The season, it's safe to say, did not start the way anyone around the Seattle Sounders expected. They announced the departure of one of their Designated Players just hours before First Kick, promptly lost their first two games of the season and needed until their fifth match to get their first win. During those early days, it would have been somewhat understandable if the front office, led by GM Adrian Hanauer, had simply signed the first warm body they thought could help the team immediately.
As we now know, the April 15 roster deadline came and went and the Sounders essentially did nothing. Since then, the Sounders have lost two more starters to potentially season-ending ailments. While the Sounders' desire to add talent has only been enhanced since then, it could certainly be argued that they are better off having waited.
"We were open minded and we were looking but realistically we thought, let’s face it there a lot more players available in July than on April 15," Hanauer told Sounder at Heart. "I would say that without question the (Steve) Zakuani and (O'Brian White) injuries have given us some reason to take a step back and wait to collect more information. We’re still looking primarily for an attacking player, but we certainly are having some internal conversations about what type of attacking player makes more sense now.
"We had a fairly good picture of the exact kind of player we were looking for and now we’re regrouping a little bit and we’re not 100 percent certain what we’re looking for in the summer. We’re going to take some time and figure out where Steve and OB are in the next couple weeks. We'll try to get some more data before we plow ahead."
While Hanauer acknowledged that there isn't much salary cap room available, he did indicate that the team will have the flexibility to bring in a Designated Player and potentially another mid-level salary player when the league's transfer window reopens on July 15. Part of that flexibility could come when Zakuani and White are placed on the disabled list, which would open up two roster spots if they are both ruled out for the season.
In the meantime, the Sounders are having to make do with what they have and seem to be getting along reasonably well. After a slow start in which they scored just one goal in their first three matches, they have now scored in six straight matches and compiled nine goals in their past five matches. It would be stupid to argue that the losses of Zakuani and White are anything less than less than significant, but at least the Sounders appear to have the depth to make them less noticeable. Nate Jaqua looks perfectly capable of holding down the target forward spot as long as he's healthy, Fredy Montero has looked dangerous whenever he's been on the field and the midfield seems to be in good hands with some mixture of Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg and Mauro Rosales manning the more attack-minded spots.
"I think mentally none of us were prepared for losing two of our best offensive players to the types of traumatic situations that we’re all going through right now," said Hanauer, noting that the Sounders will not receive any salary-cap relief for either White or Zakuani. "From a team standpoint, physically, we do have depth, we’ve talked about our depth, the proof will be determined on the field. We do have a deep team. We are confident that we can still be a playoff team.
"I’m not sure how many teams in our league there are that if they lost two of their top attacking players could still be playoff teams -- obviously we’ll only know that at end of the season. That said, with the limited tools we have at our disposal to get that much better, we’re going to (try to improve)."