Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has taken a pay cut to stay with the team in 2018, but longtime midfielder and fan favorite Brad Evans is likely on the move after the team declined to pick up his option and allowed him to seek free agency
It’s been a good month since news first broke that Clint Dempsey would be returning to the Sounders on a one-year deal for the 2018 season. What wasn’t known at the time is that Dempsey agreed to take a bit of a pay cut from his 2017 salary.
Dempsey will be joined on the 2018 roster with striker Will Bruin, who Tuesday was one of 11 players with their options picked up for next season. But one of those the team let go on Tuesday was longtime midfielder Brad Evans, an original and much-celebrated Sounders veteran from 2009 slowed by a herniated disc in his back for most of the past season.
Evans is now a free agent. In an interview last week, Evans said he has no intention of retiring but first wants to get fully healthy. The injury occured last season and sidelined Evans the first 2 1/2 months of the 2017 season when he was due to be the team’s starting right back.
“I definitely want to play,” Evans said. “I’m a free agent this year, which makes it a bit sticky and interesting. But I’ve got to be honest with myself at the same time. If I’m healthy, I’ll play.”
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The Sounders could still re-sign Evans, but that’s unlikely given the current roster situation with Kelvin Leerdam at right back and a variety of younger, surplus midfielders. One of those, Harry Shipp, could be on the trade block in coming days after the Sounders left him unprotected in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion draft.
The expansion Los Angeles FC side selected Sounders backup goalkeeper Tyler Miller with their first pick, one of five players taken overall from various league rosters. By losing the pick, the Sounders gain $50,000 in allocation money and Miller gets a shot at starting after two years as the backup to Stefan Frei.
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey on Tuesday said losing Miller was something the team expected given his prior talks with the L.A. side. Lagerwey did confirm that Dempsey took a pay cut after earning $3.892 million in total compensation from the Sounders last season according to figures from the MLS players’ union.
“I think it’s just what the market was, to be honest with you,” Lagerwey said of Dempsey, who, at 34, led the Sounders with 12 goals and added three more in the post-season. “I mean, a player at his age, he had fewer options and wanted to stay. We wanted to get a deal at a certain price and we were able to figure something out.”
Dempsey taking a pay cut gives the Sounders financial flexibility for upgrading their attack, which had already been a team goal ahead of getting stymied by Toronto FC 2-0 in last Saturday’s MLS Cup championship game. Lagerwey wouldn’t comment on the team’s targets, though Dynamo Kiev midfielder Derlis Gonzalez remains available if the team wants to take another run at him.
The Sounders came close to landing Gonzalez last summer until talks came undone in the late stages.
One question mark heading into training camp next month will be midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who spent much of 2017 recovering from knee problems that forced him to take pain medication injections to play in the 2016 MLS Cup. Alonso then endured leg muscle injuries late in the season — possibly related to the initial knee problems — and was left unprotected by the Sounders in the expansion draft.
Alonso took to Twitter and was emotional in expressing his unhappiness at being left unprotected. But he wasn’t claimed and is still a member of the Sounders, though he faces stiff competition from Cristian Roldan and Gustave Svensson in the defensive midfield. His trade value is also questionable given his uncertain health status, having failed a physical last week that left him unable to play in the MLS Cup defeat.