The summer transfer window has closed and the Seattle Sounders did not make any additions (although Miguel Montano has been loaned to the Montreal Impact). That's the main story, the one there's really no getting around. There is, of course, a little more to it than that.
The Sounders, as you may have heard, were pretty close to acquiring a player GM Adrian Hanauer described as their "No. 1 target all along." In fact, as recently as four days ago, Hanauer said the team was so close to acquiring the player that a transfer agreement had been signed. While Hanauer, understandably, did not want to give away the identity of the player, he described him as a forward currently playing in a top European league who would have cost "multiple million" to acquire and sign.
"About four days ago, things started to grind to a halt," Hanauer said. "We had been well on our way to buying the player and over the course of the past week to 10 days, the team had a couple of injuries to forwards.
"Now obviously, I'm not privy to their internal conversations, but it appears to me that the head coach went to the player and said 'I can’t lose you. I’m going to make you a big part of our plans,' even though the sporting director was willing to give him up."
While missing out on their No. 1 target was disappointing, and Hanauer admitted that not getting the mystery player only makes him want that player more, it wasn't entirely unforeseeable. The obvious question then becomes, What about Plan B? Hanauer said the team had been negotiating with several players and that one of them probably could have been signed, but that the Sounders just didn't feel those players were the right fit for one reason or another.
"We could have thrown a plan together and signed another forward, but we decided that these other ones weren’t originally our two targets and we didn’t want to deviate from the plan of signing someone who fit our criteria," Hanauer said. "Obviously if someone on our list had met all that criteria, they would have been at top of the list all along."
As an aside, Hanauer noted that another reason not to go for broke on one of these second-tier targets is that he expects a rule change in the future that will make signing young Designated Players more cap friendly. Hanauer said signing one of these other players could have potentially limited their flexibility next year, and he was reluctant to do that.
Hanauer also pointed out the team can still make changes until Sept. 15 when MLS rosters are locked. Among the options are finding a player currently out of contract elsewhere in the world or trading for a player within MLS. Neither of these options, Hanauer admitted, were necessarily likely to net a real impact player. Hanauer said the Sounders have been active in calling MLS front offices, but a combination of exorbitant asking prices and generally unattractive offers have tempered his enthusiasm about acquiring a player who would be a likely starter.
The Sounders' best chance of finding such a player is probably someone currently out of contract. Of course, those players are unattached for a reason, but that was also Mauro Rosales' situation before the Sounders signed him and he has since blossomed into a MVP candidate.
"We do know of a few players, but they weren’t players on our target list," Hanauer said. "But you never know if a deal becomes so good that you’re willing to take the risk, maybe short-term deal.
"We won’t shy away from potentially bringing in an impact player, but the reality is there aren't a lot of them out there right now."
Hanauer admitted to being disappointed that the Sounders were unable to make something happen before the transfer window closed. He definitely seemed to understand fans' frustrations, but he also expressed confidence in the team he has already assembled.
It's a hard perspective to argue with, frankly. I know I wanted to see the Sounders add a player, but I actually take some comfort in their unwillingness to compromise just for the sake of making a move. Let's not act like this team is in the middle of a crisis. A few disappointing results aside -- one of them particularly fresh in our minds -- this has been a positive season. The Sounders' have been no worse than the third best team almost no matter how you look at it, and far worse teams have gone on championship runs.
Maybe the Supporters' Shield is out of reach, but let's keep some perspective about what one player could have provided this team over a relatively short period of time. The Sounders have as many as 17 games left to play this season -- nine in MLS, six in CONCACAF Champions League and as many as two in U.S. Open Cup. A new player would have been available for, at most 12-15 of those. If they had scored five goals, that would have been considered a grand success. Is that enough to turn the tides in the Supporters' Shield race? Doubtful. Could it guarantee a spot in the CCL quarterfinals? Who knows.
Whether or not the Sounders added a player, the ultimate success or failure of this team was going to be decided mostly by the guys already on the roster. No, I'm not excited about playing the rest of the season with Pat Noonan at forward. I'm skeptical that O'Brian White will return to full health anytime soon. But I honestly believe this can still be a special team. Let's try to keep that in mind.
All of that said, feel free to vent.