Seattle Sounders FC

Seattle Sounders 2022 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

Chris Smith
Expectations are always high when it comes to the Sounders. | Image: Matthew Burt.
Expectations are always high when it comes to the Sounders. | Image: Matthew Burt. /

As always, the Seattle Sounders enter the 2022 MLS season among the favorites for success.

The Rave Green have become the ultimate title-winning machine over the past decade or more and have contested four of the last six MLS Cup finals, winning two of them.

Once again, supporters will be expecting their team to compete on all fronts for silverware.

So, here's everything you need to know about the Seattle Sounders ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

How did Seattle Sounders perform in 2021?

For a short while, some Sounders fans were dreaming of an invincible regular-season after their side went the first 13 games of 2021 unbeaten (eight wins, five draws). The Rave Green were a little more inconsistent from mid-July on and even ended the season on a six-game winless streak, effectively blowing first place in the West. Perhaps the mid-season departure of assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda to Atlanta United hurt a little more than first expected...

That poor run extended into the Playoffs with the Sounders inexplicably exiting in Round One on penalties to Real Salt Lake despite out-shooting their opponents 21-0. Call it bad luck, but Seattle just weren't right heading into the post-season, which is highly unusual and not something many expect to happen again in 2022.

Seattle Sounders transfer activity

Transfers in

  • Albert Rusnak (from Real Salt Lake, free transfer)
  • Dylan Teves (from Washington Huskies, free transfer)
  • Achille Robin (SuperDraft)

Transfers out

  • Brad Smith (to DC United, $750k)
  • Shane O'Neill (to Toronto FC, free transfer)
  • Spencer Richey (to Chicago Fire, free transfer)
  • Trey Muse (to Loudoun United, free transfer)
  • Ethan Dobbelaere (to MFK Vyskov, loan)
  • Nicolas Benezet (released)
  • Jordy Delem (released)
  • Shandon Hopeau (released)
  • Achille Robin (released)

Brian Schmetzer: Tactics and style of play

He may look unassuming but don't be fooled, Brian Schmetzer is one of the most accomplished coaches in MLS - even without Pineda at his side. The 59-year-old has shown incredible tactical flexibility over the years, switching his side's shape and line-up to negate the opposition in a wonderful display of true pragmatism.

Last season, Schmetzer mostly stuck to close variants of a 3-4-3 system. But with the return of Jordan Morris from an ACL injury, a 4-2-3-1 shape seems more likely.

Raul Ruidiaz will run point again, backed up by the creativity of Nico Lodeiro. But this season, Ruidiaz will combine with the lethal Albert Rusnak - Seattle's one major winter signing so far - on one flank and Morris on the other. Aggressive full-backs provide width and thrust, while Joao Paulo and Cristian Roldan progress the ball well and shut down opposition breaks in equal measure.

Seattle Sounders predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Frei; A. Roldan, Gomez Andrade, Arreaga, Nouhou; C. Roldan, Joao Paulo; Rusnak, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz.

Who are Seattle Sounders' key players?

Raul Ruidiaz

There are few strikers in MLS right now that can match Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian has scored 61 goals in 98 appearances across all competitions since joining the Sounders in mid-2018, with 19 of them coming last season alone.

Ruidiaz is very powerful despite his diminutive size, exploding out of the blocks and bullying much bigger defenders than him. The 31-year-old is also smart with his movement and, aside from being a poacher, capable of scoring spectacular goals from distance. Ruidiaz is the first of many problems Seattle's opponents must solve.

Their case for silverware is all the stronger for keeping hold of Ruidiaz, who was linked with a move away from Lumen Field this off-season.

Joao Paulo

He didn't win the award, but Joao Paulo was deservedly mentioned in the MVP race last season.

The Brazilian is often thought of as a No.6 and, yes, he is excellent at screening the defense. But Joao Paulo is so much more than that. A supreme ball carrier, precision passer, and scorer of stunning goals, there really isn't much he can't do. Schmetzer will sleep safe in the knowledge that his engine room is well-fuelled.

Nicolas Lodeiro

Almost every team in MLS has a playmaker extraordinaire and for the Sounders, it's Nico Lodeiro. And as MLS No.10s go, he's right up there among the best.

The Uruguayan has 45 goals and 49 assists to his name in 159 Sounders games to date and is capable of playing physics-defying passes and shots that break the sound barrier.

Lodeiro struggled with knee problems throughout 2021 and even required surgery in September. He got some valuable minutes under his belt at the start of November, though, and has already grabbed a goal and assist in Concacaf Champions League play this season.

Once again, Lodeiro will be the central cog that makes the rest of the Sounders turn.

Seattle Sounders 2022 season prediction

Even if they were a little inconsistent, the Sounders battled at the top of the West throughout 2021. They've only gotten stronger with the addition of Albert Rusnak, so they'll be up there again this year.

It's also reasonable to suggest their Round One Playoff exit was a pure fluke and not something likely to be repeated in 2022 - expect Seattle to be in and around the hunt for trophies as always.

Prediction: 2nd in the Western Conference