TUKWILA, Wash. – It’s been a whirlwind summer transfer window for the Seattle Sounders, but now that it’s all said and done, general manager Garth Lagerwey says he feels that his team is loaded and ready for yet another second-half surge into the playoffs.
Lagerwey took some heat for not making moves during the league’s primary transfer window after the team lost forward Jordan Morris for the season in Concacaf Champions League play due to a torn ACL, and a slow start to the 2018 campaign for Seattle only heightened the outside voices questioning why he didn’t act sooner to fill the void.
All the while Lagerwey preached patience. And with the addition of new Designated Player striker Raul Ruidiaz – as well as a potentially under-the-radar move in acquiring English Premier League defender Brad Smith on loan – Lagerwey told reporters on Thursday he feels his measured approach will ultimately be validated.
“We’re really excited about our summer,” Lagerwey said. “We believe we’ve added a franchise cornerstone in Raul Ruidiaz and with him and Nico [Lodeiro] under contract for multiple years, we believe that’s a really solid foundation upon which to build.
“And [with Smith] we addressed our other greatest team need in terms of adding some speed to the squad that was lost when Jordan was hurt,” he added. “So, we accomplished our strategic objectives and we did it in a way that I think gives us flexibility moving forward while creating competition, I think at literally every position on the field. So, very, very excited about where we are.”
As is the case with most transfer windows, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing.
The Sounders were heavily linked to another potentially high-profile addition in recent weeks in Peruvian winger Paolo Hurtado, who was even photographed by a discreet fan meeting with Lagerwey in the nearby Seattle suburb of Bellevue.
In the end, however, Seattle ended up getting boxed out by a more lucrative offer from Turkish club Konyaspor.
“We were trying to do a really hard deal,” Lagerwey explained. “We were trying to squeeze a DP-level player in a TAM-sized salary slot. At the end of the day, when a last-minute offer came in, where normally you could mitigate some of that, we were capped out. We had [a certain amount] we could offer. After that there was nothing we could do. That’s what happened, I don’t think there’s anything to hide from there.
“What it does do for us going forward is it creates more flexibility. Now we have a blank canvas with which to paint for that next DP slot and I anticipate us doing that at some point next year.”
As for Smith, the Sounders say they addressed one of the biggest remaining areas of need on the roster. Smith, who has 19 international caps for Australia and was loaned out to Seattle from EPL side AFC Bournemouth, is an attacking fullback in a similar mold to the departed Joevin Jones, who bagged 11 assists in 28 games for the Sounders last season before leaving for SV Darmstadt 98 of the 2. Bundesliga.
Like Jones, Smith is capable of playing up a line on the left wing. But with the Seattle’s left back platoon of Nouhou and Waylon Francis combining for just one assist so far in 2018, he should have ample opportunity to compete for minutes at that position.
“We were looking for a player where qualities were speed and power,” Lagerwey said. “We really wanted to have a fast option, particularly in a wide position. For me, this is less about position than it is about a weakness within the group.
“And, look, this is exciting for us. To have an EPL player on loan – it’s market that we haven’t been able to get into before and it’s something we’re interested in exploring now. This is a new type of player that we have access to now. So, I’m really interested to see how Brad plays and how he does.”