Eddie Johnson (photo courtesy of @SoundersFC)
Even before the news officially hit, emotions were running high in the world of the Seattle Sounders. Shortly after the Montreal Impact used their top spot in the Allocation Order to pick Eddie Johnson, they announced he had been traded. It only took a few minutes for rumor to spread that it was to the Sounders. It was only a few moments after that when people began to suspect that the trade involved Mike Fucito.
When it was finally announced that the Sounders had not only traded Fucito, but also local boy Lamar Neagle in order to acquire a player four years removed from his best years, reaction among Sounders fans was swift and overwhelmingly negative. With a night to let it all sink in, the Sounder at Heart crew decided to weigh in.
It's all about Eddie
There is no question that the Sounders front office is making a gamble. I tend to think the size of that gamble is a bit overblown, but it's a gamble none-the-less. Stripping away the emotions involved with this trade, the Sounders are little less deep, a little older and a little more expensive. For all that, they are hoping they found the "clinical finisher" so many have been pining for them to acquire.
As much as I liked Lamar Neagle and Mike Fucito, their performances were not going to define the 2012 season. Neither one were poised to be focal points of the offense. I honestly hope they have great years in Montreal, but the success or failure of this trade will not be determined by them.
This trade is all about acquiring Eddie Johnson. Say what you will about the 27-year-old -- plenty of people have called him washed up, out of shape and a malcontent -- he has a proven record of success and is still young enough that believing he can regain that form is not crazy. If the Sounders can find a way to get the Eddie Johnson of 2007 -- the one that scored 15 goals and had six assists in 24 MLS matches -- he could well stay that way for three or four more years. That's where this gamble is, more than what they gave up to get him.
- Jeremiah Oshan
Confused at the big gamble
My main reaction is confusion. I see this as an uncharacteristic gamble on the FO's part, one which I have a hard time seeing paying off. It's also uncharacteristically short-term thinking by their standards. Maybe Johnson has a great year next year, but what are the chances he'll have a great year the year after that or two years from now?
Both Fucito and Neagle were still unknown quantities to some extent, but both were showing steady growth and development. It's not hard to imagine one or both of them rising to become significant players, if not outright stars, in this league, with many years to ahead of them. I personally find it hard to imagine Eddie Johnson in Rave Green two years from now. I can only hope the FO knows what it's doing.
From an emotional standpoint, this isn't as hard for me as losing Sebastien LeToux, but it's still highly disappointing. Both of these guys were shining examples of the Sounders Way, of how we nurtured young talent and brought those players along until they were ready to take their place in the first team. To give both of them up in one questionable move like this really undermines that image.
Finding the silver living
Once I get over the bananas decision to dump two of the biggest fan favorites in one move, I think of it in terms of the signals it sends about the preseason and the makeup of the roster so far. Specifically, I think it means they're satisfied or even impressed with where Zakuani is in his recuperation. If he gets to starter-worthy status sooner rather than later in the season, suddenly the left wing is stuffed with Fernandez either moving to the middle or being a really expensive backup with Sivebaek as the third string and then Neagle is your fourth-string left wing or about the same place in the forward rotation.
Secondly, I think it means OBW isn't progressing as well as they'd like and they're not impressed with Ochoa. With Jaqua gone, suddenly it's Fucito and Montero and not much else behind. And it's pretty obvious that Sigi has never been excited about the Fucito/Montero pairing and, even as a fan of both, I've never really thought they gelled well. It's not like the first team has been doing any scoring in preseason.
So if you look at it as trading your fourth-string left winger in order to upgrade from a question mark and a poor fit at Target Forward to Eddie Johnson for essentially the same salary, it makes a lot of sense. Plus the 2-for-1 means that you open up a roster spot for someone you'd have had to cut like Cato or Tetteh.
Trying to take a step back
The thing is, at first blush we're all on the 'holy shit' phase. This is a trade you can't judge now, or even at the end of the season. There are too many variables to put a letter grade on this trade in the here and now. Putting an analyst cap on -- instead of the die hard fan in all of us -- is where we need to be. Yes there are questions about Eddie's past and his being prone to injury. As a whole, without our fan caps, how does this help the overall roster?
Are we left with giant gaping holes since we've traded away two -- with only one in return?
I don't think we have; one way or another Fucito was most likely going to be a super sub, with the occasional start with Sigi's big man fetish -- meaning Sammy would get a good share of starts up top. I'm not sure if Ochoa or EJ is the answer up top with Montero, but we can't really know this until these players get time in playing conditions.
All we can do right now, and most are doing, is speculate. Maybe we need to let this set in for a day or so, and come at this trade with fresh eyes and not a biased mind. Either that, or I'm just talking crazy talk.
- Timm Higgins
Depth took a hit with trade
The fact of the matter is, Fucito and Neagle are depth players. When you are competing on multiple fronts, it is very useful to have guys like these on your roster.
Those who would focus on such things as Fuctio's 3 goals in 2 years of League play, and that Neagle was like to be 3rd choice left wing, are entirely missing the greater point. Rosters aren't built by coming up with a "Best XI" and then filling in a position by position depth chart; rosters are built by acquiring varying skills, roles and levels of experience and cobbling together 18-man and 11-man units. This trade immediately strikes me as more of the former -- which, quite frankly, is a move more akin to the "American" approach but one I had believed the Sounders weren't particularly interested in.
And I am still left to wonder about the central midfield and perhaps even fullback. It also strikes me as odd that the Sounders pulled off a stunning trade to try to solve a problem which didn't really seem to exist
I have no idea how good Eddie Johnson is, I guess we'll just have to see...
Lots to think about
1. The Sounders traded two known commodities for a risk. The players they traded offered the Sounders depth, tactical options, youth and low cost. Neither player was a star, but both were highly professional MLS players. In return they gained a player who is looking to resurrect a once promising career. This is an extremely risky maneuver with the potential for both disaster and reward.
2. For this to work EJ will need to accomplish the following things:
a. He needs to be in shape now. Ignore all of the hyperbole surrounding his career and focus on his future as a Sounder. If he isn't in shape, the Sounders will struggle out of the gate and in the tight Western Conference this could be disastrous.
b. He needs to be motivated and willing to expand his game. Historically he has been one dimensional. Time to grow up and round out his game.
c. He needs to synch with his teammates both on and off the field. One of the overlooked aspects of this trade is the loss of continuity. Fucito and Neagle knew how to play with their teammates and their teammates knew how to play with them. Suddenly the Sounders offense just added a whole level of complexity and unfamiliarity with almost no time to rectify the situation. Fucito and Neagle may not have had the flashiest game in the world, but sometimes solidity is valuable. I am concerned that it is going to take time for Sivebaek and EJ to integrate with the other starting pieces.
d. He has to deliver a level of skill that exceeds just being a solid MLS starter. He needs to be a missing piece of the championship puzzle. He isn't just being brought in to be a tactical option. He is being brought in to be relied upon. At 27/28 his time is now or never. He has to perform now and he has to make the Sounders better than they were with Fucito and Neagle. This is not a simple task. This is a commitment that will require every ounce of professional skill and experience he possesses.
3. The Sounders have gambled. They are saying that they need to win now and they realized that in order to take the final step, they needed to take a risk. It could easily blow up in their face. I trust the Sounders FO. But this is a leap of faith and they will be held accountable by the fan base.
4. The move changes the age dynamic of the Sounders roster. Prior to the trade, the team was very middle heavy. Most of their players were hovering around the 25 year mark. This trade means that they now have both an older and a younger player. The move will enable them to keep one other player at the back end of the roster. I think the player who most benefits from this move is Tetteh. There is now room on the roster for him and there is room for the team to experiment with him as a LMF.
5. The team is shifting from a more tactical roster to a more solidified Starting 11. I see this move as stratifying the Sounders roster into a true 1st, 2nd and 3rd team. The 2nd team is still deep, but the move sacrificed some of the 2nd string depth and tactical flexibility in the 1st team in favor of the potential to upgrade a 1st team position of need. Value is costly. But this value comes with a big risky caveat that only time will reveal if it was worth the cost.
6. The angst surrounding the trade is a mixture of surprise, the caliber of risk, the loss of beloved players with solid character in favor of a player who might possess more skill but with a history of character questions and finally a loss of the appearance of depth and flexibility. My initial response was WTF!? But I see the potential.
7. The big question for me is will EJ be a better trade than landing Andrew Wenger? I look at what the Sounders gave up as being close enough for them to possibly have traded up and snagged Wenger in the Super Draft. EJ is about now and Wenger would have been about the future. But unless the Sounders bring home serious hardware in the EJ era, this trade will be a significant bust and the collateral would have been better spent on a player like Wenger.
- Abbott Smith