Timo Hildebrand was very nearly a Seattle Sounders goalkeeper. The former Germany international and veteran of the Bundesliga was offered a contract and based on comments he made to the media, seemed at least somewhat inclined to take it.
But he never got that chance. Turns out the main reason he's not currently playing for the Sounders is probably because of the LA Galaxy. Yes, the same team that just made headlines complaining about how the current MLS Discovery process is similar to "blackmail" was effectively guilty of similar shenanigans last year, and probably has been before.
The Sounders had their sights set on goalkeeper Timo Hildenbrand, who had trained with the Sounders and was offered a contract. According to multiple sources, the Galaxy put in a discovery claim for Hildebrand after the goalkeeper had practiced with Seattle, getting wind of the training stint and moving to get in the way of Seattle's signing. Hildenbrand asked Seattle not to put in a discovery claim on him before the two sides agreed to a contract, which gave the Galaxy enough time to step in and submit their claim.
When asked about the Hildenbrand case, Arena denied that the Galaxy put in the claim to squeeze a fee out of Seattle. According to one Sounders source, the Galaxy never set a price for getting out of Seattle's way, but by staying in the way they forced Seattle to give up its move for Hildenbrand.
"Hildenbrand was on our discovery list and they brought him on trial and offered him a contract," Arena said. "We said he's on our discovery list. Technically you can't do that."
All of this comes at the same time that Arena is complaining about how the current Discovery process works, one in which the Galaxy were forced to send the New England Revolution a relatively paltry sum of $50,000 in allocation money and had to wait a couple months before signing United States youth international Sebastian Lletget.
If the current system were in place last year, the Galaxy would have either had to sign Hildebrand or accept the $50,000 in allocation. That clearly isn't perfect -- teams shouldn't be putting Discovery claims on players they have no intentions of signing -- but it at least stops teams from outright blocking opponents from bringing a player into the league.
Losing out on Hildebrand was hardly a decisive blow. Chances are, Stefan Frei would have been the Sounders goalkeeper last year and Hildebrand may have been relegated to backup duty this year. But if he and the Sounders had a mutual interest in signing a deal, it's good to know that the current system would have allowed it. That's not perfect, but it is progress.