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New MLS rules do not change Garth Lagerwey’s roster philosophy

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Teams can carry up to 31 players, but don’t expect the Sounders to do that.

Major League Soccer announced the 2017 roster rules and regulations early Tuesday morning, but general managers around MLS already knew what to expect. The two new roster spots dedicated to Homegrown Players were already filled by the Seattle Sounders.

“Henry [Wingo] and Seyi [Adekoya] will be in these spots,” said President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. “That was part of the reason we signed them going back to the offseason, so it doesn’t change how we view it. An ability to sign more young players, to state the obvious, is consistent with what our club philosophy is and we do think that’s a good thing going forward.”

That’s not to say that the club is done signing players, and those players could be more HGPs. Three trialists remain in camp — Jordy Delem, Zach Mathers, and Brian Nana-Sinkham. Plus, Lagerwey mentioned that Academy products Jake Morris, David Olsen, and Sam Rogers could be around in the future.

“We didn’t have David for very long. David joined for just that last week. He’s been at school,” Lagerwey said. “We’ve had Sam and Jake with us for a longer period time from the Academy. What I say is that all those kids are making progress. I think all of them got ground down a bit at the end of preseason. Again, that’s normal. You’re talking about literally teenage kids that aren’t done growing yet and putting them in a situation where you are running them ragged with pros, with men, for a month at a time, in the case of Sam and Jake. It’s pretty normal to show some wear and tear at the end of that. Those kids, they hung in there. We’re going to try to refresh them a little bit, get them back up to speed.”

In an ideal world, Garth would like more depth on this year’s squad, but his goal is that various position groups are three deep with veterans and then a young player with potential as the fourth element of those two-position groupings (think both full backs, the two holding midfielders, the two outside mids, etc). That’s because of the way the MLS rules regarding roster slots and the salary cap work.

“We’re allowed to roster, by rule, 31, if we picked up the [new] Homegrowns, we’ve loaned someone out for the year and we’ve rostered 20 senior roster players, etc. Most of my teams I don’t roster 20 senior players. We try to roster 18, but we can have 18 to 20. The point of rostering 18 is it allows you to pay more money to 18 guys. There are restrictions,” Garth explained. “That supplemental roster, which is spots 21 to 24, that can only by minimum salary players. That tends to be young players. Then the last group of roster spots 25 to 30 are the apprentice roster spots and those literally have to be young guys. They make an even lower salary than the minimum salary. Those are all categories that we are going to have on a 30-man roster. At least 10 are going to be young and then you look at that senior roster as the guys that are the veterans with experience.”

That could look something like this.

1-20 — Senior Roster (on budget players, 19-20 don’t need to be filled) (in approximate order of salary)

1. Clint Dempsey

2. Nicolas Lodeiro

3. Osvaldo Alonso

4. Roman Torres

5. Chad Marshall

6. Brad Evans

7. Will Bruin

8. Alvaro Fernandez

9. Stefan Frei

10. Gustav Svensson

11. Cristian Roldan

12. Harry Shipp

13. Joevin Jones

14. Tony Alfaro (Sr. Min)

15. Oneil Fisher (Sr. Min)

16. Aaron Kovar (Sr. Min)

17. Tyler Miller (Sr. Min)

18. Bryan Meredith (Sr. Min)

19. [to be left open]

20. [to be left open]

21-24 — Supplemental Roster (Senior minimum or GA)

21. Victor Mansaray

22. (Brian Nana-Sinkam)

23.

24.

25-30 — Reserve Roster (Reserve minimum or HGP over minimum)

25. Jordan Morris

26. Nouhou Tolo

27. (Zach Mathers)

28. (Jordy Delem)

29. Henry Wingo

30. Seyi Adekoya

Players in parentheticals are still in camp and Sounder at Heart expects them to be signed.


Overall, Lagerwey is happy with the roster he will have by the end of the week, but will be leaving a couple spots open. “I don’t think we’re under pressure to fill up the roster right away. We could go in with fewer than 25 guys signed on opening day, that’s OK. We have options that we are going to continue to explore. Again, we want to give young players a chance to prove themselves, if they are able to do that. We believe that’s the long term future of the organization.”

The young talents with potential, Adekoya and Wingo specifically, will be tested early while some veterans are injured or resting. That’s part of the team’s philosophy. Lagerwey says the new HGPs are examples that the Sounders are getting better at producing “good players that are coming up with a lot of potential.”

It’s a much younger squad than it was in 2016. They are defending the MLS Cup with the 12th youngest side (which will probably get younger with more signings). Seattle also has a trick up their sleeve. They added a DP, without needing to spend money.

“We feel like, in really simple terms, we’ve taken a championship winner and added Clint Dempsey to that team. That’s really exciting.”