Major League Soccer’s Secondary Transfer Window closed on Wednesday evening at 8:59 p.m PT. According to General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey, the club is very confident with the current squad.
"We believe that, over the last third of the season, [we] have been playing at a high level," Lagerwey told media at Wednesday's training session. "We believe that this is a good group and that we have the existing pieces here to defend our championship."
The Sounders are on a torrid run to the top of the Western Conference table and currently on a seven-match unbeaten streak dating back to June. The Rave Green are tied for second in the West and sit just three points behind conference-leading Sporting Kansas City, who visit CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Univision, ROOT SPORTS outside Seattle, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS).
Like he has every year since joining the Sounders following the 2014 season, Lagerwey was active during the summer window. He brought in four players at three different positions: defender Kelvin Leerdam, midfielders Victor Rodriguez and Calum Mallace and winger Lamar Neagle. Leerdam, in particular, has made an immediate impact since signing on July 1. In four appearances, he’s recorded one goal and an assist, while the club has outscored opponents 10-0 with him on the pitch.
Rodriguez has yet to appear in a contest for the Rave Green, but brings nine years of professional experience in Spain. Neagle, meanwhile, returns to his hometown club for his fourth stint with the Sounders since 2009. Lagerwey believes all three acquisitions, in addition to the core group of players who led Seattle to the 2016 MLS Cup, put the Sounders in a promising place. Mallace, acquired in a trade with Montreal, adds experience and depth to the midfield group.
"Since we've gotten in our groove, we've been highly effective," Lagerwey said. "We now have everybody back from international call-ups. We're the healthiest we've been all year and I believe we're in a great position moving forward to try to defend our championship."
The Sounders currently occupy all three Designated Player spots with Clint Dempsey, Nicolás Lodeiro and Osvaldo Alonso. With Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), the club could theoretically buy down a player's contract from the DP level to free a space for another high-salaried player. While there were discussions with potential signings who could have come in as a DP, nothing came to fruition. Rather than resorting to a backup plan, Lagerwey ultimately believes the club is not in a position where it needs to force a move.
"We really feel good about our team top to bottom. From our perspective, a DP decision is a three-to-five year decision that has longterm implications for the franchise. Given the position of strength that we believe that we are in, we didn't want to compromise our standards," Lagerwey said. "[DP signings] are decisions we ultimately want to get right. We don't want to win just one title. We want to win multiple MLS Cups, we want to compete every year."
Lagerwey alluded to the strength of the roster, which features three DPs, three TAM-level players and an All-Star goalkeeper, in addition to a strong group of fullbacks, two "highly decorated center backs" and two of the league's brightest young stars in Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris. With a host of additional key contributors and the three summer signings, the club believes it is fully prepared for the final stretch of the season.
"Everybody would have liked a shiny new DP, but this team is strong enough to win a championship," Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. "That's how we all feel."