Hilal El Arabi Soudani - Dinamo Zagreb

A source confirmed earlier this week that the Seattle Sounders are tracking Algerian international and Dinamo Zagreb attacker Hilal El Arabi Soudani. Seattle’s interest was first reported two weeks ago by Algerian outlet Le Buteur and highlighted earlier this week by Sounder at Heart.

An experienced Algerian international, the 29-year-old Soudani has 21 goals in 28 career appearances with the Fennec Foxes. He was a part of the country’s roster at the 2014 World Cup, appearing three times as Algeria made a run to the Round of 16.

Soudani has spent the last three years with Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb. He has 45 goals in 92 league appearances for the club, which has won the Croatian top flight in all three of his seasons. He’s added 13 goals in 43 games in European competition, including two goals in 11 appearances in the UEFA Champions League this year.

Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey visited Europe ahead of the Sounders’ MLS Cup win at Toronto on Dec. 10. The source confirmed that his trip was to see Soudani and Zagreb play at Juventus; Zagreb lost 2-0 to the Italian giants and finished last in Group H with a 0-6-0 record.

Soudani is reportedly drawing interest from English Championship clubs Newcastle, Brighton and Norwich City and will be out of contract at the end of the current European season in June. According to the source, Soudani would command a Designated Player contract should he sign with Seattle. The Sounders had three DPs on their 2016 roster in Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, though the club declined Valdez’s contract option, opening up a DP spot for 2017.

While Seattle have the space, it might not prove the best move for the MLS Cup champs to lock into a DP signing this winter. While he trained in limited fashion with the Sounders ahead of MLS Cup and Bruce Arena indicated he plans on calling him to US national team camp in January, no one yet knows if – or when – Dempsey will be able to fully return from the heart condition that’s kept him out since August.

Dempsey’s status affects the Sounders’ needs. If he’s able to make a complete comeback, Seattle will be set at center forward with Dempsey as a likely starter and Jordan Morris able to shift to a center forward position to spell the veteran US international, if necessary. In that case, the Sounders could target a DP midfielder (instead of a forward like Soudani) to play in front of holding mids Ozzie Alonso and Cristian Roldan with Lodeiro operating out wide.

If Dempsey can’t return, the equation changes. Barring Valdez re-signing for 2017, that’d leave Morris as the team’s No. 1 center forward. The reigning Rookie of the Year is certainly capable of playing that role, but I'd argue he’s better suited lining up as a winger. If Dempsey, who is fully guaranteed for 2017, doesn't come back, it’d make sense for the Sounders to target a center forward with their DP spot.

Regardless, Seattle won’t know what their most pressing need is until it's clear whether Dempsey is capable or not not of making a full return. For that reason they might be better off waiting on their DP signing until they can get some clarity.