Goalkeepers Depth Chart: 1. Michael Gspurning, 2. Andrew Weber, 3. Bryan Meredith Strengths: New starter Gspurning, 30, boasts experience in European leagues. The club believes he’s mentally strong enough to replace Kasey Keller and he’s arguably a better distributor than his predecessor. Backups Meredith and Weber are both highly skilled players who should also contribute to a positive locker-room environment with their easy-going natures. Weaknesses: Gspurning is an unknown quantity in MLS. His great size (6-foot-5) could arguably be a liability on low shots. The Austrian will also need time to mesh with his backline. Wildcard: Josh Ford, a Sounders 2011 draft pick out of UConn, fell out of the picture during preseason with a knee injury. The likeable player could be back to battle for a roster spot, either in 2012 or beyond. READ: 2012 Seattle Sounders Preview Defense Depth Chart: RB 1. Adam Johansson, 2. Zach Scott; CB 1. Jeff Parke -- Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, 2. Patrick Ianni, 3. Andrew Duran; LB 1. Leo González, 2. Marc Burch Strengths: Seattle made overhauling the flanks a priority, offloading James Riley, who eventually ended up with Chivas USA, and Tyson Wahl to the Montreal Impact. In their place, Johansson and González are expected to keep the ball and rotate possession better offensively than their predecessors. Weaknesses: In his first season since tearing his ACL in 2010, Hurtado took a while to get going. The MLS Defender of the Year candidate from 2009 was shaky at times, conceding 30 fouls to Parke’s 17 and being ejected twice in league play. He’ll need to better his performances in 2012 to keep up with Parke. Wildcard: Eyebrows were raised when Seattle moved up to grab Burch first overall in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft. The D.C. United castoff plays some good balls in from the left flank, but can he do the job defensively against the league’s dynamic right midfielders? SEE: Preseason Schedule and Results Midfield Depth Chart: LM 1. Álvaro Fernández, 2. Steve Zakuani, 3. Michael Tetteh; CM 1. Osvaldo Alonso -- Brad Evans, 2. Servando Carrasco, 3. Michael Seamon; RM 1. Mauro Rosales, 2. Christian Sivebaek, 3. Roger Levesque Strengths: Seattle boasts arguably the best midfield in the league. Designated Players Rosales and Fernández man the flanks while Osvaldo Alonso is considered by many to be the league’s best defensive midfielder. Even without Lamar Neagle, who departed for Montreal in the Eddie Johnson trade, the unit remains strong in the two-deep. Weaknesses: Of the four positions, probably the second or “attacking” midfielder role draws the most debate. Evans isn’t a true attacking midfielder in the vein of Javier Morales, but head coach Sigi Schmid raves about the veteran’s leadership and goal-scoring abilities. Wildcard: Should Zakuani regain full fitness and confidence, Schmid may have to move either Rosales or Fernández into the middle to accommodate him into the starting lineup. Sivebaek’s presence also helped Seattle make the decision to part with the promising Neagle. READ: Seattle Sounders 2011 season statistics Forwards Depth Chart: Target Striker 1. Eddie Johnson, 2. Sammy Ochoa, 3. Babayele Sodade; Withdrawn Striker 1. Fredy Montero, 2. David Estrada, 3. Cordell Cato Strengths: Having scored at least 10 goals during each of his three seasons in MLS, Montero is desperate to work himself back into the picture with the Colombian national team. The team is gambling that the addition of Johnson should allow Montero to continue to pull the strings — the striker has 26 career assists in league play to go along with his 34 goals. Weaknesses: Despite scoring a league-best 56 regular-season goals, the Sounders’ forwards found themselves the target of scorn at times. A handful of bodies, including the departed Mike Fucito, rotated in alongside Montero with none of them truly seizing the opportunity. Can Johnson finally be the week-in, week-out solution? Wildcard: The team referenced C.J. Sapong when describing their hopes for draft pick Sodade. The rookie faces an uphill battle for minutes, but the team likes what it has in the Canadian standout. Setting the Scene It was another successful year for the Seattle Sounders ... if you forget about that little blip at the end. A third consecutive first-round MLS Cup Playoffs exit – this time at the hands of Real Salt Lake – placed a tinge of disappointment on an otherwise glorious campaign. 2011 Seattle Goals In their third year in Major League Soccer, Seattle finished second in the Supporters' Shield race, claimed their third straight US Open Cup and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Oh, and Sounders fans broke their own record for attendance. Again. An influx of pedigreed veterans and physicality gifted newcomers should make Seattle incrementally better in 2012. But will it be enough to hoist MLS Cup? BUY SOUNDERS TICKETS HERE In and Out IN: G Michael Gspurning (12/7: free/Skoda Xanthi); D Marc Burch (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/D.C. United); D Adam Johansson (12/29: free/Göteborg); M Christian Sivebaek (1/11: free/Midtjylland); D Andrew Duran (1/12: SuperDraft); F Babayele Sodade (1/12: SuperDraft); D Tim Pontius (1/17: supplemental draft); M Andy Rose (1/17: trade from Real Salt Lake); F Cordell Cato (1/18: free/Defence Force FC); F Eddie Johnson (2/17: trade from Montreal); G Andrew Weber (3/2: free) OUT: G Kasey Keller (11/2: retired); D James Riley (11/23: to Chivas USA, via expansion draft); D Tyson Wahl (11/23: trade to Montreal); GK Terry Boss (12/2: retired); D Taylor Graham (12/2, retired); F Nate Jaqua (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/New England); F Pat Noonan (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/LA Galaxy); M Erik Friberg (12/12: transfer/Malmö); F Mike Fucito (2/17: trade to Montreal); M Lamar Neagle (2/17: trade to Montreal) READ: 2012 Seattle Sounders Depth Chart Star Attraction: Fredy Montero It’s a group effort in Seattle, but no individual player stands to benefit more than Montero. Acclaimed by some as an MVP candidate last preseason, Montero once again enters the season as the fulcrum of the Sounders’ potent offense. The team brought in Eddie Johnson to partner him up front – meaning that Montero has a chance to dish out the assists as well as rack up his fourth consecutive double-digit goal tally. READ: Estrada proves worth for Seattle as partner for Montero Unsung Hero: Jeff Parke Enough has been written about Osvaldo Alonso that he can no longer be considered unsung, so we look to Jeff Parke to fill that void (pictured right). In January, Parke finally got his look with the US national team. Cast off by the New York Red Bulls in 2008 after testing positive for a banned substance – from a supplement the player said he got over the counter – Parke wandered the soccer backstreets for two years before signing with Seattle. An MLS Cup would be the perfect end to this tale of redemption. Ready for Primetime: Eddie Johnson EJ has certainly had his detractors, but he hasn’t always had patrons. He’s found one in Seattle technical director Chris Henderson, who ran point on the trade that brought Johnson into the fold. Henderson was an assistant coach during Johnson’s best year as a professional, a 15-goal campaign in 2007 with Kansas City. Seattle bet a great deal that the former Fulham man is still a dynamo, sending two promising young players (Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle) to Montreal to acquire his services. Only time will tell if he’s up to the task. READ: Sounders not rushing Eddie Johnson back to action Storylines to Watch 1. Can Eddie Johnson find the form that helped him jump to the EPL? There’s no telling what a motivated Johnson (pictured right) could do. With crosses coming in from Mauro Rosales, Álvaro Fernández and, eventually, Steve Zakuani, there will be plenty of chances for Johnson to find the net in 2012. Still relatively young at 27 years old, Johnson has experienced adversity after a series of loan spells in Europe and a failure to catch on in Mexico. How he responds to those setbacks may very well color Seattle’s fortunes in 2012. 2. Is a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup in the offing? The club’s initial five-year plan had the team facing off against the globe’s best in the in the Club World Cup. Once a far-off dream, that goal is within reach now with Seattle entering the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. The stakes are clear – but can the Sounders come together to manufacture the actual performances needed to seize the automatic berth that comes with the CCL title? 3. Will Seattle’s increased athleticism make a difference? If there’s any difference between this Sounders roster and that of past editions, it is athleticism. Gone are aging veterans Pat Noonan and Nate Jaqua, replaced by players like Christian Sivebaek and Cordell Cato. Fans will be taken aback by the quickness of Cato, while Sivebaek’s great size and speed will make him a tough matchup for tired defenders. The additions of these two may give Seattle an extra edge off the bench to turn the tides of a close match. READ: Countdown to First Kick: Schmid the king of March What He Said “I’ve had a chance to work with Eddie now for three or four days – you’re surprised that his touch is very, very good. His timing as to when he opens up is very good. I think when we get him on the field together with Fredy Montero, I think they’re going to be a very good combination.” – Seattle manager Sigi Schmid (pictured right) to reporters on February 27 SEE: 2012 Season Preview Archive If Everything Goes Right It’s all there for the taking. CCL, MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield – nothing is out of reach for this Sounders team. However, Bruce Arena’s LA Galaxy squad stands firmly in the way of all three goals.