From the moments following the end of year press conference with Adrian Hanauer and Sigi Schmid the site has been consumed with stating how difficult the cap is, but we have yet to offer possible solutions. Mainly, because those solutions have so many variables and some of them are not really solutions. It is difficult to see the team improving on the 2011-12 rosters, the two that were probably the strongest.
Here is a sample offseason that likely fits into the salary cap concerns, but it demonstrates the losses in overall talent and the difficulties of winning in 2013. But, this is the same Ownership, GM, coaching staff and collection of scouts that put together the best expansion team in history of American sports so they may just be able to do this.
We know that Cato, Meredith, Weber, Seamon and White are not on the Seattle Sounders roster at this time. Weber, Seamon and White could be back, but should not be expected to return. This also opens up very little cap room.
It is expected that Jeff Parke will move on to a new team. He's the priciest of a deep set of centerbacks, from the East Coast and has value to other teams. Nearly at the same value are the two starting fullbacks. Letting go of all three in trades or sales frees up most of needed cap room, but not all of it. Throwing in Burch would have a negligible effect on the cap, and backup leftbacks are similarly priced.
The only other question is about the DPs. In this example Seattle would buy out Rosales. While it pains me to suggest it the depth at winger is strong enough that this DP loss would have the least impact on the team. He's also old enough that reworking his deal would be gobbling up more money on past-peak years.
This actually gives Seattle room to add a few players.
Total losses: Rosales, Parke, Johansson, Gonzalez, Burch, Weber, Seamon, Meredith, Cato
That's a core player and three starters, the closest to blowing it up that Seattle has been in their short MLS history.
From the Re-Entry Draft Stage Two Seattle could grab Opara and Wahl, both at discounted rates. As a third CB Opara would be pricey, but if under Sigi he can meet his expected growth curve he would become a great passer out of the back, fast and an extraordinary leaper. Wahl is familiar with the system, fills in at left back and centerback, offers a left foot on service and likely would be slightly cheaper than Burch.
From the international market Seattle is expected to get right back Wilmer Crisanto on a one-year loan with option to buy. He and Martinez already know each other. The team gives up defense to gain more attacking play. They will also lose him their new right side during World Cup Qualifiers and/or the Gold Cup. I'm also going to suggest Mrisho Ngassa. Since his trial here he's shifted from forward to winger. Still speedy his passing game has developed and he scores at basically the same rate. Whether he or another essentially minimum salary player Seattle could use a winger with speed and ball control in their depth.
HomeGrown Player signings nearly fill out the roster as DeAndre Yedlin and Darwin Jones get added. Yedlin would be one of the GA/HGP players while Jones is more likely to be a typical HGP. Yedlin is a CAM who plays right back. Jones is Fucito-y in his skill set though right footed. He even often wears the number two at practices. Jones would be a sixth forward, so this is more about development and use in the Reserve League and Open Cup than regular appearances in the 18, but his ceiling is as high as non-first round draft players. That slot may as well go to a local. Yedlin's peak is much higher. His on-ball skills are quite strong. His one-on-one defense developed greatly and he's fast. That speed will be needed as he gets further forward than any fullback Seattle has seen yet.
If Adrian can manage to get some allocation money from the losses of Parke, Gonzalez and Johannson they'd have room for for a Youth DP or just a cheaper left back than Leo Gonzalez. My personal preference would be for Ehsan Hajsafi. That would shake MLS up by grabbing a DP left back, a young one, one with significant international experience. There are other routes.
Impact of Proposed Changes
Less defense. Every single change basically results in a less good defender coming into the side. The team would be much younger. If you are into the concept that a team must have veterans around to lead, a couple of those would be gone - including the captain.
The attack would be more of the ground based speed attack we saw earlier in Seattle's existence. The throughball and player movement would be Plan A, while Plan B would be the cross to the head. It would be a shift, but one done within the same general shape of the side. There would still be decent crossers (Tiffert, Martinez) and decent headers (GAM), but the injection of speed and ball skills, particularly within the depth would drag down the usage of that skill.
Could This Win?
Maybe. It would be a style of play more suited for international competition than MLS. If the moves work, Seattle would be better set-up for 2014 as the amount of youngsters coming in is significant. It would be risky. There would likely be a slow start, a short burst of pretty cool play, a slow-down and if things work out a surge to the end.
There would be no glory signing. Casuals would claim that the team is cheap and blowing off 2013. The change in name recognition would clearly put the marketing department on its heels. That probably doesn't matter if they win at the same rate and make a surge to a new trophy.
This concept basically fits into the cap limitations, but is that the type of team you want to see?