There were still i’s to dot and t’s to cross as of Tuesday morning, but by the time you’re reading this Nicolas Lodeiro may already be a member of the Seattle Sounders. The Uruguay international’s signing was so close that his name was used rather liberally while the Sounders front office discussed Sigi Schmid’s departure.
"We fully anticipate him joining our squad," Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said about Lodeiro, while mentioning the distinct likelihood that Alvaro Fernandez would also be signed.
The open discussion of Lodeiro’s signing was surely meant, at least in part, to provide a ray of sunshine to what was otherwise a dreary day at Starfire. But amidst news that the Sounders had parted ways with the only head coach they’d known in their MLS iteration was a genuine sense of hope that this could be a turning point.
Without a doubt, the biggest reason for that hope is Lodeiro, a player who President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey described as a potentially franchise-shifting talent.
"He would make us a footballing team, a passing team and a possession team," Lagerwey said, speaking in thinly veiled hypotheticals. "He’s a tremendous linking player, he’s got a tremendous work ethic, his resume is as good as any you’ll see."
While Lodeiro’s goal totals may not jump off the page — he’s never scored more than eight goals in a club season and has just nine goals in 62 international appearances — he has won a Copa America, played in four Copa Libertadores and been considered an integral part of good teams throughout his career. He’s also 27 and signed for at least the next three seasons.
"When we talk about making our core group younger, more athletic, more technical, he fits all those boxes," Lagerwey said. "He’s won championships everywhere he’s played and I couldn’t be more excited about having him."
The obvious asterisk that comes with Lodeiro is when he arrived. Even if the Sounders are able to work some paperwork magic and have him eligible to play for Sunday’s game against the LA Galaxy, he’ll arrive too late to save Schmid’s job and the Sounders have just 14 league games to climb out of the hole into which they’ve dug themselves.
The inability to bring in a potential game-changing talent like Lodeiro sooner is a failure, on at least some level. Lagerwey admitted as much, while also defending the decision.
"The reason we did it was we waited for the player who we thought was absolutely the best player," Lagerwey said. "We had a board that was larger than 10 guys and we got our No. 1 guy. It took a long time to get done. And to get our other guy, we needed someone who best complemented him. That means two players toward the end of the transfer window.
"We had hoped we wouldn’t have had the short-term pain we did when Oba left, but we did. That’s certainly on us and our responsibility and we’ll try to build for the longterm now and make this a championship contender."
Moving forward, Lagerwey also suggested Lodeiro’s signing is indicative of a philosophical change.
"We’re not going to be as reliant on one player," he said. "We’re not going to have the strategy where we pass the ball to one or two guys and hope they score and don’t worry about everything else. We’re going to have systems and organizations and platforms and player successions. We’re going to do it in a way that allows us to succeed longterm, allows us to plug role players in and plug and play. We’re going to do it in a way that avoids a repeat of the Oba scenario ever again."