Sounders originals Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez and Guatemalan international Marco Pappa are among the nine Sounders whose contact options have been declined, the club announced Wednesday.
Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez have felt superficially linked for years now: Two of the holdovers from Seattle’s first MLS season, two veterans whose games aged gracefully, two defenders who always seemed to worm their way into the back line come playoff time.
Each of them played a role as the Sounders established themselves as an annual contender. Now, it appears, they’ll depart the club together, too.
Scott and Gonzalez and Guatemalan international Marco Pappa are among the nine Sounders whose contact options have been declined, the club announced Wednesday.
Forward Chad Barrett, midfielders Pappa, Gonzalo Pineda, Micheal Azira and Thomas, defenders Scott, Gonzalez and Andres Correa and goalkeeper Troy Perkins have all had their options declined. Midfielder Andy Rose — currently on loan with Coventry City in the UK’s League One — and forward Andy Craven are currently out of contract, but the club has until next Thursday to re-sign Re-Entry-Draft-eligible players, including those with declined options.
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Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey made it clear that none of these decisions are absolutes, that some players could still come back after agreeing to pay cuts and that the roster will be flux for at least another month or so. But this is the clearest indication yet what the club’s oft-stated desire to get both younger and leaner looks like in practice.
As figured, the Sounders are cutting heavily from their list of players whose salary cap hit was between $100,000 and $160,000 or so as well as those aged 30 or above.
“I wouldn’t say that our door is closed,” Lagerwey said. “We might decline their contract option, but there’s a path that they could rejoin us.
“If we’re not prepared to go to their full number, sometimes they want to go to the marketplace.”
10 players were already under contract for 2016: defenders Brad Evans and Roman Torres, midfielders Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz and Cristian Roldan and forwards Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Darwin Jones and Nelson Valdez. And the following players had their options picked up: goalkeepers Stefan Frei and Charlie Lyon, defenders Oniel Fisher, Damion Lowe, Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears, Jimmy Ockford and Dylan Remick, midfielders Aaron Kovar and Lamar Neagle and forward Victor Mansaray.
Scott’s omission is probably the biggest surprise on the list, if only because it felt as though the 35-year-old veteran was indestructible. Having played through a broken foot for most of this season and an arthritic ankle carried over from the year before, Scott appeared in all three of Seattle’s playoff games and started two of them. Lagerwey said the decision not to pick up the his or Gonzalez’s options were made by the team, not by the player, characterizing possible retirement as a “personal” call.
Scott and Gonzalez were two of the five remaining players from Seattle’s inaugural MLS squad — and both Alonso and Neagle have been subjected to of-substance trade rumors since the season ended.
“Guys like Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, to a lesser degree Pineda, guys who have been around the club for a long time and have been incredible contributors, we are very grateful to them,” Lagerwey said. “… We want to treat them with the proper respect.”
Pappa appeared to have played himself back into the fold during his strong finish to 2015, but his enforced absence following his midseason arrest for driving under the influence coupled with Seattle’s spending spree during the summer transfer window pushed him down the depth chart. The Guatemalan winger also, crucially, is due a significant salary increase to the $75,000 he was making according to the MLS Players’ Union release.
Thomas never really established himself after joining the club in June from Brazilian club Flamengo, flashing his dribbling skills but not the finishing touch to match — a long-term project for a team looking for a quick fix. Pineda, Azira and potentially Rose are casualties of an extreme midfield makeover that could leave it with near-complete turnover from its state at this time last year.
Referencing the defense that finished for the fewest goals allowed in MLS and a star-studded attack, Lagerwey said that “I do think, then, that if we have to upgrade an area on the field, it’s that midfield group.”
Below is the current Sounders roster following Wednesday’s announcement:
GOALKEEPERS: Stefan Frei, Charlie Lyon
DEFENDERS: Brad Evans, Oniel Fisher, Damion Lowe, Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears, Jimmy Ockford, Dylan Remick, Roman Torres
MIDFIELDERS: Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz, Aaron Kovar, Lamar Neagle, Cristian Roldan
FORWARDS: Clint Dempsey, Darwin Jones, Victor Mansarary, Obafemi Martins, Nelson Valdez