Previously on Sounder at Heart, Jeremiah shared some golden kernels from a KJR interview featuring Sounders radio announcer Matt Johnson and team scout Chris Henderson. When the topic of summer acquisitions came up, the pair had the following to say:
There's three to four guys the club is looking at.
One thing that I can add is that we want to bring in players that can improve players on the team right now. Adding a top quality player can help the players that are here now. We think the players can be automatic starters on the team.
The players they are targeting are in the 26-28 age range.
Who could Chris and Matt be referring to? Three to four guys, between the ages of 26-28. Hmmm... Let the speculation begin!
Here are a few names you’ve likely heard before that check all the right boxes:
- Nicolás Lodeiro. Elite Uruguayan attacking midfielder who is coming off the best two years of soccer in his career with Argentina side Boca Juniors. At 27 years old, Nicolás has plenty of gas left in the tank, and could be a central figure for Garth to build around for seasons to come. The Lodeiro transfer saga has been long and winding with plenty of ups and downs. It’s far from over, but the latest tweet from an Argentinian journalist holds promise.
[AHORA ] Boca acaba de dar el OK, telefónicamente, para vender a Nicolás Lodeiro después de la Copa al fútbol de USA.— Augusto Cesar (@Augustocesar22) June 29, 2016
For those of you who don’t hablar español, this tweet roughly translates to "Boca Juniors have given the OK via telephone to sell Lodeiro to MLS after Copa Libertadores."
- Sebastián Blanco. Think of him as a safety school. Not the most exciting option out there, but the Sounders would be signing a veteran leader on a championship caliber team in Argentina’s Primera Division. So there’s that. At 28, Sebastián would bring a much needed creativity and positional flexibility to the Sounders' midfield. There’s no consensus about whether he would be a TAM or a DP signing, but if I had to guess, I’d guess he would be a Designated Player, at least initially.
- David Llanos. The young Chilean striker had a banner year playing next to Jeisson Vargas at Universidad Católica. At 26 years old and coming off of a championship season, David’s stock is at an all time high. The Sounders scouted his club several weeks ago, which was swiftly followed by internet rumors linking the Chilean striker with the Sounders. It would not be unthinkable to see Llanos signed as a TAM player (less than $1 million)
A distant flicker on the radar screen
There have not been any transfer rumors for the following players, but they are in the right age range, and could instantly make the Sounders’ attack more dangerous.
- Ángel Mena. Another versatile 28-year-old South American attacking midfielder. For the record, I am higher on Mena than I am on Blanco, and the proof is in the pudding, err his club stats. Through his past two seasons with Ecuador football giant CS Emelec, Mena managed 10 goals, and 10 assists. 5 goals and 5 assists in back to back seasons may not fly off the page at first, but bear in mind Ecuador’s Serie A season is only 3 months long, compared to MLS’ 8-month season. It’s also worth mentioning Ecuador’s domestic league is a fair notch above MLS in terms of quality (IFFHS league rankings). CS Emelec is ranked 21st in IFFHS club world rankings, below Monaco, ahead of Club Atletico, respectively. Most recently in Copa Libertadores competition, Mena put up 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 matches.
Basically, Mena is the danger man that glides around the opposition’s final third like a majestic Andean Condor looking for a quick lunch. Mena has made a living off of finding pockets of space from which to score goals and create danger. Likely Mena is at least on the Sounders radar considering that both team scouts Kurt Schmid and Chris Henderson attended Emelec matches this past Spring. Given Mena’s positional role, pedigree, and age, he makes a lot of sense for the Sounders moving forward. He is likely a TAM candidate, not a DP. The good news: Mena has expressed his wish to move on from Emelec. Bad news: speculation has him potentially moving to Santos Laguna. Further reading: Angel Mena wants to leave Emelec.
- Lautaro Acosta. The 28-year-old Argentine has bounced around Spain and Argentina for the past decade, spending the majority of his time with Sevilla and Lanús. Acosta can play either wing comfortably and his goals/assists per minute career stats bear that out. Much of Acosta’s success is owed to his Yedlin-like speed and technical ability on the ball. In the past two seasons, Acosta has found moderate success with 7 goals and 8 assists through 37 appearances. Unlike Blanco or Mena, Lautaro does not have experience in the center of the pitch. Chris Henderson observed Acosta last March when Lanus played Racing. The Argentinian speedster did not score a goal, but he did play the full 90. It’s difficult to gauge Lautaro’s market value because he has been loaned out for the past five years, and most recently was acquired via free agency. Like Blanco, Acosta is somewhere between TAM and DP value ($750,000 - $1.25 million/year)
- Jefferson Montero. There is no real reason to expect Montero to sign with Seattle other than Seattle loves its Monteros, and the town could use one right now. In Copa America we saw Ecuador’s speed demon routinely burning fullbacks down the left flank. Montero did not actually score any goals for Ecuador in the tournament, but did manage 3 assists against Bolivia, Haiti, and Peru respectively. Back in England, the 26 year old had a forgettable 2016 with Swansea City, ending the season goalless in only 23 appearances with just 2 assists to his name. If the Lodeiro transfer falls out, I would be over the moon with a conciliatory package signing of Sebastián Blanco (TAM) and Jefferson Montero (DP)... but don’t count on it.
Maybe when you’re old enough...
According to Henderson in the KJR interview, all 3-4 potential incoming players are in the 26-28 year old range. Was that age range an important scouting factor, or just a coincidental factoid that Hendo felt like throwing out over the air? Regardless of the answer, here are a few attacking midfielders that, according to Chris, are not considered finalists:
- Óscar Romero, 23 (Paraguay)
- Miguel Almirón, 22 (Paraguay)
- Juan Cazares, 24 (Ecuador)
- Christian Cueva, 24 (Peru)
- Gonzalo Martínez, 23 (Argentina)
- Diego Rojas, 21 (Chile)
Best Case Scenario
In this favorable projection, let us assume that the Sounders sign Sir Nicolás on July 4th. Fireworks and miniature American flags for all. Yaay!! On July 5th, Saint Nicolás sends ECS a large shipment of local beer prior to his arrival. In addition, he tweets nice things about Seattle soccer culture and the amazing fans. The Sounders community collectively swoons.
Let us next entertain the possibility that Boca Juniors fall out of the Copa Libertadores semifinals on July 13. Boca loses the series, but Nicolás the Great still tallies a goal and 3 assists in the two-game aggregate. His confidence is sky high and his knee is feeling stronger than ever! Boca’s loss to Independiente del Valle means that Mr. Lodeiro can now begin his imminent transition to life in the PNW sooner than expected. Lodeiro makes his debut in front of a full stadium on July 31 against the Galaxy. Let us now assume that the Uruguayan makes the game-winning assist to Morris in stoppage. Good guys win. Fans go berserk. Free haircuts for all. Cut to Keane pointing and shouting at his teammates all the way to the dressing room.
Back to reality
Even under the best case scenario, the current squad would have to tread water for another 5 matches minimum (West Ham friendly and USOC not included) before our sought-after DP could even make his club debut. Let’s face facts, rave green faithful. Our beloved Sounders are in trouble now, and the congested July schedule doesn’t look very forgiving:
- July 2nd @ TFC (1)
- July 9th Galaxy (1)
- July 13th FCD (3)
- July 17th @PDX (0)
- July 24th @SKC (1)
- July 31st Galaxy (3)
Based on the rosy July projection outlined (above), the Sounders would be sitting on 25 points through 21 matches. This optimistic projection leaves 13 matches to rack up another 25 points in order to reach 50 points. Closing the season, Seattle would need roughly 2 points per match, requiring a speedy transformation from divisional doormat to juggernaut. Impossible? No. Improbable? Highly. The road ahead is steep and leaves very little room for costly penalty kicks, red card suspensions, or hamstring injuries. Hopefully I have not thoroughly bummed you out.
Better luck next year?
By all means, get hyped for mid-season signings. This is an exciting time to be a supporter. However, when new shiny players arrive in SeaTac, swiftly tamper your expectations for what said signings can reasonably help the Sounders accomplish in 2016.
Hay Fe or whatevs