The Seattle Sounders are an oldie but a goodie, general manager Garth Lagerwey said Wednesday.
They’re too good for a offseason detonation of the roster’s core. But Lagerwey and coach Sigi Schmid agree the high-priced stars needs to be surrounded with a younger and more athletic supporting cast.
“What you have to have is a succession plan at every position,” Lagerwey said. “And that is what we’re working toward — where we have a Plan A and a Plan B and we try to build a roster that we believe is sustainable, while at the same time understanding that given the ages of our best players we have to take another shot at it next year. We have to try to win another MLS Cup.”
When the Sounders’ season ended in the Western Conference semifinals, more than half the final starting lineup was made up of players 30 or older: forwards Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz and defenders Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears and Zach Scott.
The lineup also would have included 30-year-olds Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans, but they were out with injury.
Versatile team captain Evans is expected to return, and he said he hopes to remain at center back. But recent reports across MLS have raised the possibility that Alonso could be part of the roster turnover. Neither Lagerwey nor Schmid have denied the possibility.
“Ozzie’s been a great soldier for this club and he’s been an important member of this team, and hopefully that will continue on,” Schmid said. “But at this time, I couldn’t say which way it’s going to go. A juggler sometimes has three or four balls in the air. I think we’ve probably got about 10 in the air right now. It’s like once one of those balls hits the ground, that might determine what the next one is.”
On the other side of the age equation, Lagerwey updated the club’s heightened efforts to land academy alum Jordan Morris of Stanford.
“We hope he signs with us, but that is out of our control,” Lagerwey said. “… I can confirm the public reports that we’ve offered Jordan the richest homegrown player contract ever.”
While Morris projects as the top Sounders homegrown player since DeAndre Yedlin, Lagerwey stressed the need for the club to develop its own role players. To that end, he said the Sounders 2 USL team could get younger next season, with heightened emphasis on producing talent for the first team — even at the expense of wins and losses.
Meanwhile, some players from the first S2 class will take the step up.
“There are guys that already are under contract to our club who played a lot of games with S2, like Damion Lowe and people like that,” Schmid said. “Certainly, Ashani Fairclough did well; we want to see him in the camp. Oalex Anderson scored a goal (for St. Vincent and the Grenadines) against the U.S. — he represents one of the things we’re talking about, speed on the flanks. We want to give him as well a good look in preseason. Andy Craven just had surgery on his ankle, so he should be ready to go for preseason. ... He’s another one that adds to that speed and youth kind of element.”
Lagerwey said the club has allocation money, but also a full roster at its limit in terms of international spots.
Other teams are in similar situations, and Schmid predicted a wild offseason under the new collective bargaining agreement.
“This is going to be the toughest year for players,” he said. “I think there is going to be more of the middle-income players are going to get squeezed out of various teams. … We have to become a little more athletic in key parts of the field, and we have to do a better job of keeping position and moving forward as a group.”