One of the more excruciating transfer sagas in Seattle's admittedly short history has come to a close. Uruguayan international midfielder Alvaro Fernandez has signed with the Sounders as the team's third designated player, putting to bed rumours that he wasn't going to be able to join the team until unsettled star Freddie Ljungberg had skipped town. Fernandez, not yet added to the roster, played in four matches for Uruguay in this year's World Cup, starting during the notorious quarter-final against Ghana.
We anticipate that Fernandez will be deployed as a central midfield playmaker, taking over the lion's share of the duties shared between Michael Seamon and Pete Vagenas so far this season. The 24 year old is in the prime of his career and adept at linking play between the defence and the forwards, giving the Sounders a second dynamic central midfielder to play alongside Oswaldo Alonso. This is a huge signing for the team's future, and a big deal for the league - it's one of the first instances of an international calibre talent coming to MLS at such a young age.
Fernandez joins the team fresh off a loan spell with Chilean club Universidad, with whom he made eleven appearances, scoring three goals, having scored five in sixteen for his parent club (Urugauyan team Nacional). Fernandez has also spent time in the Mexican league as well as having a cup of coffee in Europe on loan with Portuguese side Vitoria F.C.
"I'm very excited to be playing in the U.S. because the football has grown a lot in the last few years and keeps getting better. Seattle is beautiful and I think it's the ideal place to be with my family. All these things helped in making my decision."
-Alvaro Fernandez, new Seattle Sounders FC midfielder.
"Alvaro is a versatile player who can play in a number of midfield positions. He brings good energy to the game as well as World Cup experience. He can score and also set-up others."
-Sigi Schmid Sounders head coach.
The central midfield position has been a major area of concern for the Sounders this season. Ideally the team plays with two ball-movers in the center to link up with Fredy Montero and the attacking threats along the wings, but the centre of the pitch has not been a good outlet from defence to attack, due to a combination of Ossie Alonso's injuries and Peter Vagenas/Nate Sturgis being incapable of fulfilling the role. Brad Evans and Freddie Ljungberg have both been trialed in the role, neither with much success, and Michael Seamon has recently showed promise as a CM, but the second-round draft pick needs more football experience to act as the conductor of Seattle's game.
Enter the newest Sounder. While he's versatile enough to play all over the midfield, his real strength lies in ball movement. He picks out runs extremely quickly and gets the ball to where it needs to be without the pointless square passes that have plagued Seattle so far this season. His intelligence will enable the team to counter-attack more effectively as well as breaking down opposing defences that chose to sit back and let the Sounders come at them. Don't expect too many goals out of Fernandez, but it would be no shock to see him rack up the assists with his clever distribution.