The Sounders set the stage Wednesday for their off-season roster restructuring, exercising options on 11 players’ contracts. The Sounders declined to exercise options on nine. The team’s roster contains 21 players.
“We’re going to keep most of our playoff-starting contingent intact,” GM Garth Lagerway told members of the media Wednesday. “You’re going to see keeping some of our depth with the idea of setting succession plans as we identify players who maybe aren’t ready to play all the time right now, but we think are prepared to start in the next year or two.”
The players whose options were not selected (and 2015 salary): D Leo Gonzalez ($165,000), M Gonzalo Pineda ($160,000), GK Troy Perkins ($130,000), M Thomás ($108,000), F Chad Barrett ($95,000) M Marco Pappa, ($75,000), D Zach Scott ($65,000), D Michael Azira ($60,000), and D Andres Correa ($60,000).
The average age of the group is 29.2.
It is unsurprising that the club decided not to renew the contracts of Gonzalez and Scott. Both were the only team members besides captain Brad Evans from when Seattle made the MLS jump in 2009. Age and injury problems hampered them significantly last season.
The cuts of Thomás, Azira and Correa are the result of underproduction when they had playing time during the absence of several starters. Correa, who struggled with injuries throughout the season, never made an appearance with the first team. Thomás recorded only one goal.
“In Thomás’s case, we saw some things on the training field that unfortunately we weren’t able to see on the field,” said Lagerway. “Those are risks that you take, and you hope as a general manager you get more right than wrong, and these ones didn’t work out.”
Pappa’s release is perhaps the greatest surprise. Despite the midfielder’s arrest for DUI July 19, the Guatemalan international played his way back into the starting lineup upon his return from league-mandated rehab, and was an important contributor off the bench during Seattle’s playoff push, finishing the year with three goals and six assists.
Lagerway said cutting Pappa was primarily a money issue.
“I think a lot of Marco,” said Lagerway. “Unfortunately the option placed in his contract is at a significant increase over what he made this year, and we just felt like it didn’t provide us with the value that we needed.”
Value will be a key line for the Sounders to walk, as they hope to land or develop promising talent on the cheap to minimize the cap space eaten up by a majority of its roster.
For the players who went untapped, there are several methods of recourse for them to continue playing at their current salaries. The primary method is the MLS Re-Entry Draft, which occurs in two phases. Players selected in the first phase will be paid the same salary by their new club, while players selected in the second will negotiate a new salary.
All of the Sounders released players, save for Thomás and Correa, are old enough to qualify for MLS free agency, which means that they will have an opportunity to select their own club and negotiate with them, if they choose to remain in the league.
The Re-Entry Draft occurs after the postseason ends, after which the building phase of Seattle’s roster will begin.
Players whose contracts were renewed include D Tyrone Mears, GK Stefan Frei, GK Charlie Lyon, D Oniel Fisher, D Chad Marshall, D Jimmy Ockford, D Dylan Remick, M Aaron Kovar, F Vic Mansaray and M Lamar Neagle.
They join Evans, Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Erik Friberg, Cristian Roldan, Andreas Ivanschitz, Darwin Jones, and Osvaldo Alonso, whose contracts carry through at least the 2016 season.
Andy Craven and Andy Rose have been offered contracts by the Sounders, according to Lagerway. Craven, called up from S2 in the middle of the season, played a handful of matches before he was lost to injury. Rose is on trial with Coventry City in England’s League One. While the club has openly expressed its interest in re-signing Rose, it will be the 25-year-old’s decision whether to accept the new contract.