TUKWILA, Wash. — As offseasons go, this one has been eerily quiet for the Seattle Sounders. The only veteran player the Sounders have signed is Waylon Francis, and that came back in December. Since then, the most notable acquisitions were Homegrown Player Handwalla Bwana and first-round draft pick Alex Roldan, neither of whom are likely to have significant roles early in the season.
The Sounders have made just nine total transactions — not counting their three draft picks, who are all still unsigned — the fewest in all of MLS.
As restless as that may be making fans — especially readers of this site — Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey isn’t offering much in terms of short-term promises.
“We feel really good about our team if I’m honest,” Lagerwey told reporters on Monday, shortly before the team departed for training camp in Chula Vista, Calif. “Nothing is promised, nothing is given, we have to go out and earn it, but when you look at our whole 18, certainly you want to continue to add players and continue to get better, but we feel pretty good about our group.”
Echoing statements he said shortly after the MLS Cup final loss to Toronto FC, Lagerwey said he wasn’t going to let that one game overwhelm his thinking about the roster as a whole.
“We weren’t happy with how we played in the final,” he said. “The outcome was not a good one. We aren’t sitting here and saying losing in the final in that manner is acceptable. What we are saying is we’re not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater and build from scratch because we lost one game on the road. We look at our body of work from June on — from my perspective once we got the right back settled with [Kelvin] Leerdam, we only lost two games during the regular season. That’s an indication our group was pretty solid.”
To Lagerwey’s point, the Sounders finished the season on a 12-3-6 run (including playoffs) that would likely make them Supporters’ Shield contenders if they were to do that over the course of a full season.
But the loss in Toronto happened. It may have been the product of overconfidence or simply running into a team that was not about to lose a final two years in a row at home, but TFC looked to be far more talented on the day.
Lagerwey doesn’t seem quite as convinced, though. He sees players like Kelvin Leerdam and Victor Rodriguez getting full preseasons and having a better understanding of their teammates. He surely imagines Jordan Morris returning to the form of 2016 and has surely run through the scenario in which the Sounders had a fully fit Osvaldo Alonso in the final. The gap, at least in his mind, is probably smaller than what many of us perceive it as being.
While last year’s woeful 2-5-4 start is still an unhealed wound for many of us, he argues that bringing back virtually every starter is almost by itself a guarantee of better results, other additions or not. While Sporting Director Chris Henderson suggested they still want to sign a center back to bolster their depth and indicated the team is looking at attacking players with their available TAM, there’s simply no outward sense of urgency.
I can’t imagine that anyone frustrated with the offseason so far will find any of this comforting. But Lagerwey’s points are fair and he’s surely seen plenty of evidence that keeps him from pushing for a quicker move.
“I think we can field the team we fielded — substitute Nouhou for Joevin [Jones] — and I think we’re going to beat most MLS teams or at least be competitive,” Lagerwey said. “Do we want to get better? Of course. Do we want to add impact players? Absolutely. But we should do that judiciously and in the matter where we get the best player for the best value, which you’ve heard me say for three years.
“We’re going to sign the best players we can and we’re going to sign them when they become available.”