A few takeaways from the Sounders first serious competition of 2012, a 2-1 in over Santos Laguna:
* They looked exactly like what they are: one of the final eight teams competing for the right to be called the best in North America, Central American and the Caribbean. Seattle looked like a very solid soccer team while beating another very good soccer team. My hunch during preseason was that this could be the best Sounders team yet, and I saw nothing last night to cause me to rethink that.
* That "other" forward spot looks strong. The forward spot opposite Fredy Montero has sort of been what left field is to the Mariners or drummers are to Spinal Tap. But that might be over. Obviously, David Estrada made an impact with that game-changing first goal. But Sigi Schmid already has said that forward spot actually belongs to Eddie Johnson, and his brief appearance hinted at why. Let's also not forget that somewhere still out there is also the considerable potential of Sammy Ochoa. This looks like an effective and exciting offensive team for MLS, CONCACAF and U.S. Open Cup. (And, oh yes, Montero was often dangerous, too.)
* Michael Gspurning got the win while looking solid and comfortable -- especially in light of his postgame revelation that traffic delayed his stadium arrival until only about 18 minutes before first kick. However, he wasn't really under siege much, so this getting-to-know-you phase will continue a while. For me, two particular plays linger. In one, he got down quickly for a save -- very impressive for a 6-foot-5 guy. But in one other case, he made a stop but didn't control the ball, leaving it available for a follow-up shot that didn't come. It wasn't a terrible error -- plus, they got away with it. However, it is a reminder of how rarely that has happened in the past. Kasey Keller didn't just stop balls, he tended to control them. And the difference between giving an opponent one chance or two can change results.
* Mauro Rosales picked up where he left off, playing a role in plenty of productive situations. He wears the captain's armband well. A DP worthy of the designation. An MVP candidate.
*There's something sort of encouraging about a midweek soccer crowd of 23,433 being viewed as disappointing.
* The pitch looked great and played great.