SEATTLE – Seattle Sounders GM and President of Soccer Operations Garth Lagerwey said Monday there’s no timeline in place to bring in a new Designated Player should Obafemi Martins’ apparent move to China be officially completed in the near future.
Speaking at the team’s media day less than 24 hours before the opening leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, Lagerwey admitted that the timing of Martins’ departure is less than ideal, but the team won’t rush to fill the shoes of the two-time team MVP with a high-priced signing.
“We’re not going to have an immediate reaction and say, ‘We’re gonna go out and immediately try and find another striker or any other player,’” Lagerwey said. “This is really important to emphasize: We believe in the guys who are are. We believe in the guys who were very, very close to advancing in the playoffs last year, and the guys who went 15 games unbeaten at the end of last season …
“The players are ultimately the ones who are going to get this done, and we think we have a pretty good team.”
Lagerwey stressed that Martins’ move to Shanghai Greenland Shenua of the Chinese Super League has not been "formally and legally concluded," despite a note to Seattle fans on Martins’ personal Twitter feed last week and an image of Martins with his new club on Feb. 18.
But he also turned an eye to the team’s future without Martins, insisting that the club will ultimately enact a plan to replace the Nigerian international by whatever means necessary.
“We’re going to take our time, and we’re going to replace Oba,” Lagerwey said. “Maybe not position for position, maybe not player for player. But I think some of the replacements will come from the group, in terms of how we collectively play. And I think we’re going to look to add some more talent. If this transaction concludes, we have some roster and salary flexibility to go look at players.”
Martins’ potential departure would open up the team’s third Designated Player spot, but don’t expect the Sounders to fill it with another forward. The other two DP slots are already taken by veteran strikers Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, and Lagerwey said he’s against the idea of adding a third DP up front.
“In a perfect world, I don’t want three DP forwards,” he said. “I don’t think we want that, particularly when arguably our best young player in Jordan Morris is also a forward. We’d like to have more balance in the team, front to back.”
Dempsey said he holds no ill will against Martins for the move, and captain Brad Evans said that while it came as something of a surprise, the players in the locker room were largely unaffected by the loss of Martins following the offseason addition of Morris.
“I think we all understand the decision,” Evans said. “The circumstance, the money factor, I think we can all wrap our head around that. But it’s obviously not ideal timing. But that’s the beast that it is right now, the way the transfer window is and the way our season is.
“It’s unfortunate to lose him at the start of the season, but I think we can all agree that if we could choose a player right now to step in, it would be Jordan. Everybody inside the locker room has been really happy, and we haven’t really spoken about Oba at all. If we thought there was something missing, there would be more chatter.”