TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders may not have made a splashy Designated Player signing during this season’s summer transfer window. But with the pieces he has in place, general manager Garth Lagerwey says he feels as though his team is set up to defend their MLS Cup title regardless.
A multitude of rumors had linked the Sounders to potential new DP candidates in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s transfer deadline – most notably 23-year-old Paraguayan attacker Derlis Gonzalez. Speaking with reporters at Seattle’s practice at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday, though, Lagerwey put that speculation to rest for the time being.
“What I will say is we were in extended discussions with more than one Designated Player candidate. They didn’t come to fruition,” Lagerwey said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. We were obviously successful in the summer of 2015 if you look at the players we got signed, specifically Roman Torres right at the deadline and [Nicolas Lodeiro] last summer. But this summer we weren’t able to get over the line.”
Lagerwey declined to comment on Gonzalez specifically, citing the club’s policy of not discussing players who are under contract with other teams. However, he did say that the current state of Seattle’s roster, combined with his club’s recent form in MLS play, left him feeling no need to rush a signing that might not be the right fit.
“We had multiple backup plans,” Lagerwey said. “But ultimately we chose not to exercise those because from our perspective a DP decision is a three-to-five year decision that has long-term implications for the franchise. Given the position of strength that we believe we are in terms of the strength of the current roster, we didn’t want to compromise our standards.
“We believe that, over the last third of the season, we’ve been playing at high level,” he added. “We believe that this is a good group and that we have the existing pieces here to defend our championship.”
Lagerwey also pointed out that the lack of a new DP doesn’t mean the Sounders have been resting on their laurels. In addition to the recent signings of Dutch defender Kelvin Leerdam and Spanish midfielder Victor Rodriguez, Seattle also acquired winger Lamar Neagle in a trade with D.C. United this week, marking his fourth different stint with the club, and added midfielder Calum Mallace in a trade with Montreal.
Neagle, a Seattle-area native, trained with the Sounders back at Starfire for the first time since the trade on Wednesday, telling reporters afterward that the opportunity to come back to his hometown club was an ideal chance to hit the reset button and hopefully contribute to a repeat championship.
“This is an opportunity for me to come home, get some good training sessions in and figure things out,” Neagle said. “I think it works out for everybody. I can come in and whether I make an impact on the field, I definitely will on the practice field. I’m familiar with the organization, the players, the coaches, so it just made sense for everybody.”