With the summer transfer window open until Aug. 3 and a squad slumped at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, rumors are swirling around the Seattle Sounders and their plans to rebound from a dismal first half of the season.
The soccer transfer world is unlike anything else in American professional sports, since the league is of a lower quality than others around the globe. European basketball talent jumps at the chance to be a part of the chosen few in the NBA, but MLS doesn’t have the same level of desirability on an international scale.
For the Sounders, mid-season acquisitions have met with mixed success. The most famous mid-year get was designated player Clint Dempsey in 2013, acquired for $9 million from Tottenham in England.
Dempsey panned out in the long run, but the season of his acquisition didn’t follow the high-profile nature of his arrival. Dempsey waited until the final match of the regular season to score his lone goal, and the Sounders were bounced from the conference semifinals by the Portland Timbers, 5-3 on aggregate scoring.
Last year, Seattle tried to import a solution to its summer woes, bringing in four international signings: Swede Erik Friberg, Paraguayan Nelson Valdez, Austrian Andreas Ivanschitz, and Panamanian Román Torres.
The injection of talent and competition into the roster worked well enough (or conveniently coincided with Obafemi Martins’s recovery from a torn groin muscle) to help Seattle avoid missing the postseason for the first time in its history. But the injection wore off more quickly than the front office had thought.
Of those four signings, only Friberg and Ivanschitz have been any help this season, while Torres is still recovering from an ACL tear.
Valdez, whose contract will earn him $1.5 million this year, has failed to score in almost 600 minutes on the field in his 12 league appearances this year. For a player who was signed after majority owner Adrian Hanauer said Seattle needed a player who could score if Dempsey and Martins, who left for big money in Shanghai, weren’t on the pitch, Valdez’s numbers are as lethargic as the 6-11-2 Sounders.
Now, the Sounders are alleged to be peering into every window without curtains for a view of who they might add to bolster the roster and fill the DP slot vacated by Martins.
There were rumors that the club was in pursuit of Oscar Romero from Argentina’s Racing Club. One MLS club offered Racing Club $10 million for the 24-year-old Paraguayan. Racing Club accepted, but Romero turned down the opportunity to play in MLS, saying he’d prefer to stay in Argentina (with an implied “until a better league comes for me” at the end of the statement).
The Sounders have also been in talks with Boca Juniors for the services of Nicolás Lodeiro, a 27-year-old attacking midfielder. Boca allegedly wanted to hold on to Lodeiro until the end of the Copa Libertadores, but negotiations may have stalled.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the Sounders have already agreed to a fee with San Lorenzo de Almagredo in Buenos Aires for midfielder Sebastian Blanco. Reportedly, though, Blanco might not be available to the club until next season.
The Sounders always play their transfer attempts quietly, so there may be more options that GM Garth Lagerway and Sporting Director Chris Henderson are considering to awaken the Sounders.
A new face is certainly what many fans seek. The number of transfer rumors linked to the Sounders seems to suggest the club is thinking similarly. What is unclear is whether the club will overpay for a short-term solution when it has long-term considerations it must bear in mind.
In either case, it seems unlikely that Seattle will rid itself of any under-performing players during the transfer window.
In the wake of Wednesday’s loss to the LA Galaxy in the quarterfinal of the U.S. Open Cup, Sigi Schmid revealed midfielder Aaron Kovar had broken his collarbone in a chance collision with teammate Oniel Fisher. With Seattle already short on depth, there is a lack of flexibility in the roster to off-load anyone who might be under-performing.
The Sounders can sell a high-performing player only during the transfer window, but with Wednesday’s roster selection absent key veterans, a clear signal was sent that Seattle is pushing for an MLS Cup this season. Seattle will hold on to all the talent it can fit under the salary cap.
Seattle will try to add some firepower, but time will tell if any addition is a long-term improvement or a short-term salve.