Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey faces some upcoming decisions on brining in new players and jettisoning older ones. That includes midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who told Univision Seattle last Sunday he'd likely played his final game at CenturyLink Field.
Uruguayan midfielder Alvaro “Flaco” Fernandez caused a stir after the Sounders’ win on Sunday night when he told Spanish language Univision Seattle that it was probably his final game played at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders widely viewed the comments as an indication Fernandez wants out of his contract early due to disenchantment over a lack of playing time. That isn’t all that stunning a decision, given that Fernandez’s current contract expires at the end of June and the team has shown almost zero interest in keeping him on.
Still, given the team’s up-and-down health status all season and a recent hip flexor injury suffered by midfielder Harry Shipp, keeping Fernandez around a few more weeks as a spare body might not be the worst call. It’s one of several decisions facing general manager Garth Lagerwey as he prepares for negotiations ahead of the July 10-Aug. 9 summer transfer window seeking to add a spark to a squad languishing below the red line for much of the first three months.
“It’s a free country and he’s able to express what he’d like to express,” Lagerwey said of Fernandez on Tuesday. “He’s under contract until June 30.”
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The Sounders have already spoken about the situation with Fernandez, who won’t be playing in the team’s U.S. Open Cup match against Portland next week. Whether he plays at New York when the regular season resumes the following weekend is uncertain.
If otherwise healthy, the Sounders ordinarily wouldn’t be thrilled about keeping around a bench player unhappy about his playing time for the sake of just a few games. Fernandez was given a starting assignment in the season opener in Houston, but looked underwhelming then as he had through much of training camp.
By the second game, he’d lost his starting job to Shipp and only recent injuries and national team callups saw him gain additional playing time of late. But the strong return from injury of Aaron Kovar last weekend likely means even less playing time for Fernandez as the team tries to shift away from its tendency to be too left-sided.
Fernandez had played a big role during last year’s transfer window, getting fellow countryman and friend Nicolas Lodeiro to come here from Boca Juniors in Argentina.
The move turned the Sounders’ season around and they went on to win their first MLS Cup championship.
Now, with a team that looked tired and health-challenged the first three months in going 5-6-4, Lagerwey is focused on finding a similar in-season spark. The team has moved on from Japanese star Keisuke Honda, unable to reach a financial deal with the AC Milan forward they’d flirted with back in February.
Lagerwey still hopes to bolster both an attack that sputtered throughout the opening months, as well as an aging back-line that wasn’t fully healthy until the team’s most recent game last weekend. The possibility exists that he’ll bring in another designated player and a Targetted Allocation Money (TAM) player — or perhaps just a couple of TAM players — depending on the circumstances.
Rumors have swirled for a while about Paraguayan midfielder Derlis Gonzalez, who plays for Dynamo Kiev. But his rumored $10 million pricetag is certainly too rich for the Sounders, who are generally leery of offering players more money than the $3.9 million being paid this season to Clint Dempsey.
Lagerwey won’t promise that any import will have anything similar to the impact Lodeiro did last season. But he’d like to strengthen a side that underperformed to a large extent before winning three of its last four matches.
“We did not achieve what we wanted to achieve in the first half,” he said. “Some of that was stuff that we knew we’d be getting in to, which was a really, really short off-season and a bunch of guys banged up. We tried to foresee injuries, but last weekend was the first time we used our whole back line in a game.
“At some point we’ve got to get healthy, right? So, some summer reinforcements will hopefully get us some more bodies. I’m confident that we’re going to get better results based on the abilities of the players we have.”