Sounders FC had two prime targets in the international transfer window. Both were forwards playing in Europe, both would have been designated players, but neither will be coming to Seattle.
So what happened?
“One got transferred a little bit earlier in the window to a different club,” explained general manager Adrian Hanauer, who didn’t want to identify the targets. “The second one we got to the one-yard line on. A lot of documentation was finalized. We thought we were there and a couple days ago that started unraveling. Without getting too specific, it was a player who was prepared to move and in the run up to when it should’ve been completed the team had two injuries at forward. Obviously I’m not on the inside, but it appears as though the coach of the club went to the player and said he needed him. So they were able to convince him to stay.”
The Sounders then looked at some other options, including other DP possibilities, but they weren’t 100-percent sure on them and didn’t want to force the issue. And there was also another factor to consider…
“There have been discussions within the league and I’m fairly confident that there could possibly be some rule changes coming that provide for some salary-cap flexibility in signing a younger designated player, along the lines of a (Fabian) Castillo in Dallas,” said Hanauer. “Given the challenges of managing the salary cap, that was another thing that we considered because if we got locked into a third designated player that we weren’t 100-percent on, that seemed like a bad situation to be in if in fact we wanted to participate in this potential opportunity. All those things put together, some bad luck on our prime targets, wanting to stick to our guns a little bit and this potential rule change that’s been discussed all sort of led to the fact that we’re here now.”
Without looking too far ahead, Hanauer said the team’s salary-cap situation will be improved in the offseason, which would make a big move easier, perhaps even with the two prime targets mentioned at the beginning of this post.
Hanauer indicated that money wasn’t a contentious issue in these negotiations, “but if the economics can be better, that’s always an added benefit.”
And that doesn’t mean that there isn’t time to improve the Sounders’ roster for this season. The MLS trade deadline is Sept. 15, meaning Seattle remains able to make in-league moves. The team can also sign unattached free agents and someone that wants to come out of retirement.
While admitting the team could be strengthened, Hanauer said he still likes his team.
“We’ve been the best team in the league since the first couple games of the season,” he said. “Clearly we’re not the dominant team in the league, but we do feel like we can compete with anyone. We think we can win a championship. Getting more quality players helps win championships and we’re not oblivious to that fact, but in the end we weren’t willing to do something unless we were darn close to 100-percent on it.”
Hanauer said he anticipates the roster will change by Sept. 15, but admits his credibility might have taken a hit by making a similar claim in the international transfer window. That won’t keep him from trying.
“We know we can get stronger. We want to get stronger,” said Hanauer.