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Garth Lagerwey promises ‘clear-eyed assessment’ following elimination

Sounders GM strikes a blunt tone during radio interview.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In some of his most blunt comments to date, Garth Lagerwey called for a “clear-eyed assessment” of the entire Seattle Sounders organization in light of the “unprecedented failure” of missing the MLS Playoffs and made clear that some change is needed.

“It’s been a rough three months,” he said on Sounders Weekly, identifying the closing stretch of games in which the Sounders have gone 4-10-2, with one game left to play. “We fell apart and we didn’t adjust and weren’t able to course correct. We suffered the consequences and have to be willing to do a clear-eyed assessment and be willing to own up to the mistakes we made.”

Although Lagerwey didn’t exactly spell out any specific mistakes, he did suggest that there will be a top-to-bottom review.

“We need to examine every aspect of the organization from cap structure and how we spend money on our top players to player development and how we integrate young players and everything in between,” he said. “How are we preparing our players off the field? Are we following our process? Are we applying analytics as much as we should and applying objective evidence-based decisions?”

While missing the playoffs is never a desired outcome, he did suggest that it does provide an opportunity.

“When you make the playoffs every year and you’re in contention for titles and cups, it tends to put you in a conservative posture in terms of evolving the club,” he said. “You fall into traps of saying ‘well this is how we did it before and so we should keep doing it that way.’ What’s incumbent upon us is all these things we knew were happening that didn’t feel as urgent to address, now we need to take care of them and it’s incumbent that we address where we have issues and try to take actions to correct them.”

In a sense, this is not entirely dissimilar from the situation the Sounders were in following the 2015 season, albeit a bit more extreme. That year, the Sounders started strong only to hit a massive summer slump connected to the injuries of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. A slew of summer signings allowed the Sounders to rally into the playoffs, but they were dispatched by a much younger FC Dallas team in the Western Conference semifinals.

A disastrous start to 2016 eventually paved the way for Brian Schmetzer’s ascension to head coach, putting the Sounders on a trajectory that has now seen them qualify for six cup finals in seven years and claim three major trophies.

Lagerwey has often said that he was reluctant to make significant changes upon his initial hiring in part because the Sounders were coming off a double-winning season in 2014, but he seems dead-set on not letting the CCL success obscure problems that were highlighted during the late-season collapse.

“It’s a good time to stop and reflect on a lot of our process and make sure we’re applying it consistently and evenly, not reaching for decisions we want to be true as opposed to not facing some of the hard truths that are in front of us,” he said about missing the playoffs. “The mistake we can make now is if we don’t address our failure.”

The Sounders’ first order of business will be determining which player options they want to exercise. Although only one player — Jimmy Medranda — is out of contract, 11 have options that will require decisions. There’s also the possibility players can be traded, transferred or even bought out.

“We have to be honest with ourselves and we have to respond to that great failure,” Lagerwey said.

Sounders contracts

Player Guaranteed Option Years
Player Guaranteed Option Years
Sam Adeniran 2022 2023, 2024
Xavier Arreaga (TAM, INTL) 2022-2023 2024, 2025
Josh Atencio (HG) 2020-2022 2023, 2024
Reed Baker-Whiting (HG) 2021-2024 2025
Will Bruin 2022 2023
Léo Chú (U-22, INTL) 2021-2024 2025
Abdoulaye Cissoko (INTL) 2021-2022 2023
Stefan Cleveland 2022-2023 2024
Ethan Dobbelaere (HG) 2020-2023 2024
Stefan Frei 2021-2023 N/A
Yeimar Gómez Andrade (TAM, INTL) 2020-2024 2025
João Paulo (TAM, INTL) 2022-2023 2024
Danny Leyva (HG) 2019-2022 2023
Nicolás Lodeiro (DP) 2021-2023 N/A
Jimmy Medranda 2021-2022 N/A
Fredy Montero 2022 2023
Jordan Morris (TAM) 2019-2022 2023
Nouhou (INTL) 2021-2023 2024
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (HG) 2019-2022 2023
Jackson Ragen 2022 2023, 2024
Alex Roldan 2022-2024 2025
Cristian Roldan (TAM) 2019-2023 N/A
Kelyn Rowe 2022-2023 N/A
Raúl Ruidíaz (DP) 2022-2024 N/A
Albert Rusnák (DP) 2022-2023 2024
Dylan Teves (HG) 2022 2023, 2024, 2025
Andrew Thomas 2021-2022 2023, 2024
Obed Vargas (HG) 2022-2025 2026

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