B’s for Sounders, room to grow

Sounders general manager grades aspects of team’s player transactions after 5th season

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comNovember 19, 2013 

With Seattle Sounders FC facing an offseason expected to bring big changes, general manager Adrian Hanauer was asked to grade the club’s player transactions over its first five seasons.

B’s and maybe B-pluses all around, Hanauer said — for drafting, trading, and international and free agent signings, including designated players.

Those players have come together to produce five playoff appearances, three U.S. Open Cup championships, three CONCACAF Champions League qualifications, and one trip to the MLS Western Conference finals. However, there have been no Supporters Shields (best record in MLS) or conference titles, and no visits to the CCL final or to an MLS Cup.

The 2013 season ended with a 15-12-7 league record and elimination by Portland in the Western semifinal round. Hanauer called the season his most disappointing with the club. That’s why he foresees “some decent turnover” ahead.

Here is how Hanauer assesses the club’s player acquisitions since Seattle’s 2009 expansion season (some responses edited for length or clarity):

IN THE BEGINNING

“The simplest answer is I would give ourselves a grade of B to B-plus in each of those categories. As I look at the initial roster construction, we were able to bring guys like Zach Scott and Roger Levesque and Sebastien Le Toux and Sanna Nyassi and Taylor Graham — that group. And then to use our one player within USL that we had first discovery rights on, and use that on Osvaldo Alonso. It’s hard for me to imagine that going much better.

“I think we did pretty well in the expansion draft. Made some mistakes, but ended up with guys like

Jeff Parke and Brad Evans, James Riley, and Nathan Sturgis was a big part of the team for a while.”

COLLEGE DRAFT

“We’ve hit gold on some players; we’ve swung and missed, like every other team. I think we’ve had a lot of mid- to late-round success, whether it’s Mike Fucito or Andy Rose or Servando Carrasco. I think Josh Ford still has good potential. Steve Zakuani is the obvious one from 2009 who did very well until his injury, and hopefully will do well again.”

FOREIGN SIGNINGS

“To bring in Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg from day one was a big statement for the brand. But also I think it’s hard to argue that both of them didn’t have a massive influence on the club: obviously Freddie for a year and a half, Kasey for three years. Other foreign signings in those early years: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Fredy Montero, Leo Gonzalez. And I’m sure there are some along that way that we have missed, and there always will be.”

DESIGNATED PLAYERS

“Probably the area where people can argue the most. I think our record has been OK; whether it’s a B, B-plus, A, A-minus, I don’t know. If people are judging on how many months a player is with us, then perhaps we can be at fault. But if you’re judging on consistency of quality play, short of winning an MLS Cup, I’m not sure how you go below a B; although I’m sure some people think that we’ve graded out an F on DPs.

“Ljungberg was a very important player for us for a year and a half, and for us I think the timing ended up being pretty good. The second half of that 2010 season was very strong. Obafemi Martins was a player that we observed for a year prior to signing him. A pure finisher. We felt like he could score boatloads of goals in this league. He’s an exciting attacking player, which was at the time kind of in the area of the field that we wanted to focus on. And then we obviously do a lot of due diligence on players and try to understand how they might fit into the environment and the culture and the chemistry. Oba checked all the boxes. …

“Obviously you can buy yourself a pretty good grade if you just spend masses of money. But I think B-plus is reasonable given the cost/benefit of our DPs before Clint Dempsey. You spend $600,000 a year on a designated player, it’s generally harder to find someone who’s going to massively impact your team and be the right age and the right character compared to someone making $6 million a year.”

TRADES

“B-plus, as well. We made trades for Patrick Ianni and Tyrone Marshall in that first year. I think both those guys ended up providing a lot of games and some quality for us. We’ve traded some players away for some draft picks. I think our timing has been decent on some of those moves.

“The Eddie Johnson trade (for Lamar Neagle and Fucito) was a scary move. That’s another one that obviously has worked out very well — especially since we were able to bring Lamar back effectively for free. Probably still to be determined on Servando for Adam Moffat. Ljungberg for the draft pick. We traded a draft pick to move up in the allocation ranking to get Marcus Hahnemann; I think that has ended up being a very good decision.

“It was tough to give up Jeff Parke — and we didn’t want to trade him — but it was sort of a cap issue and trying to help him out to get home, and we felt like the compensation was appropriate. Shalrie Joseph was basically us getting two second-round draft picks and Shalrie for picking up his salary. Clearly we would have hoped that we could have kept Shalrie a little healthier and have him contribute more. But he’s been a good locker room presence, and I think he’s played some good minutes.”

OVERALL

“It’s reasonable to say B, B-plus. We were an expansion team, we made the playoffs five times, won three Open Cups — we made it to (that) championship four times. We said early on that we wanted to establish a business and run a rational business. And that means not losing massive amounts of money by not overspending on players. So, you give someone $15 million to work with and another team $3 million to work with, I’m going to bet on the team with $15 million to have more influential players. It’s just the reality of it. But given the budgets that we’ve had to work within, I think we’ve been highly successful.”

How the 2013 Sounders were built

EXPANSION DRAFT

2009: Brad Evans

SUPPLEMENTAL AND SUPERDRAFTS

2009: Steve Zakuani

2010: David Estrada

2011: Alex Caskey, Josh Ford, Andy Rose

2012: Eriq Zavaleta, Dylan Remick, Will Bates

FREE AGENTS, ALLOCATION, HOMEGROWN

2009: Osvaldo Alonso, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott

2012: Michael Gspurning, Marcus Hahnemann, Marc Burch

2013: Djimi Traore, DeAndre Yedlin, Philip Lund, Blair Gavin

TRADE

2009: Patrick Ianni

2012: Eddie Johnson

2013: Lamar Neagle, Shalrie Joseph, Adam Moffat

DESIGNATED PLAYERS

2011: Mauro Rosales

2013: Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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