From rumor to signing in less than a week, the pursuit of Kim Kee-Hee of South Korea is another example of the Seattle Sounders taking advantage of the strict international rules of the Chinese Super League. Shanghai Shenua FC needed to cut an international, so Sounders President of Soccer and General Manager Garth Lagerwey swooped in to acquire the centerback.
The 28-year-old immediately bolsters the back line, which suddenly has three highly decorated CBs and enough depth to comfortably rotate during busier periods in the schedule.
“We’re excited add Kim to our roster,” said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said via press release. “He brings solid experience from some topflight leagues and international tournaments and gives us more depth at a vital position. We’ve been fortunate that our international signings over the past few seasons have improved our team and we’re looking forward to continuing that trend with Kim.”
The Sounders used Targeted Allocation Money, making Kim the fifth such player on the roster.
Kim also has a handful of appearances as a right back (most regularly in the 2015 AFC Champions League), as well as spot starts as a central midfielder and left back, but it’s his ability as a CB that is of interest to the Sounders.
The biggest downside to this move is the chance that Kim does not add depth during the World Cup, since South Korea qualified for the tournament. Kim started in five of South Korea’s 18 World Cup qualifying matches. He has the profile to be one of the final players to either make or miss the roster.
He will compete with Chad Marshall and Roman Torres for playing time with Seattle. Shanghai Shenhua is currently in preseason, with their first competitive match scheduled for March 2, so there is a chance that Kim can contribute quickly.
Former Sounders transfer target Oscar Romero just joined Shenhua, forcing them to move one of their internationals, another of whom is Obafemi Martins. Kim joined Shenua in 2016 for a reported fee of $6 million, which his agent called “the biggest in Korean history.” Prior to his move to China, Kim spent three years with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, where he had helped lead the club to back-to-back K-League titles.