Garth Lagerwey officially became the Seattle Sounders' president of soccer operations almost exactly a year ago (his signing was announced on Jan. 6). With the end of the calendar year nearly upon us, now seems like as good a time as any to look at what he's achieved in that time. It should be noted that any moves that took place before he signed are not being considered.
For the purposes of this story, we're going to focus on the first team. That's the part everyone reading this has at least the most basic ability to evaluate and the thing by which he'll ultimately be judged.
One year, it should be noted, is probably not a sufficient amount of time to judge his effects on the other parts of the organization, either. If Lagerwey is really remaking the academy to the degree his public statements have suggested, we won't be able to really evaluate any of that for a few more years.
So here are the four key areas where we feel comfortable passing some level of judgement (all listed in reverse-chronological order):
Román Torres: In what was one of the more interesting talent pursuits in Sounders history, Lagerwey gets credit for managing to close the deal despite significant obstacles. It's also the one with which he was seemingly most influential as the others were the product of long-laid previous groundwork. On paper, it was bold. The Sounders were already reasonably set at center back, but Torres was the kind of player they simply couldn't pass on. That he got hurt after just five total appearances makes it hard to fully evaluate, though.
Nelson Haedo Valdez: Another signing that will be hard to evaluate at this point. On the plus side, Valdez came in with a great attitude and he seems to be a positive locker room force. But there's reason to doubt whether or not the Sounders have needlessly locked themselves into a third DP whose skill set is redundant with the other two. How he adjusts to a full-time spot on the wing will likely determine how smart of a signing this was.
Andreas Ivanschitz: Perhaps the least hyped of the summer signings, Lagerwey turned out to be prescient when he suggested this might be the most important. Once healthy, Ivanschitz was everything promised and then some. His left foot is absolutely deadly and he was far more willing to defend than we had assumed he would be. Assuming he can stay healthy, this looks to be a very good signing.
Erik Friberg: To an even greater degree than the other three summer window signings, it's fair to question how much of a role Lagerwey played in this signing. Still, he was the one who pushed it across the finish line. Friberg didn't dramatically remake this team, but was quietly their best central midfielder for the second half of the season. There's nothing not to like about this move.
Thomás: A youngish Brazilian midfielder with some flair? What's not to like? Well, apparently enough to keep him off the field for long stretches. What we saw of Thomás was interesting. And there's reason to think that given more time that he'd have developed into a solid player. But for someone making six figures, it's not all that surprising that the Sounders chose to move on. Definitely a flop of a signing.
Andres Correa: The Colombian full back has speed and other attractive physical tools. But he struggled with fitness and injury and never managed to make a first-team appearance. He won't be back and it's fair to call him the worst signing of the Lagerwey era.
Troy Perkins: After effectively choosing to let Marcus Hahnemann retire, the Sounders knew they were going to need a solid backup. Perkins kinda fell into their laps after he passed through the Re-Entry Draft unchosen. It was a somewhat safe and uninspired signing, even if it turned out fine. Perkins played reasonably well when pressed into action, with the notable exception of the third goal allowed in that highly forgettable U.S. Open Cup loss to the Timbers.
Darwin Jones: Probably unfair to call this a Lagerwey signing, but it came after he joined and therefore must have had his approval. The fifth Homegrown signing in franchise history didn't do much in his rookie season in his limited opportunities. Still has potential to be useful.
Overall: Is it notable that the better signings came after Lagerwey had more time to settle in? Maybe. Either way, the later signings were the more expensive ones and have so far looked reasonably strong. Grade: B-
Chad Barrett: Allowed to test free agency, the veteran forward has signed with the San Jose Earthquakes. It's not hard to see how the Sounders might feel as though his six-figure salary could be better spent elsewhere, but replacing his production could prove easier said than done.
Andy Rose: Supposedly the Sounders tried to re-sign the 25-year-old midfielder back in the spring. Rose instead opted to take his chances and it appears to have paid off. He finished the season strong and was able to parlay that into a deal with League One side Coventry City. Maybe he ends up back in Seattle, but losing him for nothing is a tough pill right now.
Leo Gonzalez: At 35, the left back's best years are clearly behind him. Still, he was a veteran leader who had won the starting job when the games meant the most. Given his age, letting him return home to Herediano made sense.
Kevin Parsemain: Aside from a few notable exceptions, his departure was barely noticed. Doubt the Sounders have given this much second thought.
Kenny Cooper: The first awkward moment of the Lagerwey era was explaining why the veteran forward was mysteriously absent from training early in the season. It came as little surprise that Cooper was ultimately waived, a decision made far easier to understand when you consider his hefty salary. That said, having someone like him during the dark days of summer would have been nice.
Overall: Not much to really second guess here, but failing to get Rose signed is a mark against. Grade: B
Marco Pappa: Due a significant raise and likely having to come off the bench in 2016, it's not hard to see why the Sounders chose to trade the 28-year-old midfielder. Even if we assume the Sounders didn't get much more than the minimum $75,000 in Allocation Money, the trade makes sense from a roster-building perspective. Still, it's the toughest one to swallow.
Lamar Neagle: Like Pappa, he was due a six-figure salary and had his work cut out for playing time. Dealing him was almost certainly a necessity, even if all the Sounders got was close to the minimum.
Eriq Zavaleta: Considering he didn't have an obvious position, was due a six-figure salary and was likely to be cut you've got to consider the Sounders convincing TFC to give up a 2016 second round pick as a significant win.
Sean Okoli: After reportedly turning down the Sounders' offer to bring him back with S2, the Homegrown Player was dealt to the Revolution for a 2015 second-round draft pick. That pick was ultimately used on goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
Moving up to draft Roldan: The Sounders turned the No. 27 overall pick and some Allocation Money into the No. 16 pick in the 2015 draft. Roldan had been the consensus No. 2 overall pick, but fell hard presumably because there were doubts he could be the creative force he was in college. There was much rejoicing when the Sounders grabbed the one player in the draft they really wanted.
Trading the rights to Kwadwo Poku: At the time, the decision to deal a little-known midfielder without much of a resume seemed like an inconsequential one. Turns out Poku was one of the more intriguing young prospects in MLS. Despite only making six starts, Poku still racked up four goals and seven assists for a pretty dysfunctional New York City FC. Safe to say that the Sounders will end up on the wrong side of history for this one, even if that conditional 2017 pick turns into a first-rounder.
Overall: There's only one of six that seems like a real mistake, and even if it requires a TON of hindsight, it's a really big mistake. This has Doyle Alexander-for-John Smoltz potential. Grade: C-
Andy Bevin: The West Virginia forward was picked 80th overall and one of the club's first preseason cuts.
Charlie Lyon: When you get a player worthy of signing to a MLS contract with the 75th overall pick, you call it a win and move on. (Yes, we have doubts about his decision-making, but we'll put that aside for now.)
Andy Craven: The Hermann Trophy finalist fell all the way to the 48th pick, presumably because talent scouts were skeptical of someone with his hairstyle choice. Turns out, they were mostly wrong. After looking like one of the best players in USL, he signed with the Sounders over the summer and re-signed even after suffering a knee injury.
Oniel Fisher: Highly regarded in college, teams seemed scared off by his international status. The Sounders were happy to take him at No. 40 overall. By the end of the season, he was starting regularly and looks to be a keeper with significant upside.
Tyler Miller: Some thought he'd be the second goalkeeper taken. But after telling everyone he was planning to sign in Europe, he fell to the second round. The Sounders traded Okoli to move up a few spots and were perfectly happy to let Miller try his luck in Europe. Sure enough, Miller returned and signed with S2. He only made one appearance before an injury sidelined him, but the Sounders have already signed him to a senior-team deal and he'll compete for the right to backup Stefan Frei in 2016.
Cristian Roldan: The Sounders tried to convince MLS to sign the University of Washington product to a Generation Adidas contract in 2014. They were among his biggest supporters for such a deal in 2015. The pundits all seemed to think he was an obvious fit for Jason Kreis' diamond. Instead, he nearly fell out of the first round until the Sounders swooped in. Roldan never got to show off his creative chops in MLS, but he still earned more than 1,000 first-team minutes as a rookie and might be the Sounders' No. 6 of the future.
Overall: You manage to pick 5-of-6 players you deem worthy of MLS contracts despite not picking any of them in the top 15 and you get a very good grade. Time will obviously tell just how good this draft really was, but right now it's pretty easy to call it the best class in franchise history. Grade: A-
There are still a handful of roster spots, so the depth appears lacking right now. At the top of the roster, this looks like a strong roster than the one Lagerwey inherited. The tail end of the roster also looks reasonably well stocked. There are a lot more moves we like here than ones we don't, but one that stands out as a massive stinker and there's no one move to clearly offset it. This is, of course, quite incomplete but going off what we know now we're left with a B- average.