TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders didn’t want to part ways with reserve goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
But when LAFC selected the 24-year-old with the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft, Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey wasn’t caught off guard either.
“The result was consistent with conversations we’d had with LAFC,” Lagerwey told reporters on Tuesday. “You go into this thing and you talk through all kinds of scenarios and you try to be prepared for everything and there’s always some risk that things won’t come off as discussed or as agreed. But this one did, this one came off and the player we thought was going to get taken got taken.”
The selection now leaves Lagerwey with a roster void to fill behind starter Stefan Frei. Miller, a second-round 2015 MLS SuperDraft pick following a dominant college career at Northwestern, was developing into one of the league’s more reliable reserve ‘keepers.
In Seattle’s Round of 16 victory over Real Salt Lake in the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Miller put on a virtuoso performance, making an array of key saves before coming up huge in the game-deciding penalty kick shootout. When Frei suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first leg of this year’s Western Conference Championship series against the Houston Dynamo, Miller was up to the challenge again, helping the Sounders defense man a clean sheet.
All of that, Lagerwey said, means Miller has earned the chance to compete for a starting job in the league, something unlikely to happen in the near future with Frei on the roster.
“[Miller] put in two and a half years of really hard work with us and done everything we’d asked and really earned the chance to compete for a starting position,” Lagerwey said. “From our perspective, Stefan Frei is our [first-team] goalkeeper. He’s earned it. You saw it again in [the 2017 MLS Cup], I thought he was absolutely outstanding. We hope that Stef’s our goalkeeper here for a number of years into the future. “
Lagerwey also addressed the team’s decision to not protect team captain and club legend Osvaldo Alonso – a call that led to a fair share of hand wringing on social media, including from Alonso himself who outwardly expressed his displeasure on his Twitter account.
“Player meetings are the morning after the final,” Lagerwey said. “And that’s really tough. It just is objectively hard. You just have to anticipate there are going to be some emotional reactions because there is no time to heal or get over or process what was a tough loss [to Toronto FC in MLS Cup] for us."
The decision was made as a calculated risk, Lagerwey said, based on a number of factors including how the Expansion Draft historically shapes out and the information he was primed to ahead of time.
Alonso is under contact with the team for next season.
“In general, when you look at the history of Expansion Drafts even in addition to the conversations we had with LAFC, expensive older players are most often not selected,” Lagerwey said. “We felt like we had good information that it was a relatively low risk and that was why we did what we did.”