TUKWILA — The Sounders have declined contract options on multiple players, including MLS Cup MVP Victor Rodriguez and top defender Roman Torres, the team announced Wednesday.
Defenders Jonathan Campbell and Saad Abdul-Salaam and midfielder Alex Roldan also had their options declined by the club. Contracts for center back Kim Kee-hee and winger Harry Shipp have ended while the loan for left back Brad Smith expires in December.
“All of the situations are a little different but there’s a couple of those guys that we definitely are looking to come back,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said at the club’s Starfire Sports training facility. “When we decline an option, all we’re saying is we’re not willing to pay this price that’s on paper, but there may be a mutually agreeable price.”
Smith’s rights belong to AFC Bournemouth of the English Premier League, making his chances to return a longshot. But by protecting Smith for the MLS expansion draft earlier this week, the Sounders retain the 25-year-old’s rights in their league should a deal be possible for the Australian to play in the U.S. again.
Among the ongoing negotiations are with Torres, whose agent spoke with Lagerwey on Wednesday. Torres’ five-year tenure with Seattle was tainted by injuries and a 10-game league suspension this past season. The 33-year-old from Panama scored the winning goal against Minnesota United FC on “Decision Day” to secure home-field advantage through the Western Conference semifinals and title match. He also nailed the Sounders’ 2016 title-clinching penalty kick against Toronto.
Torres, who earned a base salary of $750,000 this season, has been rumored to return to his Colombian club, Millonarios FC.
Rodriguez scored a goal in the 76th minute of the Sounders’ 3-1 win at CenturyLink Field for the MLS Cup title. The Spanish midfielder signed with the Sounders in 2017 but was often injured, making his contract option refusal unsurprising. Rodriguez, 30, also told media after MLS Cup he wanted to return to his native country to continue his career by his young family’s side. The Designated Player had a base salary of $1.1 million this season, according to the MLS Players Association.
“We needed to do the right thing for his family,” Lagerwey said of essentially letting Rodriguez go.
The Sounders picked up 2020 contract options on midfielders Handwalla Bwana, Jordy Delem and Gustav Svensson and forward Justin Dhillon, bringing the club’s roster to 18 players.
Svensson, who had two assists in Seattle’s championship win, was an unexpected return.
“We had always assumed he didn’t want to stay,” said Lagerwey of the Swedish defender. “It was pretty easy to wrap that one up.”
The 14 players that had already been under contract for the Sounders are goalkeepers Stefan Frei and Trey Muse; defenders Xavier Arreaga, Joevin Jones, Kelvin Leerdam and Nouhou; midfielders Emanuel Cecchini, Danny Leyva, Nicolás Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan; forwards Will Bruin, Jordan Morris, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Raúl Ruidíaz.
Cecchini, 22, is on loan through the 2020 MLS season from the Spanish Malaga CF’s second-tier team. He earned approximately $789,000 this year, but could exercise an option to not return because of his limited playing time. He totaled 155 minutes since his signing in August.
“He came in just at the wrong time,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “The team was in a little bit of flux. We hadn’t settled in on a real lineup. … I don’t have any negative things to say about Emanuel. It was just the wrong place, wrong time. How we solve that, push that forward into the future, that’ll be determined.”
MLS clubs have until Thursday to re-sign players eligible for the re-entry draft, including those players whose contracts were not exercised, according to league rules.
Lagerwey would like to have the lingering contract negotiations completed by mid-December. The club opens training camp Jan. 11 to first prepare to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League. The 2020 MLS season is slated to begin Feb. 29.
The league and its players’ union are currently discussing a new collective bargaining agreement, which could include a salary cap increase. The current CBA expires in January 2020.
“We obviously need more than one center back, that’s math,” Lagerwey said of player targets.
The club typically inks Designated Player contracts during the FIFA summer transfer window.
“We’re talking to Roman, we’re talking to Kim; there’s still something that could happen there, we’ll see,” Lagerwey continued. “You could see us reinforce the defensive midfield in the long term. In general, we feel pretty good about our attack (and) we felt like we had a really effective way of playing, particularly toward the end. Our defense, it wasn’t that it was good or bad. … But what we had was instability. What we’re going to look to try to get to is a little bit more stability in those roles.”