SEATTLE — No team has been more active in signing Designated Players than the Seattle Sounders, who have signed six of them since joining MLS in 2009.
Of those, just two remain after Christian Tiffert was shown the door ahead of the Sounders’ season-opening loss to the Montreal Impact on Saturday.
Although Tiffert may not have posted the flashiest numbers -- he registered just four assists and played in just 16 league matches -- he appears to have been a casualty more of a changing philosophy than underperformance.
“We made a strategic change in the way we think about our Designated Players come December of this past year,” Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer told a small group of reporters. “We were going to try to invest a little more in one or two.”
In order to pursue one of those players, the Sounders needed to make room on their roster and within the salary cap. With Mauro Rosales entrenched as the team’s top playmaker and only part of newly acquired Shalrie Joseph’s contract counting against the salary cap, Tiffert was the one deemed expendable.
Hanauer made sure to point out that the decision to “part ways” with Tiffert had nothing to with any falling out between the player and Schmid and called those rumors “absolutely, categorically untrue.”
“This was not an issue of Christian not performing or not being a good teammate,” Hanauer said. “It was a just a situational thing with the cap and where we thought we needed to invest big Designated Player dollars.”
The Sounders are hoping that investment is made sooner than later, with Levante’s Obafemi Martins being the primary target. Levante officials have been quoted in Spanish media as saying they rejected a transfer offer from the Sounders, but Hanauer confirmed they are still trying to get the deal finalized.
“It's a fluid and complicated jigsaw puzzle,” Hanauer said. “We're hoping we can get that over the finish line. If we can, fantastic, and if we can't we'll go to Plan B.”
While the way Tiffert’s situation ended may not have been ideal, it doesn’t appear as though it will hamper the Sounders’ ability to eventually sign Designated Player No. 7.
“That’s professional soccer: one day you sign a contract and the next day you have to find a new club,” said Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, probably Tiffert’s best friend on the Sounders. “We are long enough in the business to know that things like this are normal.”