When the Seattle Sounders signed Albert Rusnák on a free-agent contract this past offseason, they made it pretty clear that they were effectively sacrificing roster flexibility in order to put their best foot forward for Concacaf Champions League play. It obviously paid off by becoming the first MLS team to win the current iteration of the continental title.
The downside, to the degree there is one, is that this summer’s transfer window might be a little less exciting than usual. Over the past few months, Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey has repeatedly downplayed the likelihood that the team would be making an impact signing.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be one, of course, and Sounders Sporting Director Craig Waibel at least opened the door to that possibility, while also suggesting there’s plenty of talent that has room to grow on the current roster.
“We have a good team,” Waibel told reporters on Wednesday, the day before the summer transfer window officially opens. “We’re halfway through the year, we’re in a playoff position, we’ve won the Champions League, we have a lot of players who have featured but haven’t even got a chance to start consistently yet. We still think there’s depth in this team that could show up over the second half of the year. As we trend toward health, it will be fun to see how the coaches use some of the players who have been injured/haven’t featured yet.
“But we’re still out there shopping because we are the Sounders and that’s what we do. We’ll bring in a player if we think they fit. But right now we believe this group is talented, has more talent to shine in the second half of the season. But like last year, you never know until the 11th hour what we may do. We’re looking always.”
As Waibel alluded to, the Sounders made a couple of notable moves on the final day of last year’s summer transfer window. They signed Léo Chú as a U22 Initiative player and then made a trade for Nicolás Benezet, who ended up scoring four goals in less than 1,000 minutes. The Sounders don’t have quite as much flexibility this year, though, as all of their Designated Player and U22 spots are currently filled.
What the Sounders do have is ambition, and Waibel insisted that if the right kind of player becomes available, they won’t hesitate to make a move.
“We’re looking to add players we know can have a great impact on us,” Waibel said. “We’re not looking for depth pieces or future pieces or anything like that. Call it shopping for a unicorn. But why shop anywhere else right now?”
What might a “unicorn” look like? My suspicion is that it would need to be an experienced MLS player on a reasonable contract that runs out at the end of the year — someone with a broad profile similar to Benezet. One player I’ve been keeping an eye on is Eric Remedi, a central midfielder who currently plays for the San Jose Earthquakes. Remedi’s defensive metrics mostly rank him around the 90th percentile among MLS players in his position and he’s scheduled to be out of contract at the end of the year.