FanPost

Dreaming of Summer

Join me as I speculate about some exciting players who are on expiring contracts. Could we see any of them in Rave Green this year?

Khedira and Ayew

Sammy Khedira and Andre Ayew: Two Pipe Dream Targets - Flickr/Creative Commons

Ground Rules

This post engages in rampant speculation and wishful thinking about possible summer transfer targets for the Sounders 2015 season. In theory, the Sounders could sign anyone in the world and pay a transfer fee (especially if the first assumption below holds), but for purposes of this exercise I will focus on players who are on expiring contracts. I am working under the following assumptions:

  • The Sounders would be able to use allocation or other MLS shenanigans (such as the rumored "Super-max DP") to turn Osvaldo Alonso into a non-DP player, thus opening another Designated Player spot. As has already been mentioned on this site, this is likely easier said than done, but let's dream.
  • The positions where the Sounders could significantly upgrade are: Central Midfield, Winger, and Central Defense. The rationale for these positions is discussed below under each section.
  • I am not a soccer scout. Outside of the top names, I don't have much knowledge of most of these players. I am scouting using Transfermarkt.com, Football Manager 2015, and FIFA 15 ratings.
  • These are just a sampling of expiring contract players that I find interesting. I would love to hear your thoughts on these or other possible transfer targets in the comments!

Central Midfield

When healthy, the Sounders have an excellent midfield duo in Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda. We also have solid, if unspectacular, depth. Michael Azira and Andy Rose are both options here and bring different strengths. Christian Roldan looks to be a hot prospect for the future, and may be able to contribute this year. Brad Evans can play anywhere, although he looks to be a critical central defender this year.

In my opinion, the Sounders could improve the team by signing a midfielder who is a significant upgrade over Pineda, allowing him to be used in more of a backup/rotation role. Pineda was excellent last season, and in fact is one of my favorite Sounders. But taking a step back and looking at the big picture, a younger box to box or attacking midfielder would seem to make the team that much more dangerous in 2015 as we chase multiple trophies. For reference, here are the scouting reports for current Sounders central midfielders:

Osvaldo Alonso: 800k Euro Market Value (Ha!). FM Current Ability: 131. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 76

Gonzalo Pineda: 800k Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 125. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 68

Andy Rose: 100k Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 94. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 63

Michael Azira: No Market Value. FM Current Ability: 89. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 59

Christian Roldan: Not Yet Scouted

The Pipe Dream

Sami Khedira

In Football Manager, Khedira would probably fall under the category of "unrealistic transfer target" for the Seattle Sounders. When healthy, he is a 27 year-old world class central midfielder who starts at Real Madrid and for the German National Team. Health, however, has been a large issue lately. That may be the main reason that Real Madrid have not extended his contract, which ends on June 30th. Khedira has been linked to some top EPL clubs, as you might expect. There is also strong speculation that he would look to move to the Bundesliga when his contract expires. Both are much more likely than coming to MLS. However, before Clint Demspey signed, I would have considered him unattainable as well, so why not explore the options.

Scouting: 25m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 154. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 84. Comparable players: Ivan Rakitic, Ramires, Radja Nainggolan.

Pros: World-class player, excellent positional fit as a box to box midfielder, would instantly enter the discussion as one of the top MLS signings ever.

Cons: Unlikely to want to move to MLS at this point in his career, extensive injury history.

The Ambitious Options

Alberto Aquilani

An Italian international and current player for Fiorentina. Played for Liverpool in the EPL, and like Khedira has had injury issues. Aquilani is described as a midfield playmaker, and would be an excellent complement to Alonso's more defensive role. He has already been linked to a move to MLS, with speculation that he could become the third designated player for NYCFC.

Scouting: 7.5m Euro Market Value, FM Current Ability: 144. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 79. Comparable players: Raul Meireles, Mile Jedinak.

Pros: Great experience, appears to be a creative and attack minded central midfielder, potential to be a good fit for Sounders system, appears to at least be considering a move to MLS

Cons: Injury history, may only be interested in NYCFC, would be almost 31 in July.

Stephane Mbia

A Cameroon international who is a more holding midfielder or even a central defender. Currently playing with Sevilla in Spain, and his contract is expiring. My scouting seems to indicate he's a strong, physical player and a good header of the ball. When paired with any non-Alonso midfielder, he would probably take Ozzie's normal role. With Ozzie, he might end up staying back more as Alonso roams forward. I think figuring out how this might would would be a good problem to have!

Scouting: 10m Euro Market Value, FM Current Ability: 140, FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 75. Comparable players: Lucas, Gary Medel, Check Tiote.

Pros: Seems like a talented defender, experienced in top flight leagues, and could be an option at either midfield or defense.

Cons: Has already been linked with a move back to the EPL (Crystal Palace, Everton), may be too close to Alonso's current role

Yohan Gourcuff

Where Mbia is maybe too defensive-minded, Gourcuff might be too attack minded for a Sounders central mid in the current system. Listed as a Central Attacking Midfielder in the FIFA database, he is probably more of a typical "number 10" player who can be expected to act as a playmaker in the center of the pitch. While he may not be a perfect fit, he is definitely a talented player who could bring a lot to the team.

Scouting: 4.5m Euro Market Value, FM Current Ability: 145, FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 79. Comparable players: Adam Lallana, Gylfi Sigurdsson

Pros: Talented player who is wanted by some top teams, great attacking and playmaking option from the midfield

Cons: Has apparently already turned down Liverpool and Arsenal, so a move to MLS is a real stretch. Go ahead Lagerwey, shock the world!

Younger Potential

Yunus Malli

Another attack-minded central mid, this is the kind of player that is probably out of reach for the current MLS. Malli is a 23 year old German (of Turkish descent) who is with Mainz in the Bundesliga. He is currently linked with a move to Fenerbahce. His stock is definitely on the rise, and could we somehow convince him to make Seattle his home, this is the kind of player that would likely command a large transfer fee in a few years if he continues to develop.

Scouting: 3m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 132. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 71. Comparable players: Mauro Diaz, Lee Nguyen.

Pros: Exciting young attacking player, room to develop and increase in value

Cons: Convincing him to move away from Europe and into MLS, may be too attacking for the current Sounders central midfield system.

May Mahlangu

Currently playing for Goteborg in Sweden, Mahlangu is a 25 year-old South African central midfielder who seems linked to clubs all over Europe. Some more likely destinations that I have seen include Fulham and Wigan in the English Championship. Could the Sounders convince him to make an MLS move instead? I'm not sure if he would command a DP-level salary, but as a promising younger player, I think he's an interesting potential option.

Scouting: 2m Euro Market Value, FM Current Ability: 124. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 72.

Pros: Already appears to be a solid, Pineda-level player, but with room to grow; potentially a good central midfield fit for the Sounders system.

Cons: May be happy to stay in Europe, could be on the border of a DP-level salary but without DP-level performance at this point in his career.

Wingers

In the current system, the wide midfield positions belong to Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle. The only true backup on the roster in my opinion is Aaron Kovar. Able to fill in wide, but seemingly more comfortable at forward, is a long list of players: Kenny Cooper, Chad Barrett, Darwin Jones and Victor Mansaray. Like Neagle has in the last couple years, Jones and Mansaray may be able to develop into full-time wide players. Andy Rose has been playing there a bit in the pre-season but for me fits better in the middle.

That leaves the 2015 Sounders with a lot of acceptable options at the wide midfield positions, but no superstars. Neagle and Pappa definitely had solid years in 2014, and should continue to do so this year. But adding a dynamic attacking winger would seem to fill a nice hole in the current roster and improve our depth of natural wide players. Our existing players scout out like this:

Marco Pappa: 700k Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 114. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 69

Lamar Neagle: 100k Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 108. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 68

Aaron Kovar: No Market Value. FM Current Ability: 79. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 57

The Pipe Dream

Andre Ayew

Ayew is a 25-year-old attacking left winger currently playing for Olympique Marseille in Ligue 1. You may also remember him facing the United States with Ghana during the World Cup. He is a very talented young player, and is getting a lot of interest from Premier League teams, with nearly everyone linked as a potential destination when his contract expires this summer. Ayew is a skillful player who would add a quality dimension to the Sounders attack. Unfortunately, you're more likely to see him in the EPL than Rave Green later this year.

Scouting: 12m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 147 (165 Potential). FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 78. Comparable players: Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli.

Pros: Young and talented, can score or set up others, experienced international.

Cons: Probably not interested in an MLS move.

The Ambitious Options

Marco Fabian

Fabian is a talented young Mexican player who already has 20 caps for the National team. However, he has also been fairly inconsistent and has failed to live up to his potential thus far. His contract with Chivas (the one that still exists) ends during the summer, and he seems unlikely to stick around. Could this be another classic Sounders reclamation project? If so, you would have to think this would be a great draw for Mexican soccer fans in the Pacific Northwest, which might add to the appeal.

Scouting: 5.5m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 140. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 71. Comparable players: Mauro Diaz, Lee Nguyen.

Pros: Could be a star if he gets back on track, talented attacking player, potential to connect with Mexican National Team fans.

Cons: Inconsistent career thus far, may be looking to move to Europe if he can perform well.

Maciej Rybus

I know almost nothing about this player, including how to pronounce his name. But he seems to be a promising young Polish winger, currently playing for Grozny in the Russian League. From the scouting reports, it is clear that he is a speedy player who likes to get forward. I'm not seeing a ton of transfer speculation about Rybus, but his contract ends in June and maybe Seattle will be an appealing change of scenery from Grozny?

Scouting: 5m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 131. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 73.

Pros: Young, speedy player; could be interested in an MLS move?

Cons: A bit unknown, at least to me.

Bryan Ruiz

Ruiz is likely a more familiar name. He is a 29-year-old Costa Rican right winger who played with Clint Dempsey at Fulham. Perhaps Clint can sell him on a move to Seattle? Ruiz is a talented, experienced player who could bring a nice level of quality to the Sounders. He appears to mostly play on the right but likes to drift inside, similar to Marco Pappa. Not the most exciting acquisition, but one that seems attainable. FIFA rates him much more highly than Football Manager, for whatever that's worth.

Scouting: 5m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 127. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 78. Comparable players: Hatem Ben Arfa, Vierinha.

Pros: Solid, experienced player who may be open to an MLS move at this point in his career.

Cons: A good player, but maybe not worth a DP slot? Just had a failed transfer (deadlines: they matter) to Levante, so may prefer to stay in Europe.

Younger Potential

Zakaria Bakkali

A very interesting player, at only 19 Bakkali would be eligible as a youth DP in MLS. Bakkali is a young, Beligian star who was the youngest player to score a hat trick in the Eredivisie. Last year he had a transfer arranged with Atletico Madrid. However, it fell through, and his current team PSV subsequently froze him out of the first team and agreed to let him leave the club. Now, he has been named "the next Eden Hazard" and linked almost everywhere. So far, those links are just speculation. Could the Sounders convince him that Seattle is the right move for his young career?

Scouting: 2m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 118 (-9 Potential Ability, which is quite high). FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 71.

Pros: Extremely high potential; quick, technical player, could hit the cap as a youth DP (which means a lower cap hit).

Cons: Will likely end up moving to a top European Club and we'll all be watching him in the Champions League over the next few years.

Central Defense

The center of Seattle's defense is all about Chad Marshall. He was the MLS Defender of the Year and was absolutely critical to the team. But what about his partners in the defense? Traore and Anibaba are gone. Zach Scott was huge last year, especially late on. He's a true Sounder at Heart, but at 34 we have to at least consider the heretical possibility he can't keep improving each year.

The wildcard here is Brad Evans. Will he transition into a solid partner for Marshall this season? If he does, then maybe we don't need to look for a high profile defender. The Sounders could instead focus on developing younger players like Lowe and Ockford to eventually take over. If he doesn't, or if either he or Marshall have significant injury trouble, we could see the Sounders looking to bring in a big name later this year.

Chad Marshall: 500k Euro Market Value (add a couple zeros and we'll talk). FM Current Ability: 119. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 71.

Brad Evans: 700k Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 115. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 68 (As a Center Mid).

Zach Scott: 150k Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 94. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 64.

The Ambitious Options

Andrea Ranocchia

Rannocchia is the current Inter Milan captain and a consistent Italian national team player in central defense. Why is he on an expiring contract then? He appears to have fallen out of favor at Inter, and has had a lot of high-profile mistakes in the recent past that have cost the team. Has that reduced his value enough to make a move to MLS possible? I don't know, but I have to think he would instantly become a top defender here.

Scouting: 12.5m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 143. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 77.

Pros: High level club and international experience, still young for a defender at 27

Cons: Is he an expensive player who will just make defensive mistakes in MLS as well, and would he consider such a move?

Christopher Samba

Apparently Samba is only 30 years old, which was surprising to me. He has spent time in the EPL with Blackburn Rovers and QPR, and is currently with Dinamo Moscow. He's a large, strong, central defender. Perhaps not the quickest, but extremely physically imposing. At this point in his career, he's probably a bit of a risk, especially at the wages he is used to. But with Samba and Marshall in the back line, the opposing team would have to just forget about sending in crosses.

Scouting: 9m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 142. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 77

Pros: Size, strength, and experience.

Cons: Likely to have big wage demands and may have no interest in MLS, may not be the perfect partner for Marshall.

Carlos Zambrano

Zambrano is a talented young Peruvian defender with Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. He has attracted strong interest from Liverpool for over a year, but nothing has been finalized and his contract expires this summer. Zambrano scouts as an excellent all-around defender with both good physical and technical ability. Maybe he's been holding out on Liverpool hoping that he can move back to the Western Hemisphere.

Scouting: 8m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 137. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 77

Pros: Talented young player who should still be improving, good all-around defender.

Cons: We are probably not at the stage where players turn down Liverpool to come to Seattle.

Tore Reginiussen

Yep, a 28 year-old Norwegian center back who is not Steffen Hagen. The Sounders were often linked to Hagen last year, and as best I can tell he appears to be out of contract with his club team. Yet, he has not made a move. So lets look at Reginiussen to fulfill our Scandinavian quota. Tore scouts out as a slightly more talented player, but one who still seems attainable as an MLS transfer target. Judging by the comments on his FIFA profile, Tore is an underrated player who is considered one of the best defenders in the Norwegian league.

Scouting: 1.5m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 127. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 71

Pros: Could be a realistic MLS target, and the club has a history of bringing in Scandinavian players.

Cons: Maybe not a DP-level player, but would likely still command a large wage. Does he fit in to what the Sounders are trying to build longer term? And does he want to make that move?

Younger Potential

Fabian Schar

Schar is a 23-year-old Swiss defender, currently playing for FC Basel in the Swiss league. His stock definitely appears to be on the rise, and he has repeatedly been linked with a move to Arsenal. As of now, however, nothing has been finalized and he's on an expiring contract. Based on my internet scouting he is quick, aggressive defender who is also good in the air. Sounds like a great match with Marshall.

Scouting: 8m Euro Market Value. FM Current Ability: 127. FIFA 15 Overall Rating: 75.

Pros: Young, talented defender who could be a great complement to Chad Marshall, wanted by top EPL clubs.

Cons: Young, talented defender who is wanted by top EPL clubs, and therefore will likely stay in Europe.


Conclusion

All of these players are ambitious targets, some more so than others. The most likely scenario is that the Sounders continue to sign more under the radar players from smaller countries while also developing domestic talent. However, if a DP slot does materialize, these players on expiring contracts could represent a great value if the team can convince them to make the move to MLS!

FanPosts only represent the opinions of the poster, not of Sounder at Heart.