The Sounders FC are set to replace a local with a local for the club’s open sporting director position.
The Seattle Times was able to confirm Tuesday multiple reports that Craig Waibel, 45, will take over the open position vacated by Chris Henderson, who left in January for a similar position with Inter Miami CF. The news was first reported by Fansided’s MLS Multiplex. The Sounders are expected to make an announcement this week.
Waibel is a former University of Washington and USL Sounders player.
A four-time MLS Cup champion, Waibel’s most recent position within the league was as general manager of Real Salt Lake. He left the team in September 2019 after a lawsuit involving former head coach Mike Petke stated Waibel was critical of then-owner Dell Loy Hansen. The latter recently sold the team after allegations of making racist remarks.
Waibel has spent the past year consulting for professional teams globally while living in Salt Lake City. A source said he’s elated to move back to Seattle with his wife and their daughter.
The Portland native worked alongside Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey at RSL and ultimately replaced him in 2015, likely making Waibel an intriguing hire.
Henderson, a Cascade High alum, was hired by the Sounders in 2008 and led the club to four U.S. Open Cups, four Cascadia Cups, two MLS Cups and one Supporters’ Shield.
The Sounders roster has gaps on the wings that coach Brian Schmetzer intimated would be filled by lineup changes. The club’s salary cap is tight but Waibel could begin to make a mark by finding options for the absence of winger Jordan Morris and depth at right fullback.
The Rave Green hosted the Portland Timbers in two closed-door scrimmages at Starfire Sports in Tukwila on Tuesday. In the opening match, Schmetzer used a new two-forward lineup where he started Fredy Montero and Will Bruin up top. The result was a 1-1 draw.
“Tactically, we did well with our backline spacing and keeping possession,” Bruin said in audio provided by MLS. “It’s hard to switch formations but I think we did a good job for it being early in the preseason. Going forward, there’s still more we can work on but we’re getting our spacing together and starting to know where everybody is going to be on the field.”
Schmetzer played more of his younger players in the second scrimmage against the Timbers. The match was 75 minutes and ended in a scoreless draw.
It being a scrimmage didn’t quell the Cascadia derby fire between the clubs. Montero, who last played for the Sounders in 2012, scored his side’s only goal and was also shown a yellow card.
“I don’t know what the referee was thinking,” Montero said of the call in audio provided by MLS.
“I’m trying to understand every single guy and information,” Montero said of his progress since signing earlier this month. “(My teammates) are smart players and I love to play with them. It’s fun to be out on the pitch with them.”
Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz, the club’s leading scorer the past three seasons, has not reported to training camp due to issues securing his U.S. Green Card. The club is hopeful he arrives this week.
Seattle, which lost in the MLS Cup final to the Columbus Crew SC last year, opens its 2021 MLS season April 16 at Lumen Field.