Ask almost any MLS general manager when they’d like to sign players, and they’ll tell you the spring transfer window is superior to the summer. There are almost innumerable benefits the biggest of which is simply time to acclimate and to have a bigger impact on the season.
But just like every other league, MLS decision makers almost can’t help themselves and are only too happy to upset any existing locker room cohesion in the name of adding players late in the season.
The Seattle Sounders are as guilty of this as anyone. Since 2009, the Sounders have made notable summer signings every year except 2014 (when they were already well on their way to winning the Supporters’ Shield after their most active offseason to date).
With the summer window opening in a couple weeks (July 10), now seemed like as good a time as any to look back on how the Sounders’ previous summer signings worked out.
(Editor’s note: For the purposes of this exercise, we didn’t include players who were signed outside the transfer window or were already under club control.)
Rosters were much smaller then (just 23 players) so there simply wasn’t as much room to make signings in the summer. Still, the Sounders couldn’t pass up the Costa Rica international.
How it worked out: Gonzalez almost immediately took over the starting left back spot and would spend seven seasons with the Sounders. Along the way, he became a very popular player, an even more popular teammate and when healthy was as good of a defensive left back as the team has ever had.
Technically, the Sounders announced the Switzerland international’s signing in April but he wasn’t able to join the team until after the World Cup.
How it worked out: The FC Twente legend helped the Sounders turn around what was looking like a putrid season, leading them to the playoffs with a 9-1-1 record in matches he played. He also scored five goals, including a hat trick at Columbus. Weirdly, though, he was bought out right before the start of the 2011 season upon rumors he didn’t want to play as a target man.
Just 25 and part of Uruguay’s World Cup team, this seemed like arguably the bigger signing of the summer.
How it worked out: Only made four MLS starts that first year, but scored a couple goals and had a huge CONCACAF Champions League goal at Isidro Metapan. He followed that up by scoring 11 goals in all competitions in 2011, but was eventually traded to the Chicago Fire in 2012.
This was a relatively quiet summer, again due to the Sounders already playing well and not having much room on their roster. But they did move up in the Allocation Order to take a flier on a 25-year-old former U.S. youth international who had bee playing in Mexico.
How it worked out: It’s funny, I don’t think many people remember Ochoa having a huge impact but he scored the equalizer in the Kasey Keller farewell match and followed that up with eight goals in 18 all-competition appearances in 2012. Was never great, but played a significant role in Sounders’ non-MLS success while he was here.
Coming off a season in which he led the Bundesliga in key passes, the hope was that Tiffert would finally give the Sounders an attacking force in the central midfield.
How it worked out: The Sounders went 7-3-3 in his 13 regular season appearances and managed to advance in the playoffs for the first time. Tiffert picked up four assists and the Sounders’ offense seemed to genuinely play better when he was on the field. But he’ll likely be most remembered for having his penalty stopped in the U.S. Open Cup final and being bought out at the start of 2013.
Signed as a 23-year-old Honduras international, which at the time was one of the up-and-coming nations in CONCACAF, there were hopes that he could turn into a star.
How it worked out: Although he scored one of the most important goals in Sounders history — a volley that put the Sounders past Real Salt Lake and into the Western Conference semifinals for the first time — Martinez struggled for playing time. That was the only goal he scored before his loan expired the following year.
Given the passage of time, it’s hard to remember just how improbable this signing seemed at the time. But four years later, he’s still here.
How it worked out: The Sounders went 7-1-0 in the first eight matches after his signing was announced and looked like the the Supporters’ Shield was theirs for the taking. But the Sounders finished the season on a 1-6-3 run that included a seven-game winless streak to close out the season and a 5-3 aggregate-goal beatdown at the hands of the Portland Timbers. His 39 Sounders regular-season goals are one shy of Obafemi Martins for second on the team’s all-time list.
The only players the Sounders signed that summer were Aaron Long and Onkyekachi Apam, neither of whom made a regular-season appearance.
The occasional Sweden international was the first signing of what turned out to be a very busy summer.
How it worked out: Made 11 regular season starts and had two assists, and scored the winning goal in a First-Round playoff win over the LA Galaxy. Stuck around for 2016 to make 23 more starts, including in the MLS Cup final.
The Austrian was someone the Sounders had pursued in previous transfer windows, but were able to get him on a free after he left Levante.
How it worked out: Only made eight starts, including the playoffs, but he scored two goals and had two more assists that first year. Followed up with a three-goal, eight-assist season in 2016.
Another player the Sounders had previously pursued, the Paraguay international was was the only summer signing who was brought in as a DP.
How it worked out: Very much a mixed bag. Although Valdez only scored two goals in 2015, the Sounders went 6-1-2 — including playoffs — in games he played. He went scoreless in the 2016 regular-season, but then scored in the U.S. Open Cup and added two more in the playoffs, including a late winner against Sporting KC.
Oddly the only player from that 2015 signing spree to still be with the Sounders in 2017, he was also the last and most unexpected.
How it worked out: Played well enough in his first four appearances before suffering an ACL tear that kept him out until the following summer. Upon returning, though, Torres basically picked up where he left off and eventually delivered the winning penalty in the MLS Cup shootout. The Sounders only allowed nine goals in his 13 2016 appearances.
The pursuit started much earlier in the year, but the Sounders finally got their man on July 27, just as their season was bottoming out. He was the sixth DP summer signing in franchise history.
How it worked out: Pretty well, I think. Lodeiro scored eight goals and added eight assists as the Sounders went 11-2-4 in his starts and won MLS Cup. He’s not been quite as good this year, but still has to be considered a very good signings.
Announced a day after his Uruguay countryman, this was Fernandez’s second stint with the team.
How it worked out: A much lower-impact signing that Lodeiro, Fernandez worked out OK. He made 13 appearances in 2016 and 10 more this year before his one-year contract expired. Fernandez only tallied one goal and an assist, but will be remembered as someone who helped bring home the club’s first-ever MLS Cup.