There weren't a ton of big surprises as the Seattle Sounders released their updated roster situation on Wednesday. Nine players had their options for 2016 declined, and while there were several notable names the only one who qualifies as anything approaching a big surprise would be Marco Pappa.
Probably the biggest takeaway from the announcement is that the Sounders are trying to get a bit younger. Of the nine players whose options were declined, five were older than 30. That includes Chad Barrett (30), Leo Gonzalez (35), Troy Perkins (34), Gonzalo Pineda (33) and Zach Scott (35). For the most part, the other players whose options were declined either struggled to get onto the field (Andres Correa and Thomas) or fell out of favor (Micheal Azira).
The exception is Pappa. Among the 28-year-old's notable contributions down the stretch were a goal in the must-win regular-season finale and the assist on the late goal that momentarily had the Sounders advancing to the Western Conference finals. Pappa finished the year with three goals and a career-high six assists in 1,468 minutes. He also managed to work himself back into the rotation after missing several weeks while completing a league-mandated program following his DUI arrest this past July.
"I like Marco a lot," Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey told Sounder at Heart. "He's a very good player. The contract option was high, at least from our perspective, so we choose not to pick it up. Our door remains open to try to figure something out. Whether we do or not is a two-way street."
It should be noted that the Sounders have until Dec. 10 to re-sign Pappa or any of these players to new contracts. If Pappa doesn't agree to a new deal by then, he will have the option to make himself eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Barrett and Perkins have the option to become free agents, while Scott and Gonzalez would be also eligible for the Re-Entry Draft (although both seem more likely to retire). The Sounders retain the MLS rights to Correa, Azira, Thomas and Pineda.
Combined with the rumored departure of Lamar Neagle (whose option was exercised), the Sounders will have likely cleared somewhere along the lines of $1 million from their salary-cap burden. It is, of course, impossible to say how much room they'll actually have, though, as the new contract numbers have not been released.
This leaves the Sounders with 21 players under contract for 2016, with Andy Rose and Andy Craven both having been offered new contracts. (Rose is on trial at trial in England.) In addition to the players on the injured reserve, the Sounders had 32 players on their roster at the end of 2015. They'll need to pare that down to at least 29 and Lagerwey said they could choose to field a roster of as small as 26 to start the season. All of which is to say that this is only the beginning of what will likely be a busy offseason.
"I think you're going to see a lot of the playoff starters back," Lagerwey said. "You're going to see more changes on the depth side and in succession planning, to give the group more of a viable longterm sustainability.
"Roster spots will be at a premium."
Micheal Azira, Chad Barrett, Andrés Correa, Leo Gonzalez, Marco Pappa, Troy Perkins, Gonzalo Pineda, Zach Scott, Thomás.
Offered new contracts
Andy Rose, Andy Craven.
Oniel Fisher, Aaron Kovar, Damion Lowe, Victor Mansaray, Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears, Lamar Neagle, Jimmy Ockford, Dylan Remick, Charlie Lyon, Stefan Frei.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Stefan Frei, Charlie Lyon
DEFENDERS (8): Brad Evans, Oniel Fisher, Damion Lowe, Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears, Jimmy Ockford, Dylan Remick, Román Torres
MIDFIELDERS (6): Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz, Aaron Kovar, Lamar Neagle, Cristian Roldan
FORWARDS (5): Clint Dempsey, Darwin Jones, Vic Mansaray, Obafemi Martins, Nelson Valdez