MLS Soccer

Seattle looks ahead to designated player signing, maybe more

On Tuesday, the Seattle Sounders announced the what: three transactions, none a jaw-dropper in and of itself.

On Wednesday, the Sounders FC brain trust began sharing the why.

Basically, the moves divide into two areas. One is setting the stage for the signing of a third designated player. The other is the development of young players who, at least for now, are learning on the bottom fringes of the roster.

Naturally, the introduction of a new designated player generates more buzz. In this case, general manager Garth Lagerwey envisions a creative player, likely an attacking midfielder, ideally with his best days ahead.

“Yes: We are going to look younger,” he said. “We are not wedded to things. If we find an older player who is the best player out there at the best value, fine. But again, if you’re looking at a lineup where eight or nine guys are 30 years old, that is not sustainable.”

The Sounders seemed to set the table for such a signing when they traded general allocation money, which can be used for many things, to Toronto FC for an international roster spot and targeted allocation money, a de facto way of increasing the number of DP-quality players on a roster. (Even Lagerwey said the distinctions make his head hurt.)

“I’d even say there are some scenarios where you might even see us sign more than two, and maybe spread that TAM (targeted allocation) money and GAM (general allocation) money out over more players,” he said. “In general, we’re not going to get fixated over one target or one outcome. We’re going to see how our team plays and how we develop, how healthy we are, how Brad Evans does, and we’re going to try to make our team better. And I think one of the keys to making our team better long term is bringing in more good young players, as we’ve been trying to do.”

So, fans might ask, when will the new toys arrive?

There is a transfer window open now through May, and another that will open in July. Lagerwey said each has its pros and cons. Obviously, an immediate signing can make an immediate contribution, while a midseason signing has less time to contribute but also delivers only half the salary cap hit.

Lagerwey stressed there is no reason to rush three games into a new season, despite a 0-1-1 elimination from CONCACAF Champions League and an 0-1 start to the MLS season. And he implied his confidence would survive another loss Saturday at Real Salt Lake.

Other issues Lagerwey mentioned — health, player development — were amplified by coach Sigi Schmid.

He said Evans has been ruled out for Real Salt Lake while recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the opener. Veteran Zach Scott seems likely to fill in at centerback. Meanwhile, Schmid reported progress by two other starters who sat out Sunday. Midfielder Erik Friberg has completed his concussion protocol. Barring a setback, he should return to full training Thursday. Right back Tyrone Mears is progressing from a quadriceps strain.

Schmid said the club decided that young centerbacks Damion Lowe and Jimmy Ockford could benefit from loans to the North American Soccer League, which is one level behind Major League Soccer but one ahead of the USL, where the Sounders development team plays. Schmid added that Lowe could return before the season is through.

Finally, Schmid welcomed rookie Tony Alfaro, a second-round draft pick who signed Tuesday.

“I think technically he’s very good — he’s definitely MLS level,” Schmid said. “It’s just a matter of him continuing to improve his defending.”

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