This will be Blaise Nkufo's final year, Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said today during a teleconference with reporters. That should not come as a huge surprise, as it merely confirms what many of us have suspected for quite some time, but it is a very clear sign that the Sounders do not have Nkufo in their longterm plans. Schmid also confirmed the widely held belief that this was Kasey Keller's final season. Both references were made in regards to the possibility of trading players who might be deemed too good to cut, but not necessarily good enough to get significant playing time.
"You can never say never, but we’re in a situation where we have two players that are in their last year, Blaise Nkufo and Kasey Keller," he said. "You don’t want to move somebody if you are going to need them a year from now. That’s what we’re trying to balance right now."
In a somewhat related issue, Schmid also indicated that the team is currently leaning toward keeping just 28 players on the roster, which is two shy of the 30-player limit. While acknowledging that the newness of the rule means he is not entirely sure about all the ramifications of such a move, it seems that the team is leaning toward taking the combined $70,000 in allocation money that would come with leaving two roster spots open. The team currently has 34 players in camp.
"Probably 28 is our initial number," he said. "But it depends. Sometimes when rules change, all the ramifications of the rules aren’t clear. We’re also looking for some clarity. So we want to make sure we don’t lose somebody if we could hold onto somebody. Right now we’re operating off the thoughts that we’re at 28."
One of the players who will almost certainly be cut is a goalkeeper. Keller is the obvious starter and Terry Boss seems to have the backup role locked down. That leaves Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith fighting for one spot. While Schmid heaped praise upon both players, he acknowledged the team doesn't currently know of a way that they could realistically keep both.
"That is a tremendous battle," Schmid said. "If you can think of how we can keep both of them, let me know. We like them both. We know Kasey is gone after this year. You’d rather take what you have right now than gamble on something else being there. They’ve been great trainers and great individuals within the team. Both have had some great moments in practice."