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How the Sounders got younger, cheaper and, arguably, deeper

Craig Waibel is pretty bullish on his offseason work: “We’re cap compliant, which should scare the hell out of a lot of teams.”

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8 min read

With the signing of free agent forward Danny Musovski on Thursday, the Seattle Sounders roster appears to be just about complete. While it’s possible that another player or two could be added to the back end of the roster or players could be moved to create space on the business end, the players who that take the field in the season opener are almost certainly already signed.

This may not be quite as dramatic of a change as it had the potential to be, but at least on paper the Sounders look about as deep as anyone in MLS, with solid starters and capable backups at virtually every position.

When I talked to Sounders GM Craig Waibel following Musovski’s signing, he definitely gave off the vibes of someone who was very satisfied with his offseason work. In addition to Musovski, the Sounders also added Young Designated Player Pedro de la Vega; MLS-experienced defenders Nathan and Jon Bell; and promoted Braudilio Rodrigues from Tacoma Defiance. Waibel did this all without having to move players like Xavier Arreaga or Danny Leyva and still having about $1 million of salary cap flexibility that can either be pushed into 2025 or used on a summer signing.

“We’re cap compliant, which should scare the hell out of a lot of teams,” Waibel said. “We don’t need to move anyone. We’re in a really comfortable spot in terms of liking our roster.”

To put it in slightly different terms, Waibel perceives the Sounders to be in a position of strength. With the possible exception of a Denis Bouanga-style Golden Boot candidate, there are no glaring holes in the roster and they’ve got enough depth that they can afford to move a player or two.

Here’s a quick look at how Waibel remade the Sounders depth by making it younger, cheaper and maybe even giving it a higher upside, and what kind of flexibility it gives them going forward:

Our estimated depth chart.

Swapping Héber for Musovski

When the Sounders traded $400,000 of GAM for Héber, I considered that a sensible move. Although he had dealt with some injuries, Héber had been a consistent goal-scorer when healthy and at 32 didn’t look like a player who was about to fall off a cliff. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. After a strong start, Héber’s production totally dried up and he finished with one of the largest xG underperformances in MLS history. On top of that, he was hitting the cap at about $1 million.

To recover from that, the first step required the Sounders to just eat the sunk cost of his acquisition and turn down Héber’s option for 2024. In addition to saving them at least $1 million in salary, that also allowed the Sounders to avoid paying an additional $150,000 in GAM they’d have owed NYCFC.

We don’t know how much the Sounders are paying Musovski, but even on the high end I think we can reasonably assume it’s no more than half of what they were paying Héber.

In addition to be cheaper than Héber, Musovski is also about four years younger and was more productive in the two seasons preceding his move to the Sounders (13 goals, six assists, .70 g+a/90) than Héber was (11 goals, one assist, .71 g+a/90).

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