Erik Friberg was not a "Garth Lagerwey signing." Of that, there is little question. Since leaving the Sounders following the 2011 season, Friberg had remained in touch with some of his former teammates, as well as some of the front office staff. Sporting Director Chris Henderson was the one who first scouted Friberg and was also the main point of contact this time.
When Friberg decided he wanted to return to the Sounders, it was as easy as reaching out to one of his many contacts with the club. All Lagerwey really had to do was sign off, something for which he had hardly any qualms with doing.
"I'm really cautious about midseason acquisitions, the track record for them is not great," Lagerwey said during a recent phone conversation. "With Friberg you're able to check a few boxes. He speaks English fairly well, he knows the city, he wants to be here, he's a good character that we know, good relationships and he's versatile. He's played in several different spots for Sigi and it felt like the right fit. That was an important factor."
None of that screams "Lagerwey's big move," nor have most of the Sounders' other significant changes. From the very start, Lagerwey has resisted the urge to make sure his fingerprints are somewhere visible on this team. The Sounders' most significant offseason addition was the signing of Tyrone Mears, a transaction that was well in the works before Lagerwey's arrival. Lagerwey does deserve some credit for being able to facilitate the trade that allowed the Sounders to select Cristian Roldan in the SuperDraft, but that was more a case of him doing the coaching staff's bidding. Sigi Schmid, Henderson and Kurt Schmid all raved about Roldan's abilities and it was their vehement pleas that encouraged Lagerwey to swing that trade.
If the outside perception is that Lagerwey has not made a huge impact on this team, that's just fine with him.
"I view my job as maintaining a healthy culture where everyone's opinions are valued and we can collaborate and communicate honestly," Lagerwey said. "If I do that then the talented people who work for me and the Sounders can all excel at their jobs, and if they excel at their jobs, we're all going to look good.
"I'm a huge believer from a management theory perspective in empowering people and holding them accountable. You give people clear responsibilities and find that most of the time that motivates people. That's the way I operate and I think I'm pretty good at getting inputs from a large variety of sources. I don't care who gets credit for things, I just wan us to win."
Until recently, the Sounders had been doing plenty of winning. It was just a few weeks ago that they boasted the best offense, the best defense and were playing the kind of possession football that Sounders fans have often drooled over. Even after their losing three straight games in league play and four straight overall, the Sounders are just three points out of first in the West and would vault into a tie for first in the Supporters' Shield if they won their two games-in-hand with D.C. United. To crib a line from noted philosopher Walter Sobchak, "nothing is f----d, dude."
"You try never to worry about games or short sequences of games and you have to have confidence that you are or aren't a good team," Lagerwey said. "I think this is a pretty good team and when they get rested and healthy, I think they'll prove it to everybody."
Lagerwey also is fine with the idea that this team was effectively assembled by others. He knows that if it all falls apart, he'll get a share of the blame. But he's not out to prove anything, and he's especially not looking to make a move simply so he can show that he contributed something obvious.
"I think we've created a base to begin with and we're tinkering around the edges," Lagerwey said. "It's important to be humble enough that when I say I don't need to make my mark, what I mean is having the humility of recognizing that the people before me did a great job. i don't need to trash anyone's performance because I'm here now or do things differently just to do them differently.
"There's things that were done well and there's nothing wrong with continuing them. That's what I try to do and make the best possible judgement off that."