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February 19, 2012 at 7:40 PM

GM Hanauer: Friday’s trade “was emotional for me and for everyone on the staff.”

ej hanauer.jpgPhoto credit: Seattle Sounders FC

Friday was an emotional day for many Sounders fans — that’s no secret.

Impassioned reaction came swiftly once the news became official that Sounders FC had traded fan favorites Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to Montreal in exchange for forward Eddie Johnson, who recently signed with MLS.

“I think you’re always going to get an emotional reaction when you’re trading away players who have been important parts of a successful team and good young men like Mike and Lamar,” said general manager Adrian Hanauer. “It was emotional for me and for everyone on the staff.

“As (coach Sigi Schmid) has said on multiple occasions, the day that decisions like that are easy is the day he’ll stop coaching, and I feel the same way about my job. It’s just never fun to part ways and obviously the fans feel the same way, but we obviously did it because we think we can get better.”

Truth is, Johnson had been on the Sounders radar for a while. When it was believed the veteran forward would be returning to MLS last summer, team officials had many discussions about what they’d have to do to move up in the allocation order to get him.

Had the deal gone through last year, Johnson’s salary would’ve been much higher than the reported $100,000 he’ll be making in 2012. Hanauer said the discount was paramount for the cap-constrained Sounders to be able to aggressively pursue Johnson this time.

“And Eddie’s proved that he’s worth well more than that,” said Hanauer.

But what about the departures?

When it comes to Neagle, the Federal Way native showed the league what he could do with five goals last year, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’d be in demand. What was difficult for him is that wide midfield has become a deep and talented position group in Seattle.

Neagle was already behind Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez on the depth chart. Steve Zakuani continues to make great progress and could be back in full in a few months. Not to mention newcomer Christian Sivebaek has been one of more the impressive players so far this preseason.

Trading from a position of depth to try and address a position of need isn’t uncommon, and Neagle had the most value of the reserves at wide midfield.

When it comes to Fucito, you’re losing a promising prospect, but one that’s still quite unproven. The 25-year-old is also entering the last year of his four-year contract so he was surely going to demand a higher salary than the $44,000 or so he’s expected to be at now.

Johnson also has much to prove after a rocky past couple seasons, that can’t be denied, but his top-end potential is elite. He showed glimpses of it in Sunday’s training game, where he had a goal and helped set up a couple others before leaving in the 29th minute with a slight hamstring issues (watch highlights here).

Best-case scenario, Johnson is a contender for the MLS Golden Boot in the future and someone that works his way back into the national team (which isn’t also rife with proven forwards). Not many have that kind of ceiling.

And lastly, if there are environments that can nurture a career resurgence that Johnson is looking for, Seattle has to be one of them. Sure the move will affect team chemistry, at least in some regard, but the Sounders’ locker room is strong.

So overall, is the trade still a risk? Absolutely. The course of 2012 has surely changed and we’ll have to see if it’s for the better.

“Time will tell,” said Hanauer.


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