TUKWILA, Wash. — While Seattle Sounders fans get used to life without all-MLS defender Chad Marshall, the team returned to the pitch as it continues to navigate the most difficult stretch of the season. Having secured a point on the road against the Philadelphia Union, the Sounders will look to take advantage of a wounded Sporting Kansas City side before they face FC Dallas and the Montreal Impact on short rest with a limited compliment of players.
That daunting prospect aside, the team did set aside some time to fete the stalwart defender, having said their official goodbyes earlier this week. Owner Adrian Hanauer, General Manager Garth Lagerwey, Coach Brian Schmetzer, midfielder Cristian Roldan and goalkeeper Stefan Frei all addressed the assembled media after practice to discuss the departure of one of the best American defenders in MLS history.
With Marshall’s departure effective immediately, the Sounders received some promising news in the imminent arrival of Xavier Arreaga. Lagerwey indicated that the newest center back signing could arrive as soon as Thursday, though it’s unclear whether he could play any part in the next three games.
“He’s a guy that we think is the answer for the long term,” Lagerwey said. “Certainly his integration may be accelerated.” He also reiterated that the Arrega signing was not related to the Marshall injury concerns, and noted the play of Roman Torres in recent weeks, and other options in Jonathan Campbell and Gustav Svensson (more on him later).
As the MLS transfer and trade window is closed, the Sounders’ roster is locked until July. Marshall’s retirement beyond that doesn’t affect their roster plans. Marshall’s salary (reported as $341,000 in total compensation in 2018) will continue to count against the cap for 2019. However, Lagerwey said the Sounders have the full ability to add another impact player when the summer transfer window reopens. There are mechanisms by which the Sounders could obtain cap relief due to Marshall’s retirement, but there are no indications the team will pursue those options.
One reason is that the savings in Marshall’s salary (prorated against what he’s already been paid) would not assist the Sounders in signing a Designated Player or a TAM player, since they already have the cap space to obtain one. The cap savings (probably around $200,000 by the time the window opens, if not less) would not allow the team to sign a replacement of the quality of Marshall anyway.
Additionally, even were the Sounders able to secure those cap savings, a new signing would probably be limited to a domestic player, and likely obtained via trade within the league. The Sounders are currently out of international slots, so as it is, if they secure the services of a high-profile DP or TAM player, they will likely either have to trade for an international slot, sell or trade a player currently holding an international slot, or secure a green card for one of their international players. Thus the range of players they could sign with the savings from Marshall’s remaining salary is extremely limited. And the Sounders would have to give up resources (allocation money, players or draft picks) to get that player.
Finally, trying to recoup that $200,000 would mean making an application to the league to NOT pay Marshall his remaining salary for the year. Such a move would have obvious negative ramifications. By most accounts, Marshall has been significantly underpaid, especially in the era of TAM where various foreign players have come and gone who had a fraction of the impact of Marshall (whither Magnus Wolff Eikrem). During that time, the team considered him to be a loyal soldier, never speaking out against the team even though as an American player he was likely undervalued.
Not only would attempting to cut Marshall off from collecting the remainder of his salary have limited benefit to the Sounders in terms of cap and roster space, it would have personal, professional and political implications. Many fans would see it as a sign of disrespect to a beloved player, it would surely affect the relationship between the front office and its players and potentially affect the ability to sign players in the future. One only need look at the New England Revolution, whose front office reputation has long been in tatters due to its treatment of players, such that a recent transfer target refused a multi-million dollar offer to play for them.
“It’s how you treat people,” Hanauer said on Wednesday. “Whether it’s a sports franchise or a media outlet or a giant technology company, you treat people well while they’re here, and you treat them well when they decide to move on.”
There was good news on the injury front, as Svensson and Victor Rodriguez returned to training. Schmetzer said after practice that Svensson is close to “100 percent,” and thus is likely to feature in some way against Sporting Kansas City on the weekend.
Rodriguez is more “day-to-day” according to Schmetzer, and a decision on his participation won’t be made until the weekend most likely. Jordan Morris was present at training and was doing work on the side, but Schmetzer has already ruled him out for the weekend.
The kids are alright
Both Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez returned to first-team training after their successful efforts in helping the US U-17 team qualify for the World Cup. Both players had significant contributions to the U-17, helping them reach the finals before losing to Mexico in extra time. Ocampo-Chavez scored four goals in the qualifying tournament, while Leyva made six starts and featured in all seven matches.