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Sounders off-season moves through the lens of Soccernomics

Sounders losses are Tyrone Marshall, Peter Vagenas, Nathan Sturgis and Sanna Nyassi
Sounders gains are Erik Friberg, O'Brian White, Danny Earls and Julien Baudet (or at least his rights)

Here's the list of recommendations from Soccernomics in chapter 3 - Gentleman Prefer Blonds, somewhat condensed. Honestly you should buy the book if you love the game, or use the library. Still it should be on your short list.

  • New Managers Waste Money
  • Use Wisdom of Crowds
  • Stars of Recent Championships (World Cup, Euro, etc) are Overvalued
  • Certain Nationalities Overvalued
  • Older Players are Overvalued
  • Center Forwards are Overvalued, Keepers Undervalued (also unspoken defense is undervalued)
  • Identify Sight Based Prejudice
  • Best Time to Buy a Player is in Early 20s
  • Sell a Player Offered More than Worth
  • Replace Best Players Before you Sell
  • Buy Players with Issues and Solve Said Issues
  • Help Your Players Relocate

Sure, not all of these apply during the current off-season. And with MLS' rules things are of course different than the more open Euro transfer market system. But each of the various moves this season give us a small look into how the acquisitions committee work with the Sounders.

First, let's just remind ourselves that though the Sounders have a GM/minority owner in Adrian Hanauer, he doesn't make the decisions in a vacuum. Though the Sounders have one of the two best coaches this league has ever seen he doesn't select the roster on his own, except for the 18. Though the Sounders have a Technical Director who was a solid player himself, he doesn't pick the talent on his own. To borrow from baseball they have a GM, Scout and Manager who all work together. Their crowd may only be three. But it is a crowd. There is no Mo Johnston here.

Check one box.

Second let's notice the age shift. Taking their average age in absolute years on opening day Seattle's shift of four players out/in went younger by 3 years. Three additions are 25 or under. Only one is over 30, versus 2 losses.

Check another box.

Stars? There were no stars added, only retained. Even Alvaro Fernandez isn't a star. He was a role player on a great team.

Check another box.

Are Irish, Swedish, Jamaican and French Footballers overvalued in MLS? I find that doubtful. Overvalued nations in this league? American (oddly true), English and the South American trio of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.


I still can't believe that Seattle traded their 5th best CM for a 4th best CB and 2nd best LB. They sold at the right time to a team that overvalued their international slots so much that they lost two players to acquire someone they didn't want (recall that they exposed Vagenas in the RED).

Check. Sold for more than worth.

Friberg was obviously in their plans, remember that he said that they started talking in the summer. Seattle already had two box-to-box mids in Vagenas and Brad Evans. One has health issues and the other is older. The Sounders already found someone capable of competing for a starting role. In ways if Baudett makes the club he assumes Marshall's 4th CB role, while being younger.


To say that O'Brian White has issues would be simple. Sure, they come down to injury. This club has a decent history with those though - Nate Jaqua, Mike Fucito, Nathan Sturgis. But there are bright spots if you are a fan of White. He's got that Herman, oh and he was the best of the Toronto FC bunch at Relative Team Shots on Goal +/- Per 90 at 1.17 over team, and 0.42. He played over 1000 minutes for an awful team and said team earned more than a shot on goal per game more when he was on the pitch than with the rest of their woeful squad. Sometimes your target forward doesn't have to score to be effective.

Again CHECK.

Seattle once had a very rich, very spoiled Swede tell us all how great this city is. We didn't need him to confirm it. Fact is Washington rocks so much we earned a new member in congress. But the fact is that this club does a great job of helping players relocate. Whether they are said Swedes (or new Swedes) or Colombians (Fredy Montero, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Miguel Montano), and even Frenchmen (Sebastien Le Toux and now Buadet). This organization does a great job of making their players comfortable.


Sure, its a book that costs $14.95 (probably less now). But the fact is that not only are most clubs around the world ignoring it, there are some truly dysfunctional organizations in MLS. Seattle is not one of those. While we didn't get the sparkly shiny new objects event the role-players are acquired in a way the would make Lyon, Arsenal or Nottingham Forrest happy. If you think they are done, think again. The goals here are greatness, not just goodness.

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