TUKWILA, Wash. — During their first four years in MLS, the Seattle Sounders have managed to keep a relatively stable roster with eight players appearing in at least 50 percent of the available minutes.
Salary-cap concerns could force the Sounders to make some painful decisions this offseason, including in regards to the futures of some of those players.
“We've got our work cut out for us in terms of who we're able to bring back,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said during a press conference on Wednesday. “Then beyond that, how we move forward and how we construct a team that sets us up for next year and gets us into another position where we think we can have a better chance of winning an MLS Cup than we had even this year.”
To a certain degree, the Sounders have dealt with these issues every offseason. But what makes this year’s situation more acute is that some of the safety nets they once had have disappeared.
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“Each year gets a little more challenging from a cap-management standpoint,” Hanauer said. “When you're an expansion team, you get a pile of allocation money that helps to buy down the salary cap. We were extremely efficient with our use of that allocation money, and then collected more along the way through qualifying for Champions League, and qualifying for the quarterfinals of Champions League, and through expansion and some transactions.
“Suffice it to say, a lot of that flow of allocation money has dried up, and we sit here today in certainly a very cap-constrained situation.”
There are several ways the Sounders can deal with this situation. They could simply cut players with high cap figures, but many of those players are among their most productive. Among the more palpable options would be renegotiating some deals and making trades or transfers that could both clear space and potentially bring in more allocation dollars.
That will be part of a delicate balancing act, as the Sounders will also be looking to make improvements.
Head coach Sigi Schmid identified both fullback positions as areas in which the team could add some depth and youth. The changes won’t end there, though.
“You have to look at everything,” Schmid said. “You look at everything and you look at what options are out there. When we signed Mauro Rosales, we really weren’t looking for someone in that position, but we recognized that here was a talented player that could help us and make us stronger there, and we ended up signing him.
“It’s not a situation where you’re saying, ‘If we can improve this one area, that alone will put us into the next level.’ I just think anytime you can find improvement, you do it.”