MLS Soccer

GM says Sounders’ new midfielder merits spotlight

Germany's Philipp Lahm, bottom, and Austria's Andreas Ivanschitz, top, challenges Germany’s Philipp Lahm for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualification Group C soccer match in Munich, Germany. Ivanschitz recently joined the Seattle Sounders.
Germany's Philipp Lahm, bottom, and Austria's Andreas Ivanschitz, top, challenges Germany’s Philipp Lahm for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualification Group C soccer match in Munich, Germany. Ivanschitz recently joined the Seattle Sounders. AP file, 2013

You know it’s an active time for Seattle Sounders FC signings when a guy such as Andreas Ivanschitz gets overlooked.

Yet that’s what general manager Garth Lagerwey sensed was happening this week, until he stepped in to set things right.

“He’s a huge and massive addition to our team,” Lagerwey told media assembled mostly for the Roman Torres signing announcement Tuesday. “(Ivanschitz) is a guy who’s done it at the highest level. He’s coming from Levante in La Liga — same place we got (forward Obafemi Martins) from. Oba’s done OK. I think it’s a massive addition to our team, and I hope he’s considered by the public in the same light as (Erik) Friberg and (Nelson) Valdez and Torres. … I think he’s going to be a really impactful player for us right away.”

Lagerwey correctly identifies the issue. The Sounders had such a flurry of signings during this summer transfer window that the spotlight almost inevitably misses someone.

It wasn’t Friberg, who was already well-known from his 2011 stint in Seattle. It wasn’t Valdez, who plays the more glamourous forward position and wears the prestigious designated-player tag. And it wasn’t Torres, whose profile rocketed last month while playing for Panama in CONCACAF Gold Cup.

That left Ivanschitz, a midfielder who in 2003 was named Austrian footballer of the year. And if the promise of that year was never quite fulfilled, Ivanschitz still went on to assemble a significant résumé: 69 caps for his national team, becoming its youngest captain ever, making 14 appearances in UEFA Champions League, and scoring 62 goals in top leagues such as La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and the Greek Super League.

At 31, Ivanschitz felt the time was right to continue his career in Major League Soccer.

“I had spoken to (coach Sigi Schmid two years ago) and I knew the team since that time,” he said. “I followed the club, I was looking at how it was going — I think last year was very successful. I spoke to Michael Gspurning, who was goalkeeper here for two years, and he said he had a great time; so that was a good thing to speak to someone who knows the club and knows everybody here.”

Schmid sounds equally excited that the two-year wait for Ivanschitz finally paid off.

“He gives us a left-footed player — somebody who can play on the left-hand side, which is something we felt that we needed now,” Schmid said. “He’s also very, very good on set pieces: his service, his shot. All those things are good. … He’s played wide in a 4-4-2. He’s played in the middle and wide in a 4-2-3-1. He’s played in the middle of midfield in a 4-4-2. He’s played a number different places, but he’s definitely more of an attacking player.”

Ivanschitz joined training this week after travel from Madrid to Amsterdam to Seattle. He acknowledges that’s a lot of miles, but added that he’ll be ready whenever Schmid calls.

“I think it will take some time to settle in, but I am feeling good,” Ivanschitz said. “… It’s not easy, but I am feeling better. We will see by the end of this week how fit I am, how ready I am. I will try my best to get into training and to get into shape. I am really looking forward for this game, and see what the coaches decide.”

Schmid apparently has already decided, saying this week that he expects Ivanschitz, Valdez and Torres all to make their Sounders debuts Sunday when expansion Orlando City SC makes its inaugural visit.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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