The rebuilding of the Seattle Sounders backline would appear to be nearing completion if a reported trade that sends Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni to the Chicago Fire in exchange for defender Jalil Anibaba comes to fruition. Both Total-MLS and Chicago Fire Confidential have reported the deal as either done or being close to done. The trade makes it highly likely that the Sounders will open the 2014 season with two new starting center backs as well as a new goalkeeper.
From the looks of it, this is mostly a move designed to create salary cap space for the Sounders. Hurtado was making $190,000 last year and Ianni was on $150,000, according to MLS Players' Union documents. Anibaba was making just $130,000, which would net the Sounders $210,000 in salary cap space barring a big raise. That space could very well be used to sign Marco Pappa, who is widely believed to be heading to the Sounders through the Allocation Order.
As the roster stands now, it would appear as though the Sounders are hoping Anibaba can fill the hole created in this move. The 25-year-old has been one of the league's most used players over the past two seasons, missing just one game and playing nearly 6,000 minutes. Most of that time, though, has been spent at right back. Anibaba did make nine starts at center back in 2013, but they were all during the Fire's awful 2-7-1 start to the season. The Sounders have also pursuing Norwegian center back Steffen Hagen, according to reports out of Norway.
Hurtado and Ianni had both shown enough promise at various points in their five-year runs with the Sounders that they were awarded new contracts at the end of 2012 and were expected to be the starting center back tandem in 2013. But a strange injury in preseason cost Ianni all of training camp and he never seemed to entirely recover. He ended up making just nine appearances and seven starts, the lowest totals since his rookie season in 2006.
Although Hurtado managed to enjoy his healthiest season since being a Defender of the Year finalist in 2009, inconsistency was his major issue. Among the lows were twice being benched. But he was also good enough at times that Sigi Schmid actually suggested he was playing better than at anytime in his Sounders career. At the same time, Hurtado was a major part of the Sounders' late-season collapse in which they allowed 18 goals in their final eight matches.
This trade also leaves the Sounders with just three players that were on the First Kick roster in 2009 and just four players who were on that inaugural team.