Seattle Sounders FC announced on Tuesday the departure of General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. After eight years with the Rave Green, Lagerwey joins Atlanta United as the club’s President & CEO.
Under Lagerwey’s leadership, the club achieved major milestones and made impressive strides at every level of the organization. Here are 10 key accomplishments during Lagerwey’s tenure in Seattle:
Concacacaf Champions League
In his own words, this one was “for immortality.”
Ever since joining the Sounders ahead of the 2015 season, Lagerwey was vocal in his desire to win the Concacaf Champions League. On May 4, the Sounders accomplished that mission as they became first MLS club to win CCL, defeating Pumas UNAM 3-0 in front of a sold-out crowd at Lumen Field to win the final 5-2 aggregate. That historic achievement booked Seattle a berth in the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup.
Prior to Lagerwey’s hire, the Sounders had already established themselves as perennial trophy contenders, winning four U.S. Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield between 2009-14. Lagerwey was brought into the organization, in part, to help secure the one trophy that had eluded them: MLS Cup.
The Rave Green won their first MLS Cup in 2016 on the road in Toronto before lifting the trophy once again in 2019 in front of 70,000 fans at Lumen Field.
Player development has been one of the key pillars of Lagerwey’s time with the Sounders organization. With a greater emphasis on sustainably producing players and integrating them into the First Team, the club overhauled its Academy system and utilized the Tacoma Defiance to test top prospects in a professional environment.
Since 2015, Sounders Academy teams have won a slew of domestic and international trophies, including a USSDA national championship in 2018 and the Generation adidas Cup in 2019 and 2022.
One of Lagerwey’s first marquee signings was Jordan Morris as a Homegrown Player back in 2016. A highly touted prospect who had suitors in the German Bundesliga, Morris instead decided to sign with his hometown club, going on to win several trophies and break into the U.S. Men’s National Team. In recent seasons, players like Obed Vargas, Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva have broken into the First Team and made meaningful contributions as teenagers.
One of those players, Cristian Roldan, came via a shrewd acquisition in the MLS SuperDraft. Back in 2015, Lagerwey brokered a trade with Real Salt Lake on SuperDraft day to acquire the 16th pick, which the club then used to select Roldan.
A few years later in 2018, Lagerwey and the Sounders staff selected Cristian’s younger brother, Alex, who has blossomed into one of the best right backs in MLS and an El Salvador international.
In 2016, Lagerwey and his staff executed a player signing that altered the course of club history.
Nicolás Lodeiro joined the club midway through the season, with the Sounders dwelling toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Uruguayan midfielder spurred an unprecedented run in the second half of the season that culminated not only in making the playoffs but lifting MLS Cup for the first time.
Lodeiro is widely recognized as one of the greatest signings in league history and redefined expectations for Designated Players.
Two years after acquiring Lodeiro, the Sounders made another signing that altered the course of MLS history in Raúl Ruidíaz. Throughout his five seasons in Seattle, the Peruvian international has won an MLS Cup, a CCL trophy, and has twice been named to the MLS Best XI. In addition to 59 goals and 11 assists in 97 regular season appearances, Ruidíaz is arguably the greatest striker in MLS postseason history with nine goals and six assists in just 11 appearances.
In another somewhat under-the-radar signing, the Sounders secured the services of João Paulo ahead of the 2020 MLS season. The Brazilian No. 6 has quickly established himself as both a fan favorite and one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. João Paulo was even named as a finalist for MLS MVP in 2021 – a rarity for a player in his position.
Initially brought in on loan, João Paulo was signed as Designated Player in 2021 before being converted to a TAM player in 2022, which paved the way for signing Albert Rusnák.
With the club’s sights set on winning the 2022 Concacaf Champions League, Lagerwey and his staff went on all-in on roster building during the offseason. That resulted in the biggest free agent signing in league history as Albert Rusnák joined the club from Real Salt Lake as a Designated Player. Rusnák played a pivotal role throughout the CCL run, including a star-turn performance in the 3-0 win over Pumas in Leg Two of the final.