Sounders FC, it seems, is stronger than ever — this season and beyond.
Sure, nearly all the attention recently has gone to the acquisition of U.S. national-team star Clint Dempsey, but the rest of the roster has gradually gotten closer to full strength heading into a 4 p.m. game Saturday at Toronto FC.
Safe to say, people across MLS have noticed the growth of power.
Vancouver defender Jay DeMerit, who started all four games for the U.S. in the last World Cup, is one of them. He told The Vancouver Sun this week that with the addition of Dempsey, Seattle has “probably just become, on paper, the best team in the league.”
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Toronto captain Steve Caldwell told The Canadian Press, “Clint will certainly be an improvement to the team, but they have a lot of good players. I’ve just watched Seattle for the first time and I can see the quality that they have.”
The trick will be proving that strength right away, which won’t come easily as the Sounders work Dempsey into the lineup and tweak an offensive system to go through him.
Dempsey, who is set to make his debut Saturday, has only had a couple practices here.
“It’s always difficult when you go to a new team,” he said. “There’s a little bit of an adjustment period, but at the same time I’m lucky I know a few of the guys here. I’ve played with them over the years or with the national team, so that helps getting more comfortable.”
Seattle isn’t afforded much time to work things out, as 31 points doesn’t quite have the team in a playoff position among the top five in the Western Conference, although the Sounders do have games in hand.
The Sounders are also having one of their worst seasons on the road at 3-6-1, including three straight losses.
Coach Sigi Schmid said turning that around will involve sticking to an attack-first mentality that has served the team well at home, where it has a nine-game unbeaten streak, a franchise best.
“We haven’t gone out and said, ‘OK, when we’re at home we’re going to play like this and when we’re on the road we’re going to pack it in, we’re going to play more defensive and we’re going to drop into a shell,’ ” Schmid said. “That’s never been our approach. Our approach has been we’re going to come and play.”
Salary info released
The MLS Players’ Union released updated salaries for the 2013 season, and much attention went to Dempsey amid reports he had become the highest paid player in league history.
While Dempsey’s roughly $5 million salary is greatest in MLS this year, designated players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez have made more in previous seasons.
Another notable update from previous figures from May 1 is Shalrie Joseph’s guaranteed compensation being down to $105,500 from about $600,000. The midfielder agreed to the massive pay cut last week, which removed his status as a DP and allowed the Sounders to sign Dempsey.
Salaries for the whole roster are posted at seattletimes.com.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.