The second year of MLS free agency kicks off at 2pm PST on the 14th. The off-season is starting to get into full stride with the expansion draft happening yesterday during Seattle’s victory parade and the Re-Entry Draft (RED) is around the corner for those players not retained that are ineligible for free agency.
The Sounders lone foray into free agency last year saw them add veteran CM, Nathan Sturgis. With Garth Lagerwey’s youth push, it is unlikely Seattle signs many players, if any, with only players that are 28 and older eligible.
Overall, 37 players are eligible for free agency this year. Below are six options that make sense for Seattle, if they can get them for the right pay rate.
Chris Wingert: At 34, Wingert has a few drawbacks, namely a $235,000 pay rate from last year, and the fact that he’s on the back end of his career. Seattle likely doesn’t need much in the way of support at LB, but if Dylan Remick does not return, it provides a veteran option behind Joevin Jones. Wingert is a lockdown defender and can play CB. He’s slow but a better passer than Zach Scott as a CB. Combine his marking abilities with positional flexibility and he’s a good candidate at the right price. He would need to cut his pay in half to just ride the bench for Schmetzer but a reunion with Lagerwey is not a crazy thought.
Clarence Goodson: At one point, the 34 year old CB had USMNT potential and looked like he may be a good option, but after making the team in 2010, he fell off the radar. His time in San Jose has been filled with injuries with Goodson only able to suit up for two games last season. His expiring contract paid him $315,000 a year and to find a new job anywhere in MLS he’ll need to take a cut, especially to join the defending champs. Unlike Wingert, Goodson has zero positional versatility. Goodson, when healthy, is a good defender who plays well in the air and has strong positional awareness. As a spot starter next to Torres or Marshall, he’d be good. However, one of his best assets, veteran leadership, isn’t necessarily needed on this roster.
Sebastien Le Toux: Colorado might bring him back, but he’s out of contract and was left available in the expansion draft. They’ve had weeks to re-sign him and there appears to be no movement. Le Toux’s $300,000 contract was part of the issue when Philadelphia tried to move him last season before connecting with Colorado. That, and he is 32, and will turn 33 before the 2017 season kicks off. He’s likely unable to start 34 matches. In Seattle though, Le Toux gets to return back to the club that introduced him to MLS with his USL coach now at the helm. Le Toux would be similar to Herculez Gomez, deploying mainly as a winger with the flexibility to also play up top. He’s not the fastest, but can provide width, free kick, and crossing ability. He is a bit of a defensive liability, as was Andreas Ivanschitz this year. Even if AI comes back, he’d be a good bench option behind him, though he’d need to accept about half of his current salary.
Marco Pappa: At 29, Pappa is the youngest on my list. He was a player many did not want to see go, and after a largely lackluster season for the Rapids, his options might be limited. If he’s willing to sign for clubs at about $110,000, instead of the nearly $200,000 he was making earlier in his career, it will make for a good career rehab project for a team that does not need him to start. He offers a lot of the same skills as Le Toux with width and crossing, but is a larger defensive liability and lacks positional flexibility. All that said, his offensive talents makes being a thirrd choice winger at $110,000 worth doing.
Mike Magee: Magee was great in Chicago for a couple years but he’s largely fallen off since his DP level season in 2013. He was a Bruce Arena-type player, showed up in the playoffs, and could play a few different positions well enough. He’s not particularly fast or technical, but plays smart with the ball. As a third or fourth choice attacking option he’d be serviceable. Magee fills a Chad Barrett-style scorers role. A player you rarely play, but when he does he gets chippy and seems to find the back of the net. He can play in the midfield, out wide, and as a striker. At $250,000 there’s plenty of better options but if he falls after a poor season to around $100,000, he would be a good option off the bench.
Dominic Oduro: Of all the players that were on playoff rosters, Oduro was largely the most effective. Mauro Biello seemed to trust Oduro, so not bringing him back is a little puzzling. While Oduro is on the wrong side of 30, (he’s 31, and once he losses his speed he’ll be more of a liability than an asset on the field,) he’s likely got another one or two seasons as a producer. He’s versatile as an attacker, willing to play on either wing or up top. Working with Didier Drogba did wonders for Oduro’s reading of defenses and how to get by a back line. With the success he had, he likely wants a pay raise, though most teams likely want to pay less than his $235,000 contract from 2016. If Oduro is willing to sign even at $175,000, he would make a great 60th minute sub. The speed and disruption of a defense that Oalex Anderson provided can be performed by Oduro, but with better ball control and tactical awareness from the veteran.
All of these players would need pay cuts, just as almost all players who hit free agency last year did. Garth signed one player last year but it was one of Sigi’s guys in Nathan Sturgis, a player who isn’t likely to be brought back. Expect Garth to make another signing this year and maybe a pick or two in the second part of the RED, but likely the roster will be filled via draft picks and discovery signings.