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Sounders unlikely to add ‘splashy’ Designated Player this year

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Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey suggests the team is still looking to add one more TAM-level player soon and potentially another in the summer.

Might these be the Sounders’ three DPs in 2019?
Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

There’s a pretty good chance that the Seattle Sounders will make a signing before the close of the Primary Transfer Window on May 7, but don’t hold out much hope for an expensive Designated Player anytime in 2019.

Echoing statements he’s made earlier in the offseason, Sounders GM & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey reiterated that he was happy with the state of the roster — especially with Jordan Morris’ return to health — and that he didn’t feel like there were any glaring holes during a Tuesday evening interview on KJR.

“I think over the next six months we’ll make one or two additions,” Lagerwey said. “We have a spot in mind for one of them and we’re more open about the other one. We have some people, specifically Jordan, coming off long injury layoffs and we want to give them a chance to see how they’ll do and see what role is best for them and want to have some ability to react if anything goes wrong. We feel we have a pretty good foundation so we can be cautious and conservative.

“We would like to add one more piece sooner than later but don’t feel urgency to do that and I think we could add a second piece at some point, but that’s more up in the air as we see what we need as the season evolves.”

Lagerwey then turned subtext of previous statements into text when addressing the currently open third DP spot. He said the spot will eventually be filled and it could be filled by a new signing, but also tempered expectations about what type of player the Sounders would be looking to sign.

“The Designated Player is going to be largely an accounting mechanism, meaning it will be filled like we did with Ozzie Alonso in years past,” he said. “You’d look at who the highest paid player is and make them a DP, just for the cap designation. I wouldn’t expect a splashy, third-DP signing. Our big investments are in Nico Lodeiro and Rual Ruidiaz. Those guys are the cornerstones we’re building around.”

Last summer the Sounders committed about $14 million to sign Ruidíaz to 3.5-year deal. In 2016, they committed about $12 million to sign Lodeiro and have since extended him through 2021.

Although no changes to the Designated Player Rule will be made in 2019, Lagerwey seemed to add credence to a report in September that suggested MLS owners were considering the possibility of scaling back the rule while expanding TAM funds.

“Certainly we’re trying to bring in good players and we will have a third DP designated, but I don’t anticipate it being an impact like Lodeiro or Ruidiaz and that’s consistent with how we think the league will go forward,” he said.

Even without a “splashy” third DP signing, it should be noted that the Sounders will likely field a front six featuring three players making more than $1 million a year, two more who just signed long extensions and a player coming off a prominent role in the World Cup. There are four more TAM-level contracts currently on the defense and their goalkeeper is coming off one of the best statistical seasons in MLS history. They are also effectively returning every key player from a team that finished the season on a 15-2-2 tear — with Morris effectively replacing Osvaldo Alonso, the notable exception.

All signs point to the Sounders trying to sign another player to compete for minutes in the defensive midfield, but there also isn’t a glaring need anywhere.

“We are running a little light,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve got some targets, we’ve had some targets so another player or two would certainly help — knock on wood in case there’s any sort of injury — but overall we’re happy with the squad. It’s a very experienced group and if they can stay healthy, I think we can get off to a fast start.”