The Seattle Sounders still don’t know if they will have the services of Jordan Morris for the upcoming season.
But even if the former Stanford star and Sounders academy member chooses to take his game overseas (he’s currently on a training stint with Werder Bremen of the Bundesliga) instead of signing a Homegrown deal with Seattle, a youth movement of sorts appears to be underway regardless.
Coming off their latest disappointing MLS Cup Playoffs exit, in which they bowed out to a young and dynamic FC Dallas side, Seattle have parted ways with a handful of veteran faces so far this offseason. Gone are Lamar Neagle, Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett, Gonzalo Pineda and Leo Gonzales, all of whom played key roles in varying capacities for the Sounders in recent seasons.
In their place, the Sounders and general manager Garth Lagerwey have begun to assemble reinforcements in the form of a crop of young faces.
First came former University of Denver standout midfielder Jordan Schweitzer, who the Sounders signed to a Homegrown contract on Jan. 7. Then came Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, when Seattle traded the No. 15-overall pick to the Chicago Fire for 24-year-old left back Joevin Jones before selecting center back Tony Alfaro from Cal State Dominguez Hills and midfielder Zach Mathers from Duke.
When it’s all said and done, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid says to expect the roster to feature more youth at depth positions compared to previous seasons.
“We’re probably not going to be as heavy as last year with veteran reserve players,” Schmid told reporters following the SuperDraft. “There’s going to be some, for sure, as we move forward, but we’re also at a place where we want to give some young players a chance, just like we gave DeAndre [Yedlin] a chance.”
The infusion of youth in recent weeks shouldn’t be confused with any sort of drastic overhaul, however.
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Schmid and Lagerwey each expressed confidence in a veteran core of first-team starters that gelled late last season following a busy summer that saw four big-name acquisitions in Nelson Valdez, Roman Torres, Erik Friberg and Andreas Ivanschitz.
“I think what a lot of people are forgetting that we made an awful lot of moves in the summer,” Schmid said. “We added four players, that was pretty significant. Most teams added one or so in that period of time. So we sort of did our offseason transfers then, and now those guys are here with us at the start of the year and have already had half a year with the team, and I think that’s why you’re seeing us make less moves right now.”
In his post-draft conference call with reporters, Lagerwey also seemed to indicate that Seattle’s roster has more or less taken shape as the team gears up for 2016.
“I think we’re pretty close to full now,” Lagerwey said. “I think you’ll see us add more bodies in midfield potentially, but I believe we have a potential starting lineup intact. But I want to stress that we want competition for positions everywhere all over the field.”