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Sounders should target these four strikers on free transfers

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Bargain shopping has never been so fun.

Corinthians v Fluminense - Brasileirao Series A 2014 Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Garth Lagerwey loves a bargain. From pouncing on accomplished MLS players who may be undervalued after down years (Will Bruin, Harry Shipp, Waylon Francis) to mining the Chinese Super League for borderline international talent needing a new league (Gustav Svensson, Kim Kee-Hee), the Sounders General Manager uses every opportunity to stretch the team’s dollars.

Lagerwey’s creativity with non-DP signings has helped the Sounders make deep playoff runs in each of the last two years, as depth players contributed vital minutes during the team’s postseasons runs. In theory, the his ability to find quality depth should also give the Sounders more leverage in the transfer market. In other words, the more they can win without a big signing, the better chance they have of making a big signing at a reasonable cost.

Unfortunately, Jordan Morris’s ACL tear has sent that theory out the window, as a position group that started the year with three above average MLS strikers (Morris, Bruin, and Clint Dempsey) was reduced to two before the MLS season could even begin. Worse than the reduction in depth is their lack of ability to get in behind opposing defenses without Morris’s pace.

Lagerwey is now left with two options: bite the bullet and potentially overspend on a rushed DP signing, or sacrifice short term results and stick with his trend of moving away from “top heavy” rosters by focusing on TAM signings until the right long-term DP is available.

Should Lagerwey decide to split the difference, he could aim to sign a DP who is out of contract this summer. Such a signing would eliminate the need for a transfer fee and allow the Sounders a chance to bolster their squad without having to break the bank a year before they may need to spend heavily to replace Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso.

Here are four such potential signings available on free transfers in the summer:

Facundo Ferreyra

Age: 27, Current Club: Shakhtar Donestk

Why it works

Facundo Ferreyra is on a goal scoring tear. He’s scored 20 goals in 26 league starts for Shakhtar Donestk, who are top of the table in the Ukrainian Premier League (the same league Derlis Gonzalez plays in.) He’s also notched three goals and one assist in Champions League play this year. Described by Chris Atkins of ESPN.com as “a tall and pacey forward”, Ferreyra can score by getting in behind the defense or by getting his head to crosses. He is a menace in the box whose clever movement can lead to easy goals, and he also plays as the lone striker in Shakhtar’s 4-2-3-1 system.

Why it doesn’t work

Ferreyra’s recent form may have artificially spiked his salary demands. Though he has double-digit scoring tallies from each of his last two seasons, his playing time in the two years prior to 2016 was limited. That 2014-2015 spell included a complete flame-out at Newcastle United, where he failed to make a single appearance for the Magpies and openly admitted the EPL was too physical for him. The rough and tumble nature of the MLS may cause Ferreyra to think twice before parting ways with Bernard, Fred, Taison, and the rest of the extremely talented and expensive Shakhtar midfield who create plenty of quality chances for the Argentine striker.

Abel Hernandez

Age: 27, Current Club: Hull City

Why it works

Abel Hernandez has a combined seven years of experience in England’s and Italy’s top flights and is still only 27. He has also helped lead two promotion campaigns, once with Palermo in 2013/14 and once with Hull City in 2015/16. In those two seasons, Hernandez scored a combined 35 goals. Though his production in top flights has been spotty, his production in leagues more comparable to MLS has been excellent. Moreover, Hernandez would bring elite athleticism in combination with quality skill to the Sounders line-up. A Uruguayan connection with Nico Lodeiro could also help push negotiations over the finish line.

Why it doesn’t work

Hernandez has had injury issues throughout his career, most notably rupturing his cruciate ligament in 2012 and undergoing surgery on a torn Achilles tendon in 2017. Though he’s recovered from both, and even knocked in a handful of goals in the last month for Hull, the Sounders may want to stay clear of any potential injury concerns. A still bigger deterrent is likely Hernandez’s expressed desire to stay in Europe.

Romarinho

Age: 27, Current Club: Al Jazira

Why it works

Romarinho is a quick and creative player who can poach goals as a striker or create play from the wing. He also strikes the ball very well from distance, which could help keep teams honest when they bunker against the Sounders. Romarinho’s main claim to fame is that he has competed twice in the FIFA Club World Cup: once as a reserve for a Corinthian side who shocked Chelsea to win the tournament, and once as the marquee player for Al Jazira, who finished a respectable fourth place. Romarinho has spent the bulk of his career in the Middle East, where he’s scored goals in the double digits every season. Like Kim and Svensson, Romarinho presents the unique situation where a player with quality and pedigree could actually find an upgrade in competition by switching to MLS.

Why it doesn’t work

Romarinho hasn’t played in a high level league since he left Corinthians in 2014. Though Nelson Valdez also once played for Al Jazira prior to signing with the Sounders, he at least got his feet wet in the Bundasliga between his stints in the UAE and United States. While Romarinho has scored multiple goals in the relatively more competitive AFC Champions League this season, the Sounders may balk if it requires more than TAM money to secure him.

Stephane Bahoken

Age: 25, Current Club: RC Strasbourg Alsace

Why it works

Bahoken likely has the highest upside of any of these players. At age 25, he is the youngest of the group, and he has shown flashes of brilliance in France’s Ligue 1 this year. His goal to give Strasbourg a surprise win over PSG in December checks all three boxes for pace, power, and finishing. Moreover, Bahoken has already shown strong character in his young career. After a failed loan stint to Scotland threatened to derail his trajectory in 2013, the young striker made a conscious choice to adjust his attitude and refocus his efforts. In 2014, Bahoken signed with Strasbourg, still in France’s third flight at the time, and helped lead them all the way to Ligue 1, where they currently stand five points clear of the relegation zone. Perhaps with an assist from fellow Cameroon national team player Nouhou, the budding talent can be convinced to join the Rave Green.

Why it doesn’t work

Bahoken fought for four years to return to France’s top league. Now that he has finally returned and is having success, he may not want to leave again. Assuming it takes a hefty salary to lure a player still in his prime away from a top flight European league, the Sounders may opt out on the basis that Bahoken has failed to score more than seven goals in a single season, even when playing in France’s lower leagues.