Seattle Sounders seek DP-level replacement for Lodeiro

Craig Waibel - Seattle Sounders GM

How will Seattle Sounders FC manage without departed club legend Nico Lodeiro next season? Just fine, according to head coach Brian Schmetzer.

“We were lucky to have him and we were lucky to watch him play,” Schmetzer said of the Rave Green icon during Wednesday’s end-of-season media availability.

But, with the 34-year-old's reduced impact combined with Seattle’s tactical transformation in 2023, the club felt it was time to move in a new direction.

“I’m not afraid of change. We changed this year. We changed significantly the style of play. Change is inevitable,” Schmetzer insisted. “At some point, I’m going to go. We said goodbye to a legend, Nico.”

However, embracing change doesn’t necessarily mean the Sounders are looking to overhaul a side that boasted one of the league’s best defenses – MLS-low 32 goals allowed, tied with Nashville SC – while qualifying for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed.

“I love the roster,” Schmetzer stated. “I think if we can push a few things over the finish line, we will have a great team that starts off 2024 on a high note.”

De La Vega, others on the way?

To that end, general manager and chief soccer officer Craig Waibel is hard at work searching for Lodeiro’s replacement, as well as other offensive pieces.

“Additions are going to be in the attacking half, 100 percent,” Waibel said.

More specifically, Waibel revealed the Sounders are eyeing a Designated Player-level signing to hopefully rival Lodeiro’s massive contributions (two MLS Cup titles, Concacaf Champions League crown) over the years.

“We’re currently in discussion with three really impactful players – two in South America, and one across in Europe,” he said. “And it’s a matter of which one of these players commits to us and convinces us.”

As expected, the follow-up question revolved around Argentine Pedro de la Vega, who’s been linked to the Sounders in recent weeks.

“The reports you hear out of Argentina are not entirely false,” Waibel said of the 22-year-old Lanús attacker.

Be it de la Vega or whoever, Seattle’s new signings are expected to inject some life into an offense that finished in the league’s bottom third with just 41 goals scored in 2023.

“We could’ve produced more, and that’s obviously the name of the game,” Waibel said. “The difference between could and should, and wins and losses, is just those simple touches.”

Nowhere was this more evident than in a 1-0 Western Conference Semifinal home loss to LAFC, where Black & Gold goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau kept Seattle off the scoreboard despite some clear chances – most notably denying Jordan Morris in an early 1v1 situation.

“Sometimes it comes down to, and credit to him, Crépeau makes three, four really good saves in our playoff match,” Waibel said. “… But by and large, that’s not what plagued us this year. What plagued us was just hitting the back of the net.”

The hope is to see more goals, and by extension more silverware, as the Sounders also prepare to return to the FIFA Club World Cup in 2025. They're expecting more production from DP striker Raúl Ruidíaz after a down year, too.

“We’re not using this offseason to rebuild. We’re using this offseason to load up and come back for trophies," Waibel said.

"... If we get some of these moves done, we’re gonna come flying out with confidence. And trophies will be the expectation."