The Seattle Sounders announced that they have declined the contract options of eight players. Among those players are Goalkeepers Josh Ford and Marcus Hahnemann, Defenders Onyekachi Apam and Djimi Traore, and forwards Tristan Bowen, Sean Okoli, Cam Weaver and Eriq Zavaleta (who is also a defender). It is also noted that defender Jalil Anibaba is out of contract.
While this doesn't shut the door on any of those players returning, they'll all likely need to take pay cuts.
"In our league it's a consistent challenge to keep successful teams together, and these types of decisions are always difficult," Sounders GM and part owner Adrian Hanauer said in a team release. "Having said that, conversations are ongoing with several players about their respective futures with our club, and as we continue to shape the roster for 2015 we'll have additional announcements to share."
Most of these names aren't shocks to see on the list, with the already semi-announced retirings of Traore and Hahnemann and the public acknowledgement that Apam's time with Seattle is most likely over, but Sean Okoli's name stands out. The first-year HGP was recently called up in October to the USMNT U-23 games in Brazil to train and play a friendly against Brazil's U-23 team. Even though he only played 19 minutes for the 2014 Supporters' Shield-winning Sounders, he contributed minutes in the US Open Cup and was rumored to be a potential first round SuperDraft Pick had he not been signed as a Homegrown Player.
The declination of these players does not preclude the Sounders from resigning them before the MLS Re-Entry Draft, with Stage One staging place on Dec. 12 and stage Two following on Dec. 18. Any player chosen in RED1 would have their 2014 contract option picked up by the selecting team, while any player chosen in RED2 would not have their option picked up and would be able to enter contract discussions with the selecting team.
In a recent interview on Nos Audietis, Adrian Hanauer had the following moment of foreshadowing:
"I don't think rosters will be bigger, if anything they'll be smaller, and then you have the USL Pro affiliates to work with and that could affect some of the younger guys. There could be some guys that were on a MLS roster this year that may end up having to sign a USL-Pro contract or find another alternative." - Adrian Hanauer
It is believed all players are still eligible to be picked by New York City FC and Orlando City SC in the upcoming December 10th expansion draft, unless they are protected by Seattle.
Current MLS Roster
Goalkeepers (1): Stefan Frei
Defenders (7): Leo Gonzalez, Damion Lowe, Chad Marshall, Jimmy Ockford, Dylan Remick, Zach Scott, DeAndre Yedlin
Midfielders (9): Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Aaron Kovar, Lamar Neagle, Andy Rose, Micheal Azira, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Pineda, Aaron Long
Forwards (6): Chad Barrett, Kenny Cooper, Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Kevin Parsemain, Victor Mansaray