Seattle has roster flexibility and resources to burn in the wake of Obafemi Martins’ move to the Chinese Super League and might be looking for some firepower.
With less than a week remaining in Major League Soccer’s spring transfer window, there is little indication that a big-name Sounders signing is nigh.
Seattle has roster flexibility and resources to burn in the wake of Obafemi Martins’ move to the Chinese Super League, but the club has said from the outset that it would take its time vetting potential replacements.
That’s not to say, however, that the Sounders roster will look the same a week from now.
Key MLS transfer window dates
May 11: The first, (Primary) Transfer Window — the dates between which MLS may acquire the rights from a player under contract in another country — closes. Also functions as a deadline for trades within the league.
July 4: Secondary Transfer Window opens, and trades can again be made.
Aug. 3: Secondary Transfer Window closes.
An MLS trade deadline also looms next Wednesday, before reopening on July 4. Seattle could still move for a piece below the Designated Player threshold — a rotation player rather than a star — to bolster its depth before a crucial stretch of matches.
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“We’ve been looking,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We want to make sure we make the right decision and not an impulse decision. When that’s exactly going to happen, we don’t know. It’s tougher in this window because the guys we’re looking at are quality guys.”
Seattle could also come to an agreement with a DP during the dark period between transfer windows. Such a signing couldn’t make his debut until July 9 against the L.A. Galaxy — and would be unable to bolster the ranks during Copa America Centenario — but would also be likelier to hit the ground running.
The Sounders still haven’t meshed — winners of three out of five matches through gristle. That uptick in results has at least kept Seattle on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff spots, lessening the need for a move to rescue its season.
The victory over Columbus this past weekend, especially, allowed for a momentary exhale, and another win against San Jose on Saturday could provide further encouragement before a looming East Coast swing.
Identifying a position of need is easier today than it was in the wake of Martins’ departure just before the start of the season, though the educated guess was obvious even then. The Sounders need more consistent attacking firepower.
A “goal-dangerous” winger — as general manager Garth Lagerwey put it — or an attack-minded central midfielder would fill a need.
Martins netted more than a third of Seattle’s 44 goals last season, while departed veterans Marco Pappa, Lamar Neagle and Chad Barrett combined for 12 more. So far this season, the Sounders are averaging just a single goal per game, ranking last in the West with eight from eight matches.
Rookie forward Jordan Morris has now scored in three consecutive games. Designated Players Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, though, have combined for just a single league goal and zero assists. Dempsey has tried out a number of different roles in Seattle’s restructured 4-3-3 formation, struggling to find one that best suits his attributes. Valdez has been limited with a series of injuries, his devil-may-care style clashing with MLS’ notorious physicality.
Dempsey is under contract through the end of next season, a team source confirmed, but Valdez’ deal runs only though 2016.
Where Brad Evans fits into Seattle’s healthy, first-choice lineup is also a question. Roman Torres is projected to return to action on the other side of this June’s Copa America, and he’d replaced Evans as a full-time starter at center back before suffering a knee injury last September.
Does Evans push back forward into the midfield? What would that mean for rejuvenated Ozzie Alonso, or second-year mid Cristian Roldan, who has been gaining in confidence and minutes? Erik Friberg has been durable throughout his career, but are his early-season injuries a worrying trend? What of Andreas Ivanschitz, who has been the most consistently dangerous Sounders attacker so far this season?
But in assessing potential targets or putting too much stock in hypothetical depth charts, it’s best to flash back to Sigi Schmid’s comments at Morris’ unveiling in January. With Martins still in the fold, finding fulfilling roles for all of his talented forwards looked like a significant challenge, but Schmid waved away the concerns.
“Having too many good players is never as issue,” Schmid said that morning. “You can’t have enough of them at the end of the day.”
That is, don’t rule anything out, not until that window officially slams shut. Things are quiet now, but a week is a long time this time of year.