The Sounders have used the July transfer window and Targeted Allocation Money to secure right back Kelvin Leerdam from the Dutch first division.
An at-times troubled right-back position for the Sounders is getting international help as the team has reached a deal with Dutch first-division player Kelvin Leerdam for the July transfer window.
The signing, to be officially announced Saturday, will see Leerdam, 27, who played the past four seasons with SBV Vitesse, become the first Sounders player given Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) at the right-back position. The Sounders previously gave TAM contracts only to players at more premium positions, so this move speaks to both the growth of the league’s talent pool as well as the team’s obvious need on the back line.
“We’ve played six or seven players at the right-back position so far this year, so it was a position that really needed to be reinforced,’’ Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said.
Sounders FC @ Colorado, 6 p.m., Ch. 13
Leerdam, a 5-foot-10, 154-pound defender born in Suriname but raised in the Netherlands, won’t be eligible to join the Sounders until the transfer window opens July 10. That means the earliest he can play will be July 19 against D.C. United.
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TAM players must earn beyond the Major League Soccer minimum of $480,625 but less than $1 million. Given the amount of money, such players are almost always immediately thrust into starting roles.
The Leerdam signing raises the immediate question of what becomes of starting Sounders right back Brad Evans, whose health has been an issue much of the season. Evans missed the first two-plus months of the season with a calf muscle injury and has been rested sporadically ever since given the team’s hectic schedule.
Lagerwey said Evans remains firmly in the team’s plans at a number of spots, including right back.
“Brad remains versatile, gifted and flexible, and has always been willing to help the team in any way that he can,’’ Lagerwey said. “I think there is still a big role for Brad to play.’’
Evans sat out the U.S. Open Cup game in San Jose this past week, with the Sounders preferring to rest him for a more prolonged stretch. Evans will miss Tuesday’s game in Colorado due to a red card picked up against Portland last Sunday, leaving the team woefully short at the position yet again.
The Sounders caught a break Friday when it was learned that Jordy Delem will return on an emergency loan from the Martinique squad competing in the upcoming Gold Cup tournament. He gives coach Brian Schmetzer a couple of options to use at right back against Colorado, either with Delem or moving Joevin Jones over from his left-back spot.
The Sounders (5-7-6) have just one road win this season and can ill afford not to capitalize on a 5-10-1 Rapids squad sporting the worst record in the league. But the Sounders will be depleted, having already lost forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan to the U.S. men’s national team and right back Oniel Fisher to the Jamaican squad.
Evans has played virtually every back line and midfield position during his dozen-year MLS tenure. The midfielder moved to center back before the 2015 season, but switched up again after the Roman Torres acquisition that summer.
Then, when Torres suffered a season-ending knee injury just four games into his Sounders stint, Evans reverted to center back again. He remained there until switching to right back last summer after Torres returned from his injury.
Evans serves as the primary backup at a multitude of positions, meaning the Sounders envision potentially starting him in several places with Leerdam now in hand.
“We look at this as it makes us stronger in two ways,’’ Lagerwey said. “We can have greater certainty at the right-back position and also somebody capable of playing at other spots if the need arises.’’
Leerdam spent nine seasons in the Eredivisie — the top Dutch professional league — the first five of those with Feyenoord and the latter four with the Arnhem-based Vitesse squad. He also had 19 appearances with the Dutch under-21 national side.
Lagerwey had previously indicated he planned to sign a defender and confirmed Friday that Leerdam was it. The Sounders also plan to add an attacking player or two in the days leading up to the transfer window opening.