The shortest off-season in American sports has barely started. Already two of the five drafts are out of the way - Expansion and Waiver. While Seattle didn't lose anyone in the Waiver Draft, in fact no waived players were picked up by other teams, the two weeks leading up to the Re-Entry Draft Stage 2 should lead the Seattle Sounders into cap freedom.
It may seem odd opening up the bi-annual Searching for the Free post talking about the Re-Entry Drafts, but Cap space really determines the type of Frees that Seattle could target. Right now Cap space is at a premium, but the renegotiation's and potential cutting of players should open up monies for international Frees. What we are doing here, and certainly with your help, is looking for International Frees who would seem to fit the Sounders roster needs and budget limitations. There is no master global list of Frees.
Already Seattle has lost 11% of minutes played in 2010 with two Central Midfielders and a Right Winger moving to opposing MLS teams. Seattle also added a Centerback, a Fullback and a Target Forward who would play about 8% minutes if they were here last year.
While most on the 'nets seem to want Seattle to sign a CAM, personally I see Fredy Montero as vital to the offense and in a very similar role. Seattle certainly needs to add a central midfielder or two if only for depth. There are also needs for strengthening the depth, or ideally the starters, at the fullbacks.
So I launch this version of Searching for the Free with a man who is currently a centerback, but whose future is likely at Leftback, Left Mid, Center Defensive Mid or Center Mid - Tomoaki Makino. The young defender puts the offense in defense scoring in nearly every 6th match. Currently he plays defense in a 3-2-4-1, but also spends some time in more traditional attacking roles.
This year in 39 competitive matches he has 4 Goals and 5 Assists. He is clearly a player that enters the attack both in run-of-play and in set-play situations. He has strong arms and can create from Throw-ins and a decent long shot to keep opposing defenses honest. While his defense does not read like a player who has a long-term future at centerback, it would not surprise me to see him as a LWB, LM, CDM, or CM after his next move. Depending on other roster moves the Sounders make this is the type of player who fills roles both in the formation, and needs that Seattle has surrounding creating more threats offensively while helping overall defensive tenor.
While he is drawing fringe interest for a possible contract in Europe, and gets a strong salary in Japan, he is a Free this Janaury who would likely be at or near the max salary number. Japan is a strong league and MLS is likely a lateral move. BUT, Joe Roth once said he wanted a top tier Asian Player here in Seattle. How 'bout a 23 year old fringe Japanese National Team player who, like Montero, Zakuani, Fernandez, could use Seattle as a stepping stone to stronger leagues in his peak years?
Over the next two months I'll be dropping other Frees I have discovered into this post, but I expect the community here to find ones of interest as well.
UPDATE 29 Nov - Dominic Cervi. You probably recognize the name. He was the Keeper that faced the Sounders in the game against Celtic. He's also a Free at the end of the current SPL season. He doesn't play much, as he's the 3rd keeper for Celtic. He hasn't made an appearance in competition this season, and hasn't been on the bench in SPL play since August. The 24 year old American would not take up an international slot. While price estimates are always rough, particularly for a former US U-23 player who has no significant appearances. His 6'6" frame is an asset, as well as his age. If you want a place holder between Kasey Keller and Herman this may be your man. If you think Herman is going to school he'd be an even better bridge, but behind both Keller and Terry Boss.
Who would you add to the upcoming list? What are your thoughts on players already mentioned?