There was a time when Andreas Ivanschitz was expected to be the man who lifted Austria to new footballing heights. He signed his first professional contract at 15, made his debut with Austrian power Rapid Wien at 16, was the national team captain at 19 and was Austria's Footballer of the Year at 20. He was dubbed "Mozart" and the "Austrian David Beckham," for his ability to make music on the field and his deadly abilities on set pieces.
Although Ivanschitz's career didn't quite continue on that insane trajectory, he has carved out a nice career for himself. Since leaving Austria in 2006, he's played in some of Europe's biggest leagues and continued to be a fixture of his national team. Along the way, he's picked up around 300 first-team appearances on the club level and 69 caps with Austria.
More relevantly to the Sounders, he continues to be a versatile and experienced left-footed player who hits a very dangerous dead ball. In a lot of ways, he's a more experienced, possibly more polished, Marco Pappa.
Coming to MLS also is a chance for Ivanschitz to possibly escape some of the expectations that have followed him around Europe.
"There's many times where a young player comes through and there's a lot of hype," said Sounders Sporting Director Chris Henderson, who has scouted Ivanschitz for several years. "That can happen really fast for players. You look at his career as a whole, and the clubs and leagues he's been in, and it's a high quality. Sometimes the career path is (not a straight line up), you adjust and show what kind of professional you are. He's shown himself to be a good professional."
Part of that professionalism shows is how Ivanschitz cares for his body. The Sounders said they're hopeful the 31-year-old will be in town sometime this week and expect him to be in close to game shape, despite the fact that he hasn't actually played since early May. It also doesn't hurt that Ivanschitz was already working with Sounders fitness coach Dave Tenney, and implementing a workout plan while he was still at home in Valencia, Spain.
"Long term, I think Andreas can play a number of years yet," Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey said. "He's a super fit guy. He's got a body type that can run. If you look at this data output in terms of what he did in the Bundesliga and La Liga, it's very good. I think he's a guy who can be good for a couple years."
Whether or not Ivanschitz has two, three or even more years left, there's no getting around that he's on the wrong side of 30. This is not a move the Sounders are making with how this affects the team's longterm future.
No, this is a move that the Sounders are hopeful will make an immediate impact. Ivanschitz is being brought in to help the Sounders win now, and to play a significant role in the goal of winning the franchise's first MLS Cup.
Ivanschitz won't be asked to lead the Sounders' offensive orchestra, but he's not being groomed as an understudy, either.
"We haven't generated chances, we haven't been dangerous, we haven't been able to push forward numbers in midfield," Lagerwey said. "I think Andreas helps us with all of those things.
"In general do we want to make the group younger? I suppose yeah, but we also want to win the title, and this is a guy we think is going to help us win the title. If at 33 or 34 he can't do the business anymore? Fair enough. But we're getting him at 31. Hopefully we get a couple of good years out of him. He's highly motivated to come here. He certainly could have had more money to stay in Europe, and those are the kind of hungry guys that we like. If you have that kind of heart, sometimes it can make up for some weary legs."