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Ship’s Log, June 29: Parting ways

It's hard and it's complicated

Last Updated
6 min read
Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

I’m not saying that Raúl Ruidíaz is on his way out. At practice today Brian Schmetzer said the Seattle Sounders legendary forward is rejoining full training after the match.

But, with underperformance and now a suspension by the coach, there are clearly questions about his future with the Sounders.

What’s not clear is what can be done.

In Seattle’s history they’ve moved on from several Designated Players while they were still under contract – two of them to Saturday’s opponent. In nearly all cases it’s just a sunk cost. The roster and DP slot opening up has always been worth more than the compensation acquired.

There are only two DP sales – Fredy Montero and Obafemi Martins — that brought anything like a significant return. Unlike the rest of the cases to follow those two were performing well.

Montero was sold because his value was trending up.

Martins was sold because he’s the definition of a mercenary. He also wanted a raise almost immediately after getting a raise.

Freddie Ljungberg starts our DP reboot journey. He was dealt for a second-round pick. That was back when a second round pick could result in a decent rotational player – like Servando Carrasco, who went on to play 10 seasons of MLS soccer.

Just as Freddie was leaving, the league was adding a third DP. Some referred to this as the Ljungberg Rule, because he complained about the lack of talent surrounding him. Unlike the Beckham Galaxy, the Sounders weren’t allowed to grandfather two DPs onto the roster.

This is notable, because one of talents brought in was Álvaro Fernández.

Flaco would join the Sounders-to-Fire parade in 2012. He left for a small amount allocation money. The exact amount was unknown, which was common at the time, and especially common when it wasn't a large amount of money.

Replacing him in midfield was Christian Tiffert. He would exit while under contract via the buyout system. Tiffert wasn’t the first buyout. In 2011 Blaise Nkufo offered up in trades (didn't work), dangled as expansion draft fodder (Vancouver Whitecaps didn't bite) and then bought out.

In both cases that’s just money that disappears, even less value to the org than a draft pick or small amount of GAM.

Probably the most interesting way to cast off a DP was Shalrie Joseph, who wasn’t cast off at all (but knew that time was coming). Having already used their one buyout on Tiffert earlier that year, the Sounders needed to find a creatuve way to open a DP spot to sign Clint Dempsey. They ended up extending Joseph’s contract, guaranteeing him more money but over a longer contract term. It’s unlikely that this option would even be allowed in most cases, but to get Dempsey MLS avoided a lot of its own rules (Allocation Order, who pays the transfer fee).

After the season, Joseph was bought out. He went to New England again, where his MVP-caliber days were. Somehow never playing as a DP in the place where he should have been one.

If an MLS team wants Ruidíaz there are a couple ways that could work;

  • The Josef Martínez technique – a buyout by Seattle, subsequent pickup on waivers of a portion of the contract for under DP level.
  • The Shalrie Joseph – a renegotiation involving an extension that requires a significant cash outlay.
  • The Flaco – it would be unlikely for Seattle to get GAM if a team acquires a DP at full contract.
  • The Freddie – a low draft pick and/or international slot may acquire a DP, but this has become more unusual as MLS matured.

If a non-MLS teams wants Rui that likely gets more value for the player;

  • A full purchase – this is the dream, but like my chances of starring in a Ben Affleck biopic, highly unlikely.
  • A partial purchase – this would essentially require some use of the buyout in order to open up the DP spot. Seattle would only need to pay the difference between their contract and the acquiring team’s new contract.

The thing is, if Seattle buys out Raul right now, he's good enough that someone will sign him. That kind of ties Craig Waibel’s hands. He can only get some value if the org insists that he can play here through the year and/or if multiple teams are quietly bidding.

Waibel & Co. have to play that game, if they do want to get rid of him, which they may not, because that bit of diplomacy is how they extract some manner of value from the situation.

Getting a little GAM, a draft pick, or a million less spent overall helps the Sounders. Losing a legend for nothing doesn’t do much without another move to follow. Without GAM or some money coming in the new talent’s budget is more limited.

It’s a tough space. One the Seattle Sounders have been in before, always with Adrian Hanauer as the GM.

Waibel moved one DP during the season while with Real Salt Lake – Saborio to DC for Luis Silva.

The transfer window opens July 18.

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Catching up on Sounder at Heart

What you need to get ready for the weekend's action.


Next match: Saturday night Seattle hosts the Chicago Fire at Lumen Field. The 7:30 pm PDT is on MLS Season Pass.


Next match: Sunday Seattle plays at Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena. The 10 am PDT match is on ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN+.


Next match: Sunday Defiance hosts Timbers2 at Starfire Stadium. The 8 pm PDT match is on and YouTube.


Next match: Saturday Spokane plays at Northern Colorado Hailstorm. The 6 pm PDT match is on ESPN+ and is part of the USL Jägermeister Cup.

USL2 teams

Friday: FC Olympia is at Capital FC Atletico; Midlakes United hosts Ballard

Saturday: West Seattle Junction is at United PDX

Sunday: Ballard FC hosts Capital FC Atletico; Tacoma Stars host Midlakes

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