Even though Ivanschitz turns 32 before the MLS Cup playoffs, he certainly has the pedigree and the talent to contribute right away.
The signing of Andreas Ivanschitz, announced by the Sounders on Tuesday, would have turned more heads when the club first approached him in 2013.
Ivanschitz is 31 years old, two years further from the heady days when the Austrian playmaker was considered one of Europe’s more promising attacking prospects. And though 15 consecutive seasons in a European top division and 69 national-team caps is hardly a shabby record, the years have rubbed off a bit of the shine.
But delayed gratification has its perks, too.
For Seattle, Ivanschitz is a bargain buy. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey confirmed that Ivanschitz is not a Designated Player signing, nor did the team use any of its Targeted Allocation Money.
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Out of contract following his second season with Levante in Spain’s La Liga, Ivanschitz joined the Sounders on a free transfer.
“Sometimes a career path is not just like this,” said Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson, motioning in a smooth upward motion. “You take your bumps along the way and you adjust and show what kind of professional you are.
“A lot of times, in our league, for us to get a player and have that opportunity, you get a guy who has maybe had some bumps along the road. That’s how you fit him under your salary cap.”
The timing of Ivanschitz’s signing is fortuitous in another way, too: The Sounders need a spark, any spark, to pull them out of their recent malaise, and midfield production has been lacking.
Even though Ivanschitz turns 32 before the MLS Cup playoffs, he certainly has the pedigree and the talent to contribute right away. The 2003 Austrian Footballer of the Year began his career with domestic powerhouse Rapid Vienna — captaining the national team at age 19 — before suiting up for Panathinaikos in Greece and Mainz in Germany.
“He’s younger than our current strikers,” Lagerwey said, half-jokingly, when he was asked if he was concerned about Ivanschitz’s age. “In general, do we want to make the group younger? I suppose, yeah. But we also want to win the title. And this is a guy we think can help us win the title.”
Nicknamed the David Beckham of Austria — he’s also known as Mozart, but we’ll leave that one for another day — Ivanschitz’s dead-ball skills will be hugely valuable for a team that has scored just two set-piece goals this season.
The attacking midfielder most likely will slot in on the wing, where Lamar Neagle, Thomas and Cristian Roldan have all battled for minutes this season. Lagerwey chose not to comment on what this might mean for Marco Pappa until the Guatemalan completes his league-mandated evaluation following a recent DUI arrest, offering only words of support in the meantime.
“You always have somebody who’s injured or somebody’s missing or somebody’s out,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “Nobody should know that better than us this year. But we expect (Ivanschitz) to be in our top group. … He’s of the quality that we expect him to step into the lineup and contribute.”
Here’s an (albeit old) YouTube video to provide a sense of Ivanschitz’s style:
More on this to follow.