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What’s going on with the out-of-contract Sounders?

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Not much has changed even after the Re-Entry Draft.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

The MLS Re-Entry Draft is now in the books. So far, the Seattle Sounders haven’t made any changes and the players they chose not to re-sign are still without teams. There have been some subtle changes, though.

Free agents

Joevin Jones: The midfielder/left back has been linked with potential moves to either the Houston Dynamo or Columbus Crew, but nothing has yet materialized. There was also a rumor that he opted into the Re-Entry Draft, but his name never appeared on any of the lists of eligible players. He’d certainly be an interesting option at left back for someone, but probably can’t expect to make anywhere near the $500,000+ salary he was making. Chance of returning: Hard to see it happening, but hard to rule it out completely.

Jimmy Medranda: It’s now been more than two years since the midfielder was a regular contributor and he’s coming off a season in which he logged less than 50 competitive minutes. Chance of returning: Brian Schmetzer seemed to like his versatility, so there’s probably a number where it makes sense.

Román Torres: Another late-season acquisition, the centerback was only used sparingly and in very late-game situations. At 34, it’s unclear how much longer he intends to play. Chance of returning: Like Medranda, there’s probably some sort of potential role for him, but it would likely require a significant pay cut from whatever he was due.

Re-Entry eligible players

Emanuel Cecchini: Yes, he was technically still under contract with the Sounders. He ended up effectively missing all of 2020, though, as he joined Union de Santa Fe pretty late and then most of the year’s games were canceled. Chance of returning: Virtually none.

Justin Dhillon: I still think he’s got a potential future based on what I’ve seen from him in training and at the USL level, and he seemed like the type of player who would be interesting in the RED. Chance of returning: Considering his option was probably for something like the league minimum, it seems pretty clear the Sounders don’t see a future for him here.

Miguel Ibarra: Despite some promising performances early in the year, his last start came during the MLS is Back Tournament. After that, his longest outing was 9 minutes and he didn’t play in any of the final eight matches. Chance of returning: Virtually none.

Kelvin Leerdam: Many pundits considered him to be among the top 5 right backs in the league this year and he was a regular starter until sustaining a hamstring injury prior to start of the playoffs. Considering he was among the top-paid right backs in the league, though, it’s not entirely surprising he wasn’t picked in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft, where a team would have been on the hook for a comparable salary. Notably, Leerdam withdrew before Stage 2, where teams would have more flexibility to negotiate. Chance of returning: Withdrawing from the RED could mean the Sounders are already talking to him about a new contract. It could also mean he’s planning to go back to Europe, which there were rumors of him considering last year, too. I wouldn’t rule out a return.

Gustav Svensson: As big of a surprise as it was for Leerdam not to start MLS Cup, Svensson was the bigger omission in my mind. Even if he wasn’t 90 minutes fit, he had been one of the Sounders’ most consistent performers all year. Still, TAM players like him are rarely taken in the RED and, like Leerdam, he pulled out of Phase 2. Chance of returning: At one point in 2019, it was treated as a near foregone conclusion that Svensson was planning to return to Sweden, only for him to decide to re-sign with Seattle. I suspect the ball is basically in his court now, but he would almost certainly have to take a significant pay cut to return to the Sounders.

Others

Stefan Cleveland: The Sounders let the backup goalkeeper’s contract expire. He didn’t make a single appearance with the first team or Defiance. Chance of returning: Seems very low, especially when you consider he was probably making the league minimum.

João Paulo: The Sounders had an option to purchase the Brazilian midfielder’s contract for a reported fee of $1.2 million but turned that down and are in the midst of trying to renegotiate with Botofogo. Assuming João Paulo returns, GM Garth Lagerwey indicated he’s likely to remain a DP regardless of those negotiations. Chance of returning: Lagerwey seemed optimistic about getting a deal done and if it’s not about saving the DP spot, there’s probably not a ton of incentive for the Sounders to let a player they liked walk over a marginal amount of money. My suspicion is that the Sounders are trying to gain some flexibility, if not for 2021 then maybe for years beyond that.