It’s been some time since I fired up the save I did for The Higher Tempo Press last year in Australia. I didn’t know what to do going forward, to be honest. I was loving my time with the Central Coast Mariners, but in 2021 we won the Club World Cup in our competitive debut following shocking 1-0 results against Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil’s ATM. I was lost and not sure what to do. I went through the motions of finishing the season and winning it once more, but I couldn’t make up my mind what the future held.
I could have continued on with the Mighty Mariners, but I wasn’t up to it. I’m not a dynasty maker, and once I got through the first three seasons and knew I had a team that could take Australia for all it’s worth, the thing that kept me going was the AFC Champion’s League, which I eventually found my footing on, becoming the second Australian team to win it and the first Asian team to eventually win the Club World Cup. I also had Ozcan Gunes and Ivica Buric. They had release clauses activated, and both of my star newgens, the pride of my team, when off to FC Porto and Ajax. That’s what killed it for me, losing them.
After a mourning period and some time to collect myself from the burnout and find my passion again in FM18, I realized that my favorite and most successful FM save was calling me back, so here I am!
I started the 2021/22 season with CCM, and November came around and I saw an opportunity at another job come up that I was interested in. I felt like I was at the point in my managerial career where I had to take it. As you can tell from the featured image and my crappy Seattle Sounders pun, I’m in the city of Seattle in my native United States to take on Major League Soccer.
Here’s a brief overview of the Sounders. They play out of CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks from the American NFL. They are generally a top quality team and are consistently near the top of the table as you see. Just two seasons ago, they finished second in the league Supporters’ Shield and won the MLS Cup, making them the MLS winners for 2020 and giving them a spot in the CONCACAF Champion’s League This last season though, they had a bit of a slump, only finishing 8th in the Supporters’ Shield and losing on penalties in the MLS Wildcard match, meaning they would not enter into the playoffs that year.
Following the failures of the season, Dominic Kinnear’s contract was terminated after two and a half years with Sounders FC. The job was vacant for four days. As soon as I saw the new piece that Seattle had parted with their boss, I jumped on it and was signed days later on the first of November. My CV can’t be argued, and there was no hesitation bringing in an American manager with my kind of experience abroad.
As soon as I got in, I started reviewing the squad and getting to work in the off-season. I’m through the off-season, I’ve gone through the drafts, and I started my run of friendlies, but I won’t get into the off-season. I didn’t have anything of note to share from the drafts. There are a couple of prospects, but I’m not 100 percent sure on them.
Looking at this squad, it’s a bit on the older side. We’ve got our handful of younger prospects, but the core of the team is in the back half of their 20s on average, with plenty of the senior players hitting 30. Don’t get me wrong, these players still have some good years left in them to milk out, but there will be changes sooner rather than later. Despite their age, it’s still a good squad. I can only assume the problem was on the management’s end because I have every confidence in my ability to make this team find their potential.
Looking at our captain and best defender, we have 36-year-old Ragnar Klavan, who joined the team from Liverpool in 2018. He’s definitely past his prime, but he’s still got good marks for what a ball-playing defender needs, and that’s what I was planning on using him as anyway, so he’s worth it for at least the next year. Depending on his performance during the year, I may or may not move him on ahead of his contract end, if it’s possible because he is only going to be declining over the year.
This team also features Nicolas Lodeiro, who left Boca Juniors to come here some years ago. He’s another great, versatile player, he’s got his pace still, which is great for a winger, but he’s also 32-years-old. Since he’s versatile, I might try him in a more stationary position in the center of the pitch to be a linkup and attacking option, but if he’s here for a while, it might not be on the wing where he has to play up and down the field for 90 minutes each week.
Another one of our better players, also a bit older, is Roland Alberg. I picked him up myself at the end of his contract in a re-entry draft, and he’s yet to make an appearance for the club. Alberg is up there in years, which is against my general philosophy of signing younger talent, but I needed an insurance policy because I don’t have complete confidence in one of my younger attacking midfielder options. Once that boy develops, I’ll phase him in, but I need an experienced regular right now for that AM/C slot, and this could potentially be our guy.
Last, but not least of the honorable mention is Milan Djuric, who started this save in Cesena before moving on to Bristol City and now he is here. He’s a great player, but I plan on moving him on. I had some great successes testing a couple of different strikerless styles in Australia, and I’m going to attempt to blend things from each one that I liked to make something of my own for this team. He’s too old to bother trying to retrain, and he’s still got some good market value so I might be able to reinvest elsewhere later on down the road.
This is our schedule for the upcoming season. Before the MLS season picks up, we’ve got the quarterfinal of the Champions League to compete in, and we’ve got assorted friendlies against various teams.
My objectives for the upcoming season are to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup itself. I believe this team can do it consistently under proper management, as the team’s past records show. The Champions League, I’m going to go for the win if possible, but it’s not a first-year priority for me. It’s definitely winnable, but I am more interested in the league because if we bomb out, having a good league season is what will get us back in there next year. The US Open Cup and the minor rivalry cups with other teams are just not a priority for me. I want to win them, but I won’t sweat if I don’t.
And, here’s an overview of my profile, since I am continuing an existing save. Oh, and Rodrigo Vargas, my assistant manager of the last many years in Australia, came over to America with me. He’s a quality assistant, definitely was a bit better than the existing guy, so I made the board sign him alongside me as a package deal.
It’s looking like I’ll be ready for a good season with this team. It’s not a struggling minnow, but it’s got its own set of challenges and it’s a change of pace from the A-League, which is what I needed as a manager. I’ll be back when I have something to share.