SEATTLE – At first glance, Álvaro Fernández appears to be everything the Seattle Sounders want him to be. He’s young. He’s energetic. He plays an attacking style. He just came off a successful campaign in the World Cup.
While most Seattle players were happy to welcome in general manager Adrian Hanauer’s latest acquisition, some are adopting a wait-and-see approach.
“It's one of those situations where he looks like on paper a good signing and we just have to wait and see how he fits in to this group and this squad and how he plays,” captain Kasey Keller told the Seattle Times. “But he looks solid."
The pedigree of Fernández, who played in four matches at the World Cup for Uruguay, is unquestionable. The addition of the versatile, energetic Fernández gives Seattle more flexibility in attack and strengthens the squad for the second half of the season. Midfield has been a game of musical chairs in Seattle this season, with several players earning starts in an injury-hampered unit. It’s unclear, still, where Fernández will slot in. Hanauer praised his versatility, saying that his new signing “can play anywhere across the midfield.” If he were to start right away, there are two likely spots.
The first would be as a second central midfielder alongside Osvaldo Alonso, providing more support going forward on attack. The second would be at right midfield, which has been a revolving door since Freddie Ljungberg’s departure.
No matter where he plays, Fernandez provides coach Sigi Schmid with more quality options, something he has needed this season. In games against physical opponents, he can go with size (by starting Fernandez along with Blaise Nkufo and Nate Jaqua) or with speed (by starting him with Sanna Nyassi and Miguel Montano).
The 24-year-old will be the club’s third designated player, joining Nkufo and Ljungberg, and concludes a lengthy courtship from the Sounders.
“We have been tracking Álvaro for a while,” said Hanauer. “[He has] versatility, quality, character, a lot of the same attributes that we have been interested in all along. We just felt like another quality player was necessary to continue to build on what we have got and certainly to make a run for the playoffs.”
Still a young player, Fernández is approaching the peak of his soccer career. That Seattle’s front office could convince him to make the next step in Major League Soccer is a credit to the league. As opposed to the previous trend of singing designated players in the twilight of their professional careers, one can expect the best is yet to come with Fernández.
“I just think when you get players at that age and at that level, it just shows that you are a more viable league, that you are higher up in that pecking order across the world," said Schmid.
Fernández, who trained with the team Thursday, has not yet been added to the roster, pending clearance of his International Transfer Certificate.