Even though he’s only been at his post for 18 months, Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey has had quite the roller coaster experience since joining the club. On Tuesday, head coach Sigi Schmid was given the axe after nearly eight seasons in charge of the club. Lagerwey spoke to the media after Tuesday’s training session. He was careful and diplomatic in expressing his thoughts about Schmid’s dismissal and the club’s plan to go forward, but a few interesting tidbits managed to slip through the cracks.
It was a bit of a surprise for some to see Schmid dismissed, and Lagerwey (like majority owner Adrian Hanauer) stressed that it was an organizational decision, one made in the best interest of the club. But unlike Hanauer, Lagerwey only spoke a little about the decision itself, choosing instead to talk about the club’s next steps. “The club is to some degree in crisis, with every crisis comes an opportunity. An opportunity to turn the page and hopefully get better.”
He said that the Sounders are not giving up on making the playoffs this season, and that “help is on the way and we’re optimistic that we can change this thing positively.” That help, of course, is most likely coming in the form of Nicolas Lodeiro and Alvaro Fernandez.
Regarding that plan to move forward, Lagerwey focused on “establish a playing style and that will help us long term” and building upon that plan by signing players that fit the style and are young enough to stick around for awhile. He said that even though it still needs work, the squad already has some of what the club is looking for: “we don’t have last place talent, we have pieces we can build around.”
Lagerwey put his faith in interim head coach Brian Schmetzer for the coming months, praising the former assistant as “someone who looks out for the club first and foremost.” Even though Schmetzer will be a candidate for the permanent job, Lagerwey admitted that he’s not a shoo-in. The rest of the season will likely be something of a tryout for him, and Lagerwey said that the front office’s goal is “to look far and wide for the next coaching candidate.” He said that the coming weeks will play a huge part in how that search goes, because they want to assess where the team is once the new signings are with the team and Roman Torres returns to action. All of this will “hopefully put us in a good position to take our time and make those decisions carefully. We’re trying to replace a legend, and that’s not going to be done easily or quickly.”
Despite the positive feelings and good vibes Lagerwey tried to exude as he spoke to the media, he addressed a few delicate topics that forced him to let his guard down a little.
Regarding his relationship with Schmid, Lagerwey started out saying that they “got along really well.” But then it was that every interaction that he ever had with Schmid was “cordial.” As if methodically dropping his tone a full step with each sentence, Lagerwey ended with “I did my best to be deferential over these 18 months.” It might be reading too much into things, but the place that Lagerwey ended seems much different, possibly revealing the power dynamic within the organization since he was appointed GM.
One of the biggest controversies since Lagerwey joined the Sounders was the untimely departure of Obafemi Martins prior to the beginning of the 2016 season. Many are pointing to it as the root of the Sounders’ dismal fortunes this season, and Lagerwey admitted that “he was gonna leave or it was gonna be a big problem.” When the Sounders were unable to match the offer from China, Lagerwey said that the organization had to step aside, otherwise “[Martins] would have been a real pain in the ass.”
On the heels of Martins leaving were the repercussions of such a move, and the lack of transfer activity by the Sounders before the season started. Lagerwey said that the club didn’t expect the team to do so poorly during the first half of the season, and that they underestimated how key the loss of Martins was. “We own it, we take responsibility for it, and we’re going to try and sign DPs going forward that want to be here long term.” He went on to say that he expected Lodeiro to be a player that wants to be in Seattle for the long haul, and that’s one of the reasons the club waited so long to get him.
It was mostly off topic for the day, but after being posed a question about USMNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya’s comments on Twitter last weekend, Lagerwey addressed the mini-controversy quite directly. “I have personally never spoken to Alejandro in my life, I’m not aware if anyone in the organization has ever spoken to Alejandro.” He made the point that Bedoya could only come into the league via the allocation system, and at the time referenced by the player, “we had at least 10 teams between us and Alejandro Bedoya.”