With the free-agency window now open, the Seattle Sounders can go shopping. In the past they've used league free agency to bring in a Designated Player (Albert Rusnák). This year that's unlikely and unnecessary.
There's only two natural forwards on the team. One had a bad year. Seattle will need to find at least one more forward capable of 1,000 minutes while scoring, a CAM/right wing who can spell Rusnák and Cristian Roldan, and a depth centerback if they do move Xavier Arreaga (which may not happen).
In this shopping exercise we'll limit the budget spend to players that were making 20% less than the person they're replacing (Héber, Arreaga) and the max for the attacking band filler since that will be a 5th or 6th man in the depth chart. This is to conserve allocation money and salary space for bigger moves from outside the league.
Baird will be getting a significant raise from the $550,000 he made in 2023. Last year he had eight goals and five assists (primary) with Houston, but that's also only his second time with more than eight goal contributions. The other time was all the way back in 2018. Baird may not be the best solo forward, but Seattle's third (or second) will have support in the attack from the band-of-three. He's good in possession and strong defensively for a forward – both things Seattle wants. He was also college teammates with Jordan Morris at Stanford and knows Albert Rusnák, Freddy Juarez and Craig Waibel from his RSL days.
Kamara is older than several coaches in MLS. He also still scores goals, including five last year. He put up nine goals and seven assists as recently as 2022. That's ageless. Seattle has liked ageless in the past. Plus he's cheap. If they think Raúl Ruidíaz can split the difference between '23 and '22 moving for a Kamara would get them a mercenary who scores goals and puts in strong defense in set pieces. He's also solid in possession. Probably not a great move if they wind up needing 1,500 minutes from F2 though.
This position is where Seattle can have the most fun, because there's lots of fun available. But also, it's where they won't want to put the most budget, since they seem to be adding a DP in the band already, in addition to Rusnák and have Léo Chú. Let's dream anyway.
The youngest MLS free agent ever had a good year with New York Red Bulls with six goals and three assists in 1,745 minutes, basically matching his xG+xA. He's mostly a winger who can also play as a 10 or an 8. He makes a lot of sense if Seattle wants to put some pressure on their two older youngsters in the attacking band (Dylan Teves, Paul Rothrock). If adding a talent at less than $250,000 means that happens, that's great. This was Fernandez’s best year, by far. But he's still got a motor and the ability to press, because Red Bulls.
Did you love having a shut-down winger in the late season? How 'bout one that costs less than $700,000 and scores a handful of goals and excels at finding space in the opposing 18? That's fun! His biggest knock is that he's probably less effective centrally than Teves or Rothrock.
He only made $425,000 last season, and is clearly in his "just here to win trophies" era. He may follow Bruce Arena where he goes as they've both had a lot of success together, but he's also someone who knows just how good Seattle can be. Less mobile than during his heyday he's still solid positionally, a strong tackler and great in the air. He's also one of the most veteran-y vets to ever vet.
Yes, he's still playing. No, he's not expensive. In fact, Alfaro may make sense if Seattle keeps Arreaga. They would still need a fourth centerback as Cissoko is gone (the other plan could be to use a literal teenager or Nouhou there). Alfaro's been decent depth on poor teams lately, good for over four non-clearance defensive actions per 90 (that would have been third among regular Sounders last season) and has a left foot. Making only $125,000 last season he should be able to find that anywhere in this league.