Taylor Twellman dropped a rather massive bombshell last night: Garth Lagerwey is close to joining the Seattle Sounders front office. Sounder at Heart was able to independently confirm the report, but not with much more detail than that. It has now been almost 18 hours, but we don't know much more. Here's what we do know:
Lagerwey is definitely joining the Sounders, right?
The last word from Lagerwey is that "there are no written offers yet from anyone." It's notable that Lagerwey didn't challenge the reporting, of course, but his future appears to be in play. Based on what I've been told, I suspect the Sounders are very much the favorites to grab Lagerwey. Real Salt Lake has confirmed that Lagerwey will be leaving at the end of the month.
Who else is in on Lagerwey?
The only credible reporting suggests that Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls were among the teams pursuing him and there was always a working assumption that New York City FC would also be in the running. One could assume those are the teams that are still in competition, but all the new reporting suggests the ball is firmly in the Sounders' court.
What's that mean for the current set up?
That's the biggest unknown in all of this. Up until now, the player personnel decisions were pretty much a three-man affair with head coach Sigi Schmid, Sporting Director Chris Henderson and General Manager Adrian Hanauer all playing a part. It doesn't make a ton of sense to simply add a fourth head to the front office hydra, so someone is probably taking a step back.
Who might that be?
Well, Schmid literally just signed a new deal and chances are he's not planning to relinquish any power he has there. Henderson has done a lot of the work behind the scenes in terms of identifying talent, and has slowly been taking a more prominent role. Hanauer has been very successful, but he's always been more focused on the business side than the other two guys and had already assumed the responsibilities of club president after the Sounders split off business operations from the Seahawks.
So Hanauer then?
Forced to guess now, that's the best bet. There seems very little chance that Hanauer will totally unplug from the soccer side of the operation, but it wouldn't be entirely shocking for him to formally take a role that's less about day-to-day operations and more focused on the big picture of the Sounders as an organization. He's talked a lot about becoming a global brand and maybe that becomes his main focus.
That sounds like a lot of corporate speak. What does that really mean?
That remains to be seen, but Hanauer has made his frustrations with the CenturyLink Field turf well known. "Global brands" don't tend to be secondary tenants in their home stadium. Figuring out how to fix that situation is probably near the top of his list.
This is supposed to be about Lagerwey, what's his role?
There's a report out there that suggests the only way Lagerwey could interview for other jobs was if the "president" title was on the table. Considering Lagerwey's deal runs out in a few weeks, it seems a safe assumption that he has a bit more latitude now. That said, Lagerwey probably isn't coming here to simply be someone's employee. However the front office is structured, he's going to be near the very top and have a lot of latitude to hire and fire people.
Is this something we should be excited about?
Glad you finally asked! By all accounts, Lagerwey is one of the best at what he does in MLS. When he came to Real Salt Lake in 2007, RSL had never made the playoffs and was in the midst of a three-year run that saw them finish no better than second-from-the bottom and that was only because of a historically bad Chivas USA team.
Lagerwey leaves RSL in far better position, having made the playoffs seven straight seasons, with one MLS Cup and another MLS Cup final to show for it. They've done this all without spending a ton of money and making a habit out of finding undervalued assets, mostly in Central and South America.
Why would he even leave?
There's been some power struggles behind the scenes ever since Dell Loy Hansen bought RSL last year, contributing at least in part to Jason Kreis leaving, so that's one theory. Another is that Lagerwey simply wanted to test himself in a bigger market with a bigger budget. There's also the thought that Lagerwey wanted even more power than he had at RSL. While it's hard to imagine him coming into an organization like the Sounders and totally taking over, he'll definitely have a bigger budget and bigger ambitions.
What else do we know about Lagerwey?
Prior to moving into the front office, he was a standout goalkeeper at Duke before playing parts of five seasons in MLS. After retiring, he went back to school at Georgetown, got his law degree and became a lawyer. He also penned a guest column for Sports Illustrated and had some stints as a broadcaster. Still just 42, he's pleasant and a good interview. I've only had limited interactions with him, but I suspect Sounders fans will like his personality.
When do we expect this all to be finalized?
Hard to say, but now that RSL has announced Lagerwey's departure, a formal announcement could come soon. If everything is agreed to in principal and this is just about finalizing the paperwork, we could be talking end of the week. Until then, we'll do our best to keep you updated.