TUKWILA, Wash. — Xavier Arreaga, Raúl Ruidíaz and João Paulo have officially signed contract extensions with the Seattle Sounders, GM Garth Lagerwey announced on Friday. All three are now under club control through at least 2024. Sounder at Heart has previously reported that Ruidíaz will receive a raise and remain a Designated Player while João Paulo will also get a raise but will no longer count as a DP.
Ruidíaz’s contract is guaranteed through 2024; João Paulo’s contract has two guaranteed years and an option for 2024; and Arreaga is guaranteed through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025.
Combined with the trade of Brad Smith that effectively netted the Sounders $1.6 million in newfound salary-cap flexibility, Lagerwey said the net effect is that the team’s “championship window” has been extended for at least an additional year.
“We are really excited about the next two years,” Lagerwey told reporters. “We knew we had to do something in order to keep this together beyond 2022. We had 12 months of runway, but we did put ourselves in a position where he had to find a solution.”
In that vein, Lagerwey said that most of that newfound flexibility will go toward making sure the salary-cap ledger is balanced in 2023.
“If it’s not 100 percent going to 2023, it’s 80 or 90 percent going there,” he said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Sounders are suddenly locked into their current roster. Younger players like Jackson Ragen, Joe Hafferty and Sota Kitahara are still in the running to grab first-team roster spots and it’s entirely possible that the Sounders could choose to make a bigger move in the summer if the opportunity presented itself.
One way they could create more flexibility is by making another outgoing move, and Lagerwey unprompted mentioned the possibility of transferring Nouhou. The Cameroonian left back has been one of the standouts at the Africa Cup of Nations and is coming off a starring performance in which he shut down Liverpool’s Mo Salah.
“That’s a player who maybe we get some interest in from abroad,” Lagerwey said. “We’ll need to be flexible.”
Patience with Lodeiro
For all the excitement around the Sounders, one of their bigger questions surrounds the health of Nicolás Lodeiro. The midfielder made his preseason debut earlier this week with a 24-minute performance against the Colorado Rapids and is scheduled to push that out a bit more when the Sounders play the LA Galaxy in Southern California on Feb. 10.
“He’s moving well but we’re going to ramp him up cautiously,” Lagerwey said. “We had two different instances last year where we were not able to successfully ramp him up. We got him right to the edge, got him onto the field, and then he fell off a cliff. We’re trying to do everything we can not to let him fall off that cliff to try to ramp him up slowly and safely.
“We’re not trying to spike guys to be ready for a one-off game in Honduras. We’re trying to get guys prepared for the season as a whole. When you have 27 guys signed, when you have the young guys, when you have the depth that we have, we believe we can compete against Motagua even if we’re not at 100%.”
More green cards
Lagerwey said that he was “hoping to have some good news soon” about João Paulo’s green-card application and suggested the Brazilian might even be able to join the Sounders before they depart for Southern California on Feb. 9.
Somewhat more surprisingly, though, was the revelation that Arreaga and Nouhou were also in the process of applying for their green cards. Even after trading one of their international roster spots to FC Dallas, the Sounders still have one more of those spots open. If all three of these applications were to be approved, that would give the Sounders four open international spots.
Those spots could be held for later use or traded. The current going rate for international roster spots is about $250,000 in General Allocation Money, but that will likely go down as rosters settle around the league.
With the Sounders back from Tucson, training numbers again swelled as the first team and Tacoma Defiance were brought back together. One notable addition to training was Jimmy Medranda, who has yet to make a preseason appearance. Medranda appeared to be a full participant in training.
Still missing from training, however, were Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva. The midfielders are still apparently recovering from injuries.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer did sound optimistic about having most, if not all, of his players available once the team heads to Southern California. That includes internationals Arreaga, Jordan Morris, Nouhou, Alex Roldan and Cristian Roldan.
Still figuring out formations
Although it looks increasingly likely that the Sounders will move to a 4-2-3-1 formation, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said the team has not yet made any final decisions and said they are still toying with the idea of keeping the 3-4-2-1 that they employed most of 2021.
|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|
|Léo Chú (U-22, INTL)||2021-2024||2025|
|Abdoulaye Cissoko (INTL)||2021-2022||2023|
|Ethan Dobbelaere (HG)||2020-2023||2024|
|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|
|Jordan Morris (TAM)||2019-2022||2023|
|Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (HG)||2019-2022||2023|
|Jackson Ragen||2022||2023, 2024|
|Cristian Roldan (TAM)||2019-2023||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|