In our ever-evolving quest to find interesting offseason content, Sounder at Heart may have stumbled onto an absolute winner. Earlier this week, we introduced a feature we called “cut, keep or trade” that we totally stole from our friends at RSL Soapbox. It has proven to be wildly popular.
As I’m writing this, nearly 2,500 of you have filled out our survey. More than 2,100 of you appear to have filled it out completely, meaning you gave your opinion on what should be done with all 28 players on the Sounders’ first-team roster. That’s a rather staggering number for what is, in essence, a pretty nerdy and time-consuming endeavor. I’m impressed.
Perhaps more interesting than the number of people who filled this out were the results themselves. There were two big takeaways:
- There was a lot of agreement, with about 80-90% of you generally agreeing on what to do with any given player.
- Despite missing the playoffs for the first time in their MLS history, fans seem to generally want to run it back. There were only five players who a majority of you wanted to either cut or trade, and only one of those players was anything close to a regular starter (60% of you were willing to explore a trade or transfer for Nouhou). The other players you were willing to part ways with were Will Bruin, Leó Chu, Jimmy Medranda and Andrew Thomas.
I’m not going to recap all the results player by player — you can see for yourself here — but will share some of the more interesting ones along with what I think will happen.
A fair amount of criticism has fallen at the feet of Lodeiro, I think for fair reasons. He’s the Sounders’ top-paid player as well as the team captain. It’s fair to have high expectations for him and fair to place some of the blame for missing the playoffs on his shoulders. I figured “buy him out” would have been a pretty popular response.
In reality, about 60% of you wanted to bring him back for the final year of his contract and 4% wanted to offer him an extension compared to just 12% who wanted to move on and 25% who wanted to seek a transfer.
My prediction: Lodeiro will probably be back, one way or another. While his production was definitely down from his best years, it’s not down so dramatically that it would justify eating the $3.3 million he’s still owed. I do think some hard conversations need to be had, though, and one of those might be convincing Lodeiro that he isn’t doing anyone any favors by trying to play 90 minutes every game and taking every set piece. It might even make more sense to move him back a line.
Assuming the Sounders can get him on board with at least some of this, I’d think they’d even be open to offering him an extension, especially if that means they can pull off the Designated Player tag. Maybe a new three-year deal that guarantees him $5M? That’s $1.7M more than he’s currently guaranteed — more than he’d likely make if he were to return to Uruguay — but give the Sounders a ton of added flexibility.
Like Lodeiro, it made sense that a lot of criticism started to fall at the feet of Jordan Morris. He, too, is one of the Sounders’ top paid players and he struggled mightily down the stretch with just one goal and one assist over his final 12 games with the Sounders. Still, most of you want him back. Just 5% want to outright reject his option and another 18% of you wanted to exercise his option but pursue a trade or transfer. Even including the 14% who wanted to try to bring him back but only at a reduced salary, that left well over 60% wanting to either exercise his option or to offer him an extension.
My prediction: I have no doubt that Morris still wants to play in Europe. He’s legitimately proven about all he can in MLS and I wouldn’t begrudge him looking to make the jump. Whether or not there’s a good opportunity there, I have no idea. And while the Sounders were willing to let him go on loan in 2021, that was only for half a season and they stood to get a significant fee if it became a transfer. There’s no way they’d let him just walk for free now. All of which is to say, I think he’ll be back unless someone is willing to pay fair market for a soon-to-be-28-year-old winger with world-class speed and a proven history of production.
Assuming Morris returns, I’m still pretty bullish on his potential to be a very productive player — he had nine goals and four assists in his first 25 appearances across all competitions — and wouldn’t blame the Sounders at all for signing him to an extension at something like max-TAM wages.
Given the rhetoric, I was a little surprised that a solid majority — 55.5% — wanted to simply bring back Xavier Arreaga. To be clear, I think that’s a reasonable position. Although Arreaga made his share of mistakes, he was at least reliably healthy and some of the underlying numbers were actually pretty positive. When Arreaga was on the field, the Sounders outscored their opponents 38-28, easily the best ratio of any regular contributor. His individual numbers are admittedly, less impressive. Although he ranks as a plus ball-progressor, he doesn’t really rack up defensive numbers and there are definitely holes in his game by the eye test.
There were also 40% of you who wanted to seek a trade or transfer with the remainder willing to simply buy him out.
My prediction: I think the Sounders would love it if Arreaga played really well at the World Cup and brought in some offers. Transfermarkt pegs his value at $2.2 million which would cover what the Sounders paid and I’m sure they’d consider it a good bit of business to get that back. I suspect the Sounders would probably be willing to take even less, though, especially considering how high they are on Jackson Ragen, who makes about a 10th as much as Arreaga. That said, I am not so sure Arreaga is as “overpaid” as some think. According to the players’ union data, he and Yeimar Gomez Andrade just barely squeak into the Top 40 among players listed primarily as defenders. If no reasonable offers come, I expect Arreaga will be back.
It would appear a lot of you are ready to be done with the Léo Chú experiment, with 66% saying they’d like to pursue a trade or transfer and another 10.5% willing to even buy him out if necessary. Maybe that’s not surprising. The Sounders reportedly paid about $2.75 million for Chú’s transfer, are paying him an annual salary of about $550,000, and haven’t gotten much return on their investment, just two goals and three assists spread out over 1,100 minutes across all competitions.
My prediction: Still just 22, I think it’s still a little too early to say Chú’s a bust, but I’ve seen enough to become pretty skeptical of a big breakout. While clearly talented on the ball, he doesn’t seem to move well off of it and lacks the kind of vision you’d want from a winger who’s expected to help set up goals, if not necessarily score a ton himself. Still, he’s averaged .41 goals+assists per 90 since joining the Sounders, which aren’t the kind of numbers you just toss in the bin. I’m sure the Sounders would be very open to any offers — and might even leave him unprotected in the Expansion Draft — but I think he’ll probably be back for at least one more year.
It was a strange year for Nouhou, and I think that was reflected in this survey with 60% expressing a willingness to seek a transfer or trade for a player who I think remains a fan favorite. On the plus side, Nouhou stayed healthy enough to appear in 30 of 34 regular-season games and log the third most minutes on the team. He also scored his first MLS goal, which at the time seemed like it might spark the team to a late-season run. Less encouragingly, Nouhou’s defensive metrics were down a lot from previous years and he doesn’t seem to have shown much improvement going forward.
My prediction: Right now, Nouhou looks like a borderline elite defender as part of a three-back set, but much more of a luxury piece in modern four-back sets. If he balls out with Cameroon at the World Cup, I think it’s entirely possible someone would be willing to pay a decent fee for him and I’m sure the Sounders would gladly let him go. If that doesn’t happen, however, figuring out how to best use Nouhou is going to be imperative. Either way, I think the Sounders need to upgrade at either left back or left wingback.
That more than 65% of you wanted to either retain Kelyn Rowe or give him an extension was one of the bigger surprises, given the rhetoric around his performances. Once again, Rowe remained healthy this year but unlike a year ago he was not asked to carry such a heavy load and played about 1,000 fewer minutes. Despite playing less, he produced similarly with two goals and four assists across all competitions.
My prediction: Rowe is what he is, a versatile player who can provide backup at a bunch of positions but probably isn’t a regular starter in this league anymore. That he also happens to love the city and the club doesn’t hurt, either. The results of our survey suggest fans recognize all of this. Barring a big surprise, he’ll be back and filling a similar role next year.
Very similar to Rowe, about 66% of you want the Sounders to exercise their option on Montero and possibly even offer him an extension. Given that he’s still making only marginally more than the veteran minimum while still chipping in with eight goals and two assists across all competitions, that shouldn’t be a huge shock.
My prediction: I have a feeling this plays out a lot like last year. Since I don’t know how much it would cost the Sounders to pick up Montero’s option, they might turn that down and work on bringing him back at a similar number to what he’s on now. Maybe the option is already there. Either way, I think Montero will be back and will probably fill a similar role, albeit one that might be a bit more reduced.
Despite enjoying a bit of a breakout year with the Tacoma Defiance — nine goals and four assists — Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez did not log a single first-team minute this year. Given that, I was a little surprised that about 54% of you were interested in bringing him back in some capacity, even if that includes 11% who want to do it at a reduced salary.
My prediction: He’s still just 20 and under club control, but I could see him just wanting to try something different after failing to get a serious look this year. I wouldn’t blame him if that’s what he decided to do. At the same time, it would seem rather pointless for the Sounders not to bring him back if he wants to return.
Given that Andrew Thomas has spent much of his Sounders career either loaned to Tacoma Defiance or hurt, I’m not surprised that fans aren’t quite sure what to make of him. Not only did he draw fewer responses than anyone else — still close to 2,300 — but you were pretty well split on what to do. About 48% of you are willing to let him walk while 41% want to bring him back and another 11% think he should be traded or transferred.
My prediction: I don’t blame anyone for not realizing this, but Thomas has mostly been pretty good ... when he’s been healthy. In 19 career appearances with the Defiance, Thomas has six shutouts and has allowed just 17 goals. Of course, he’s missed a ton of time. Last year, he missed four months with a leg injury and this year he missed a similar amount of time with a back injury. I don’t know if those are more one-offs or indicative of something bigger, but if he’s healthy I think he’ll be back.
I consider it a point of pride that more than 60% of you want to or at least expect to bring back Sam Adeniran despite him only making three first-team appearances across all competitions before going on loan this year. While on loan to San Antonio FC, who finished the USL Championship season with the most points, he led them with 10 goals scored.
My prediction: I was pretty high on Adeniran after last season and that didn’t really pan out this year, but I am still pretty bullish on his ability to contribute at the MLS level. While I thought he was more of a Will Bruin-replacement, I now think he’s more likely a change-of-pace winger. Either way, I think he can be a useful piece off the bench and would be kinda shocked if he’s not back with the Sounders in 2023.
We’ll probably find out a bit more in the coming days when the Sounders announced whose options they are picking up and declining, but I’m fairly confident that it will be very similar to what you all predicted. That said, I think the Sounders are well aware that some changes probably need to be made this offseason and will be working hard to make something happen. In the meantime, we’ve got an Expansion Draft and the MLS SuperDraft to look forward to.