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Following Craig Waibel’s breadcrumbs

Craig Waibel has given some hints about who the Sounders are trying to sign, so we tried to see if we could make a mildly-educated guess.

Last Updated
8 min read
Via Wikicommons

Following Craig Waibel’s recent remarks at the Seattle Sounders’ end of season press conference, there’s been plenty of conjecture about who the team could possibly be targeting for the currently open Designated Player spot. Waibel indicated that there are three players in contention for one spot; it’s been pretty thoroughly reported that one of those three is Pedro de La Vega. With one name down, there are still two players to be identified.

Thanks to Waibel, we’ve got some parameters to work within when trying to identify those other two players. They’ll be attack-minded players aged 26 or younger. We know the club is at least planning on Raúl Ruidíaz being around and contributing heading into next season, and Jordan Morris showed that he’s still probably at his best when played as a striker, so we can probably rule out guys who play primarily as center forwards/strikers for this particular search. That means we’re looking at folks who would operate through Seattle’s band of three, with left wing seeming the most likely main area of need.

We also know that one of these players is in South America, and the other is European— specifically Scandinavian, but no longer playing in their home country. That helps to narrow things down a bit from literally all of the players in the world. Now to do some internet scouring!

Scandinavian Scorers

Let’s start with the Scandinavian. We’re expanding the potential player pool here by including some options from countries that aren’t actually Scandinavian, but are from nearby because we can’t be totally certain whether Waibel was simply speaking colloquially, and only including Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is pretty limiting.

Fredrik Jensen

Somehow or another, Fredrik Jensen seems to have become the focus of a fair amount of the speculation around who this mystery player might be. Jensen is a Finnish player capable of playing any of the more attacking midfield roles who’s been at Bundesliga side FC Augsburg since 2018 after joining from FC Twente in the Dutch Eredivisie. Following a couple of decent seasons for an 18-,and 19-year-old with FC Twente, Jensen has struggled to make a place for himself at Augsburg and find that same level of productivity. The 2022-23 season was his best since moving to Germany as he made 21 appearances with eight starts and had three goals and two assists across all competitions.

This season, playing primarily on the right, Jensen seems to have finally found his footing. With one goal and three assists in 10 appearances (six starts) is among the team’s leaders in goal contributions. At 26 he’s at the upper end of the age range we’re looking at here, and for a number of reasons he seems unlikely to be the player Seattle are after. The age and relative lack of production go against him, as does the fact that his underlying numbers hardly speak to a player waiting to break out. On top of that, now that he’s possibly started to find some form it seems unlikely that Augsburg’s valuation of him is likely to match what the Sounders are willing to offer. Augsburg currently sit in 10th on 18 points through 15 games, with eight points between them and the promotion/relegation playoff spot currently occupied by Union Berlin. It’s still possible, but seems unlikely.

Kristian Thorstvedt

Kristian Thorstvedt is a 24-year-old Norwegian who has been at Italian club Sassuolo since the Summer of 2022. He primarily plays through the center of the pitch, but his highlights show a clear ability to operate out wide, particularly functioning as an inverted winger. Somewhat similar to Jensen, Thorstvedt hasn’t been as productive as his club’s will certainly have hoped. After posting 10 goals and two assists as a 19-year-old with Norwegian club Viking, he first moved to KRC Genk in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League where he totaled 17 goals and six assists in just short of 6,000 minutes across all competitions in three seasons.

Since moving to Italy, Thorstvedt has five goals and one assist in 1,838 Serie A minutes, and has three goals in 12 appearances (711 minutes) so far this season. He has good size at 6’2”, and uses it well winning 52.8% of his aerial duels to the tune of averaging 2.4 aerial duels won per 90. His distribution is solid, if unspectacular, averaging 30.4 completed passes and a 76% completion rate in Serie A. If he can effectively be played as an inverted left winger, his combination of traits and abilities would be tantalizing.

The obvious issues with Thorstvedt are: 1) his price tag; He moved to Sassuolo for a fee of roughly $11 million, and a season and change is a pretty short time to wait before eating a meaningful chunk of that; and 2) his position; The Sounders just picked up Albert Rusnák’s option, making him a DP who played his best in the same position that Thorstvedt would likely occupy. If they feel confident that either of them could play up to a DP caliber out wide, this move makes a lot more sense.

Magnus Mattsson

Magnus Mattsson, 24, has been pretty productive for midtable Dutch side NEC Nijmegen this season with 10 goals and five assists in 1,530 minutes across all competitions. It’s already the best season by far for the Dane since moving from Silkeborg IF in Denmark following the 2020-21 season, having provided four goals and two assists last season, and four goals and one assist in all competitions the season before.

Mattsson is primarily a central attacking midfielder or a left winger, although he’s played almost exclusively in the middle this season. Still, in his career he has 27 goals and eight assists in 63 appearances on the left and 28 goals and 17 assists in 86 appearances centrally. He puts in a decent shift on defense, seems to read the game well, and clearly has a knack for finding the goal once he’s settled. Mattsson might be a slightly lower risk play than Thorstvedt, while also still having a bit more of his career ahead of him than Jensen, allowing the team to build around him for longer should he land in Seattle. Transfermarkt lists his market value at around $3.25 million, but based on his performance this season I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that pushed closer to the roughly $6 million transfer fees that brought Nico Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz to Seattle.

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