TUKWILA, Wash. – Garth Lagerwey is sticking to his guns.
The Seattle Sounders general manager has heard critics say he hasn’t been active enough this offseason revamping a roster that saw several key contributors from last year’s title-winning squad depart.
He knows he only has one true center back signed to the first team, and that his explanation of waiting for a new CBA to be signed before getting more aggressive with signings is ringing hollow to some fans who have watched other teams make big splashes anyway.
But for Lagerwey, it’s always about the long game. Speaking with reporters at Seattle’s first training session of 2020 on Tuesday, he was grilled again to explain his conservative offseason and insisted a wait-and-see approach is the right one when it comes to the future of the franchise.
“You guys know me. For better or for worse, I’m pretty meticulous and stubborn. I tend to plan things a long time in advance,” Lagerwey said. “I understand why you guys would come here and be like, ‘What have you been doing? There’s only one center back on the roster.’ But as soon as we get that direction [on the CBA] we’ll move as fast we can.
"In the meantime, there are some things we can do, I want to stress that. And we are working on one or two impact pieces hopefully sooner than later in terms of getting them in before the season.”
The way Lagerwey sees it, some teams might be in dire enough straits that they need to make signings before they know what impact the new CBA stands to have on the way clubs allocate their money. That doesn’t necessarily apply to the Sounders.
Despite departures like defenders Roman Torres, Kim Kee-hee and Brad Smith, and influential Spanish midfielder and Victor Rodriguez, Lagerwey said he still sees a team with a very strong core. While those departures are significant, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, Seattle is still returning Nicolas Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson — a group Lagerwey wants to make sure he can keep in place.
“What we really don’t want to do is we don’t want to screw this group up,” Lagerwey said. “The core guys here are still really good. If you put a starting lineup out tomorrow with just the guys who are here, we would still win a ton of games. And that’s what we’ve been cognizant of. These guys are the defending champs and they’ve been to three out of the last four finals. We’re good. We just need to chill out a little bit and do things methodically and correctly once we know everything and just add again around to support the guys that are here, because we’ve got a really good foundation.”
All of that might not appease those in Sounders-land who are wondering who the starting center back will be beside Xavier Arreaga when the club kicks off Concacaf Champions League against Club Olimpia on Feb. 20. Svensson (a defensive midfielder) and trialist Shane O’Neill the only players at Tuesday’s training session who have played the position at the MLS level.
For his part, though, Lagerwey says he’s not worried that the waiting game will be of any detriment to his team in CCL. Not yet, at least.
“If it drags out long enough, sure [it could have a negative impact],” he said. “But look, we have right now until, the legal deadline is Jan. 31, and in the past there have been some extensions on that, so right now it’s not an issue, is what I would say. If we’re playing games and we don’t have a deal yet then it gets a little more complicated. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and hopefully everybody can work out a fair deal in the meantime.”