Sounders Insider

Much to do for Sounders in short MLS off-season

However, the club isn't quite scattering into the off-season just yet, as coach Sigi Schmid explained last night.

"We’ll be around," he said. "We’ll do things until Thanksgiving. We’ve got things to do, meetings to do and things like that and get offseason programs organized. We have an early start to our program next year because we’re in the Champions League, so we’ve got to be prepared for that. We’ve got some guys…[Brad] Evans’ ankle is about four times the size of this microphone right now on a non-foul, so there’s some guys that got beat up tonight.”"

Because last night was not the last time the players and staff would be together, retiring goalkeeper Kasey Keller said he mostly kept his goodbyes for later. He also implied it may be more of a see-you-soon.

"I’m sure we’ll still have a team meeting to say goodbye," he said. "But I’d be real surprised if I weren’t floating around here in some capacity in the next few years. I don’t think I’ll be too far away."

Keller said nothing yet is settled about his post-playing career. However, both he and coach Sigi Schmid implied that future could be in Seattle. And general manager Adrian Hanauer has voiced an openness to that since the say Keller signed with the club.

Hanauer also has been publicly confident that the club will reach a contract agreement to keep midfielder Mauro Rosales in rave green next season and beyond. Last night, Rosales expressed similar optimism.

"I hope so," he said. "I think next week we’re going to finish everything. I can be here, and I’m very confident that everything is going to work."

Rosales was one of four starting-quality midfielders who missed all of most of last night's 2-0 win with new or long-term injuries, joining Steve Zakuani, Brad Evans and Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring). All should be ready for the start of next season, likely along with forward O'Brian White.

The return of those players will create the kind of depth that could make for painful decisions when deciding who to protect or not protect for the expansion draft list on Nov. 21. And it could make for a painful loss to expansion Montreal on Nov. 23.

However, even assuming a good player is lost, the returning talent should give Schmid some nice options and depth heading into a 2012 that once again will be jammed with MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup.

"I’ve got no problem adding those guys," Schmid said. "I’ve got no problem adding Mauro Rosales as well. I think the more quality players you have the better it is and you just have more options. Eventually they compete against each other and the strong survive and become better and your team becomes better overall.”"

Schmid also implied that players like Lamar Neagle of Federal Way should come back better next season after growing up a bit this year. "He’s a young player in terms of experience and he’s learning every time he gets out there," Schmid said. "Yeah, I do think in Salt Lake it was probably too big a game for him even in the first half, he really didn’t come into the game until the second half. We talked about it and I think he grew up today a little bit in terms of being a little stronger, a little tougher. Then obviously he scored a good goal and was involved in a lot of our offensive actions and almost beat [Nick] Rimando on another one that he tried to bend to the far post like the one he scored in Salt Lake during the regular season. He continues to grow and improve.”" Neagle, meanwhile, says the experienced he gained and the veteran players returning to health should only increase the Sounders chances as they continue to focus on hardware -- especially MLS Cup -- next season. "We’ve dealt with injuries all year and we had guys step up," Neagle said. "And I think we did the same tonight. Definitely with those guys we’re going to be a lot stronger. You can definitely tell we’re going to be a really strong team with these guys coming back, and hopefully not have the injuries next year."