Believe it or not, Fredy Montero's re-signing was probably not the most interesting bit of news to come out of Tuesday's press conference.
Even regarding the signing itself, which makes the Sounders just the second MLS team to use all three Designated Player slots, was of less immediate interest than the revelation that this new contract will actually count less against the cap than his old one did. I won't pretend to know all the inner-workings of why that is — and Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer noted the difference in cap hit is marginal — but it is something that makes the deal almost a no-brainer from the Sounders' standpoint.
In addition to receiving whatever minimal cap relief they got, by buying out his contract from Deportivo Cali (from whom he was on loan), the Sounders now have assurances they will be compensated if Montero were to sign with another league. That said, both Hanauer and Montero were talking about this being something that will keep Montero in Seattle for at least a couple more years.
In recent months, Montero has bought a house in Seattle, received his green card and moved some of his family here. The writing has been on the wall for awhile, but this contract really seems to cement his status as a Sounder for the foreseeable future.
After the formal press conference, Hanauer talked about several other issues that had little or nothing to do with Montero, and some of that was just as interesting.
In case there was any doubt, Keller is almost guaranteed to be coming back. Hanauer described the negotiations as just awaiting some dotting of I's and crossing of T's. I got the impression that this should be announced in the next couple of weeks.
It should not be news to anyone who reads this site that Steve Zakuani is currently in England training with Everton. Some have taken that to mean he might be staying there.
Hanauer was very clear on that point: "He has three years left on his contract. We're not in negotiations. Steve will be back."
Hanauer also said the Sounders are always looking for ways to get their players opportunities to train with big clubs, but that it's mainly for the experience.
As you may or may not know, there are a series of new drafts created by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. One of them is Friday's Re-Entry Draft, which allows players whose contract options have been declined by their current team to be selected by other teams and signed for that contract option amount. I fully expect to see quite a few big names on that list when it's released on Friday.
Tyrone Marshall is not really a big name, but Hanauer said the veteran center back is likely to be entered. His contract calls for a raise last year, and he wasn't exactly a bargain this year at almost $170,000. If no one picks him, he could still re-sign with the Sounders at a lower amount. Considering he's going to be competing with as many as six other players for time at center back, I'm not so sure that's a likely scenario.
It's been speculated that newly acquired Julien Baudet and O'Brian White could also be choose to throw their names into the Re-Entry Draft, but Hanauer made it sound as if he expects both to be with the team when camp opens. He repeatedly mentioned White when talking about next year's team and said Baudet would be competing for a roster spot. Both made about $180,000 last year, a significant amount of money to pay players who aren't even expected to challenge for starting spots. I'm really reading between the lines here, but I'm guessing they may have already agreed to take less money next year.
Seating Configurations and Away Support
It looks like the team is getting season-ticket renewals at about the same pace they did last year. Hanauer didn't make any bold predictions, but he did indicate that the team is looking to potentially expand seating and that the Hawks' Nest is the next logical place to put fans. That would add about 2,200 seats, but they only want to open that up if they are reasonably assured of selling it out.
As far as adding more seats to the away-supporter allocation, he said the front offices of the Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and Sounders have come up with some solutions but are awaiting MLS approval. MLS officials are in town this week and a decision is expected sometime in the relatively near future. Hanauer was very vague and definitely didn't make any promises, but it's pretty clear the teams and the league are taking the issue seriously.