeing him get traded to Montreal last season. But either way, it's great to have him back in the Emerald City. The fans love him, he's become more of an attacking threat game after game and I think this year will be the year he unloads and makes as much of an impact with the Sounders as he did during his second stint. Of course this also leads to more questions. With Fredy Montero out on loan to Millonarios for the 2013 season (by the way, he will be back with the Sounders in 2014 for sure), what do you do with your lineup. Fans have been debating about who should partner up top with EJ. "Rosales should start up top, no Zakuani should start up top, no Martinez." Do you guys ever consider Neagle as a possible option? He played forward in college and also at Charleston. Putting Martinez up front would be a bad idea because one, he's not a forward and two, you lose a bit of creativity in the midfield (not that Zakuani doesn't have it). More moves still to come for sure, but a good move here by the FO.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sounders take Eriq Zavaleta and Dylan Remick in the MLS SuperDraft

By Money Mike

The 2013 MLS season is two months away and earlier today, the MLS SuperDraft took place in Indianapolis and well, it was full of surprises. There were at least two or three players that were projected to be a first round picks and weren't selected at all. We also had quite a number of trades made with teams swapping draft selections. One of those trades included Seattle Sounders FC landing the 10th overall pick from Toronto FC for their 16th overall pick. Who did they get? No mistakes here, the Sounders selected Eriq Zavaleta from NCAA National Champions Indiana with the 10th pick of this years MLS SuperDraft. Seattle also picked up Dylan Remick from Brown University in the second round of the draft (35th overall). Zavaleta is a member of Generation Adidas so he will not count against the MLS senior roster this season.

Zavaleta has spent his time in the youth ranks of Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew and was also a member of the U.S. Soccer Residency program in 08' and 09'. If you thought Zavaleta was a forward this entire career, listen to this. During his time with the U.S. U-17 national team, he was used primarily as a defender and was a starter for the under-17's at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. He appeared in all four matches for the team, leading them to the round if 16 where he was actually sent off in USA's 2-1 loss to Italy. Overall, he made 23 appearances for the under-17's. Despite the fact that he has represented the United States in the youth level, Zavaleta is eligible to represent El Salvador in the senior level due to the fact that his father is from El Salvador and has represented them in the international level. In his two years with Indiana, Zavaleta started in all 46 games and tallied 28 goals and 9 assists and of course led the Hoosiers to their eighth National title.

I did mention his father Carlos was a member of the El Salvador national team, also his uncle Greg Vanney (some of you may have heard of him) was also a professional soccer player. Both of these guys were coached by Sigi Schmid during their career. Oh you guys don't believe me? Take a look at the video, I'll prove it to you....

Remick was Seattle's second round pick from Brown University. In his freshman year, Brown made 17 appearances and finished with a pair of goals and one assist and received the team's Britton Chichester Award, which is given to the freshman who contributes most to the team. A year later, he started all 20 games and helped lead the defense to 11 shutouts. In his junior year, he started the teams first 16 games before picking up a season ending injury. He scored two goals and also recorded two assists that year. In his final season with Brown in 2012, Remick made 18 appearances and led the Bears with seven assists. Could possibly be a left back for the Sounders, but I'm not going to talk about any of that right now since he hasn't made the team yet.

The MLS Combine was pretty interesting this year. You had players that were expected to be a potential Top 5 pick that struggled to meet all expectations and then there were a lot of players who nobody knew much about who stepped on the pitch during the Combine and made a lot of noise. I thought Sigi Schmid, GM Adrian Hanauer, Chris Henderson the Technical Director, and the rest of the Sounders FC staff that traveled to the east coast did an outstanding job of scouting these players, getting to know a little bit about them and doing whatever they can to snap them up. I'm still surprised the Sounders were able to pick up Zavaleta because he was expected to be a Top 5 pick, maybe even a no. 1 overall pick, so I don't know why anybody didn't to cash in on him but more importantly, I don't care because he's here in Seattle and he's ready to kick his pro career into high gear and hopefully Remick will have the opportunity to do the same here in the Emerald City.

Friday, January 11, 2013

DeAndre Yedlin becomes Seattle Sounders FC's first Homegrown signing

By Money Mike

Over the past couple of years, since they have formed a youth academy team, the Seattle Sounders have developed a lot of impressive young talent and continue to do so right now. Earlier this morning, we have learned that one of the youth academy players will be joining the MLS club. The Seattle Sounders have signed local boy DeAndre Yedlin as their first Homegrown player in franchise history. I first heard about this like, five minutes after the Sounders announced the move on Twitter and have followed this move ever since. The former O’Dea High School standout joins the Sounders after two seasons at the University of Akron where he was a two time All-MAC first team honoree.

Yedlin, like I said earlier, is a former standout at O'Dea High School. He also played a couple years of club for Crossfire Premier before joining the Sounders FC Academy for a year. In 2011, Yedlin committed to the University of Akron and all he did was pick up where he left off with the Sounders U18. In his two years with the Zips, Yedlin appeared in all 45 games and finished his career with a goal and 12 assists. He also spent last summer with the Sounders U23 team in the Premier Development League where he led the club all the way to the semi-finals, appearing in 16 matches and recording a goal and an assist each.

My thoughts:

I'm real excited to see this kid go out there in front of his home town crowd and just kill it on the pitch. I highly doubt he's going to start at right back this season, but he will be a starter in the near future for sure. This teams likes its backs to get forward, which is something that DeAndre has done a lot in college and will continue to do in the professional level. Definitely the first of many Homegrown signings for the Sounders. Sean Okoli from Wake Forest, I believe will sign a Homegrown contract. We also have Aaron Kovar from Stanford who was named PAC-12 freshman of the year. Nick Palodichuk and Jalen Markey could also be future Homegrown players. And also U17 international Paul Christensen, I think will be a future Homegrown player and quite possibly a future no. 1 goalkeeper for the Sounders. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. But again, one Homegrown signing has been made and it surely won't be the last. So on a personal note, I just want to say congratulations to DeAndre and looking forward to seeing you in MLS.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Seahawks look for first road playoff win since 1983 at Nations Capitol

By Kshell

This playoff match up features the leagues two hottest teams as the Seattle Seahawks(11-5) who have won five games in a row travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Washington Redskins(10-6) who have won seven in a row. Both teams feature a strong rushing attack, older coaches who have re-invented themselves and more importantly electric rookie quarterbacks. The Redskins will be hosting their first playoff game since the Bill Clinton era back in 1999. While the Seahawks will be looking to win their first playoff road game since the Ronald Reagan era back in 1983.

The focus of this game will be on the rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. Griffin was supposed to be all that as the Redskins traded a lot to acquire him. Whereas Wilson was the 6th quarterback taken in the draft. Wilson, many figured would back up Matt Flynn. While Wilson had other plans this year. After a slow start Wilson ended up having an incredible season that has him in contention for rookie of the year.

 He finished the year 252-393(64.1%) passing for 3,118 yards(7.9 YPA) with a rookie record 26 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 100.0 which is a Seahawks record. He also ran for 489 yards(5.2 YPC) with four touchdowns. Wilson has been red hot in the second half as he is 123-183(67.2%) passing for 1,652 yards(9.03 YPA) with 16 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He has posted an incredible 120.3 quarterback rating during that time. He has also ran for 361 yards(6.2 YPC) with four touchdowns. Wilson might be the NFL's best quarterback during that stretch.

His receivers are Sidney Rice who led the team with 50 receptions for 748 yards(15.0 YPC) with seven touchdowns. Rice has been pretty consistent this year as the #1 threat for this offense. Golden Tate had a very big year. He was most famous for this this catch on Monday Night but he also had a pretty good year. Tate caught a career high 45 passes for 688 yards(15.3 YPC) with 7 touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown this year to Rice. Doug Baldwin has been coming on strong lately has 29 receptions for 366 yards(12.6 YPC) with three touchdowns. Then tight end Zach Miller has 38 receptions for 396 yards(10.4 YPC) with three touchdowns. Anthony McCoy the other tight end has caught 18 passes for 291 yards(16.3 YPC) with three touchdowns. The Seahawks don't have a go to guy but spread the ball well. Which will come in handy on Sunday as the Redskins rank 30th out of 32 teams against the pass allowing 281.9 yards per game with 31 touchdowns to 21 interceptions.

The Redskins are led by what many think will win the rookie of the year. Robert Griffin the third who won the heisman last year and ended another seattle football teams season defeating the Huskies 67-56 in last years Alamo Bowl . I have a feeling this years game won't be as high scoring. Griffin is coming into this game a little banged up though. Griffin had an incredible season passing 258-393(65.6%) for 3,200 yards(8.1 YPA) with 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 102.4. What makes Griffin even more impressive is the fact he has ran for 815 yards(6.8 YPC) with seven touchdowns.

Just like Wilson, Griffin doesn't have a primary go to receiver. This year the Redskins leading receiver is Pierre Garcon who has caught 44 passes for 633 yards(14.4 YPC) with four touchdowns. The Redskins also have Santana Moss who has caught 41 passes for 573 yards(14.0 YPC) with eight touchdowns. Leonard  Hankerson has caught 38 passes for 543 yards(14.3 YPC) with three touchdowns. Josh Morgan caught 48 passes for 510 yards(10.6 YPC) with two touchdowns. The Redskins will probably have a tough time against the Seahawks secondary which features three guys who have played in the pro bowl with another Richard Sherman who was snubbed for political reasons.

Both teams love to run the football. The Seahawks are led by pro bowl running back Marshawn Lynch who is going to his second straight pro bowl. Lynch made a big splash in his very first career playoff game two years ago against the Saints. When he busted a 67 yard touchdown run which many consider the greatest run in NFL history. Lynch after signing a new contract this offseason leads the Seahawks rushing attack which ranks 3rd in the NFL.  Lynch finished third in the NFL in rushing yards rushing for 1,590 yards on 315 carries(5.0 YPC) with 11 touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 196 yards(8.5 YPC) with a touchdown. His backup is Robert Turbin who ran for 354 yards on 80 carries(4.4 YPC). He had 19 receptions for 181 yards(9.5 YPC). The Seahawks rushing attack will go up against the Redskins rush defense which ranks 5th in the NFL against the run.

The Redskins lead the NFL in rushing led by another rookie of theirs Alfred Morris. Morris finished the year second in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,613 yards on 335 carries(4.8 YPC) with 13 touchdowns. Morris is another late round find by head coach Mike Shanahan. Morris who was only a 6th round pick out of Florida Atlantic came out of nowhere to lead the Redskins rushing attack. Teams have to focus so much on Griffin the Redskins are able to run Morris. The Seahawks defense ranks 10th against the run has struggled the second half of the season against the run. The Redskins will hope to pound the run and keep their weakness(pass defense) off the field. If the Seahawks are able to shut down Morris look for them to win this game rather easily.

The Seahawks have a big advantage in the special teams department.  Leon Washington is going to the pro bowl for the Seahawks as a kick returner. On kickoff returns he averaged 29.0 yards per return including a 98 yard touchdown.  On punt returns he averaged 8.7 yards per return on 41 returns(356 yards). Kicker Steven Hauschka on the year is 24-27(88.9%) on field goals. Punter Jon Ryan is averaging 45.6 yards per punt on 65 punts and a net average of 40.8 yards per punt. He has 30 inside the 20 and only 3 touchbacks.

The Redskins on the other hand are poor in special teams. Their return average on kickoff returns is 23.5. On punt returns with new punt returner Richard Crawford the Seahawks have to worry as he is averaging 19.5 yards per return on eight returns. Their punter Sav Rocca has a 43.9 yards average on punts but only 37.2 net average. He also has just 22 punts inside the 20 on 68 attempts. Look for the Seahawks to use this field position to get a cheap score.

Pete Carroll has done a wonderful job reshaping this roster. This is a much different team than the group he led to the playoffs two years ago. Two years ago was an aging team on it's last run which Carroll squeezed a playoff win out of. This group is the youngest team in the playoffs and is looking to go on a run. Carroll has a chance to snap that 29 year streak of not winning a road playoff game and hopefully lead this team to the Super Bowl title.

This Seahawks team led the NFC in point differential with a plus 167 trailing only Denver and New England. According to Bill Barnwell's DVOA rankings the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL and 6th best team since 1991. The Seahawks finished 9th in offensive points and 1st in defensive points allowed. The bulk of this roster was either drafted by Carroll and John Schneider or acquired by them. I don't think Carroll receives enough credit for the job he is doing in Seattle.

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Redskins 17

I've learned over the years as a Seattle fan that it is never easy. I expect the game to come down to needing a stop against Griffin which is going to be stressful. Ultimately I feel like the Seahawks will win this game due to Wilson lighting up their weak secondary. The Redskins love to blitz which I feel like Wilson will hit some big plays on that as will Lynch running.

I think defensively with Brandon Browner back and Richard Sherman the Seahawks can leave those two corners on an island. Sherman should be up for defensive player of the year. He recorded eight interceptions while also leading the league with 24 pass deflections. He also forced three fumbles and scored two touchdowns this year. With those two on an island and former pro bowl safety Kam Chancellor playing over the top look for the Seahawks to allow pro bowl safety Earl Thomas to roam. This is where Thomas is most dangerous as he is so fast and quick he can read run then quickly recover for the pass. I expect Thomas to make a big play whether that be a key sack on third down, forcing a fumble or simply picking off a pass.

The Seahawks have a great opportunity as a franchise to go on a run this postseason. This will be the franchises seventh trip in the last 10 years but the first trip without Matt Hasselbeck. This is a new era of Seahawks football as Mike Holmgren, Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Shaun Alexander are no longer around. The only Seahawk who has been here this entire run is Marcus Trufant who had a key interception return for a touchdown to end the Redskins season back in 2007. This team is growing and will only get better. I also know that in the NFL there is no guarantees so for all we know this could be it. I think the Seahawks have what it takes to get it done but it will be a nail biter like all their true road games have been this year.