The Sounders FC sought several things in the 2012 summer transfer window.
They addressed two of those goals on Friday with the signing of German midfielder Christian Tiffert, adding central creativity and leadership to a team that sits fourth in the Western Conference at 8-5-7.
"We want to bring in a central midfielder who also possessed creativity in terms of putting players into goal-dangerous positions," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said of Tiffert. "He's a player with a lot of experience in the top league in Germany. He can play in the middle of midfield – he can play-make from the outside of midfield if need be as well – but he's a player who has playmaking ability coming from the middle of the park."
Tiffert, 30, began his professional career with Tennis Borrusia Berlin at 18 years old in 2000. He finished that season, then moved to Stuttgart, where he played for six seasons before stints with Red Bull Salzburg and MSV Duisburg. In 2010, he joined FC Kaiserslautern and led the Bundesliga in assists in his first season, registering 17 assists for a side that finished seventh in the league.
He remained captain at Kaiserslautern through last season, but the club was relegated and that opened up the opportunity for him to change clubs.
"Leadership was an important aspect," Schmid said. "Having been a captain, having been a leader, and being part of teams that have had success, we felt that was going to be something that was going to be very important as we go into the playoffs, prepare for the playoffs and have success in them."
To make room on the roster for the new Designated Player, the Sounders traded Alvaro Fernandez to the Chicago Fire in exchange for allocation money.
In his third season with the Sounders, Fernandez had 13 goals and three assists in 55 matches in MLS play, adding four goals and five assists in 15 matches in the CONCACAF Champions league and two assists in seven US Open Cup matches. He started off the 2012 year strong with a goal in the Champions League quarterfinal match against Santos Laguna and two assists in the season-opening win over Toronto FC, but didn't register another goal or assist until scoring July 7 against the Colorado Rapids and adding another on July 15 against the New York Red Bulls.
Additionally, the emergence of first-year midfielders Alex Caskey and Cordell Cato, the return of Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans' ability to move out to the wing gives Schmid several options on the left side to absorb the loss of Fernandez.
"We just felt that we needed somebody who played more in the center of midfield and we knew we had to sacrifice something to get him and that had to be one of the DPs," Schmid said. "It ended up being Alvaro because we needed to strengthen our team centrally and we could sacrifice a little bit on the flank as Steve Zakuani starts to come back and we had other options that we could play on the flank."
The Sounders are facing a busy portion of their schedule with five matches over 15 days starting with Saturday's meeting with the Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. They will then open the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday against Caledonia AIA of Trinidad, host the Galaxy on Sunday, August 5, and play the US Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park on Wednesday, August 8.
"He provides options for us," Schmid said. "We have a number of games, so we're going to need a number of players."