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Sounders will likely sign new sporting director before next major acquisition

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Garth Lagerwey tells KJR Sounders are currently in a “conservative posture.”

The Sounders seem to be setting up a scenario where a youngster like Danny Leyva can win a starting spot.
Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

Due to a variety of factors, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Seattle Sounders will at least open preseason with a roster that looks very much like it does now. Even after gaining some flexibility in their salary cap position thanks to Jordan Morris’ loan and Henry Wingo’s transfer, Sounders President of Soccer and GM Garth Lagerwey told KJR on Monday the team is in a “conservative posture” and will likely try to hire Chris Henderson’s replacement before making any major signings.

“We’re in a mode where we’re trying to save some resources — knowing that the salary cap has been adjusted downward, not just this year but next — we’re probably going to be in a somewhat conservative posture,” Lagerwey said. “We’re going to try to get that person [Henderson’s replacement] hired. Get another set of eyes on our team and evaluate and go from there.”

Lagerwey did not, however, close the door on making a new signing before the early-season transfer closes on June 1.

“We have a little bit of runway,” he said. “If we’re able to get a sporting director in at some point in March, we’d still have a couple months to get a signing in that first window, and then the next window opens in July. The good news is that there is going to be quite a number of opportunities to look at player acquisitions over the next six months.”

Waiting until summer has a few advantages, Lagerwey explained.

The biggest is that the Sounders should have some clarity around Morris’ situation. As it stands now, they are gaining the equivalent of about half of Morris’ salary as well as half the Targeted Allocation Money they would have otherwise needed to spend to buy down his cap hit. That’s probably a net of something like $500,000 in added maneuverability. If Morris ends up completing a transfer — which could potentially involve an eight-figure sum — the Sounders would double their net cap maneuverability, could convert up to $1m of that fee into General Allocation Money, and would gain millions in real dollars that could go toward future transfer fees.

“It would be the largest sale price in Sounders history,” Lagerwey said of Morris’ potential transfer fee. “It’s one of those where we’d turn around and reinvest it in the team, we’d try to take that money and put it to use right away. It’s not really profit or windfall, but part of our ownership’s commitment to put winning teams on the field every year.”

The other advantage to waiting is that the Sounders will have a better idea of where their needs are and how capable their current crop of youngsters is in terms of contributing to the first team. As things stand now, at least one of Josh Atencio, Ethan Dobbelaere, Shandon Hopeau, Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez are likely to contend for a starting spot. If even one breaks through, that would likely alter the way the Sounders look at how they’re going to build the roster.

“We look forward to crossing the final frontier for our franchise, which is taking some of these kids we’ve developed in the academy and Defiance and seeing if we can break them into the first team,” Lagerwey said. “If we can do that on top of winning championships, that will make us a complete club and that’s the goal going forward.”