Following the closure of the secondary transfer window, Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey spoke to media at Starfire Sports on Thursday.
Lagerwey fielded questions about the state of the roster and objectives for the rest of the campaign. One theme that emerged was the desire for maintaining consistency and stability – two hallmarks of the club’s roster building strategy under Lagerwey. It’s an approach that has yielded winning the 2019 MLS Cup, appearances in the 2020 MLS Cup and 2021 Leagues Cup Final, and becoming the first MLS side to win Concacaf Champions League.
With most of the squad secured the 2023, it left little wiggle room for this season without making wholesale changes to the roster next year.
“The positive is that everybody on the team is signed, excluding Jimmy Medranda," said Lagerwey. "The downside of that is everyone is on a wage that makes it very, very difficult to do anything [this year].”
Another theme from the Lagerwey’s presser was that the decision to move forward with the current roster was, ultimately, a vote of confidence in the group from the front office.
“The second layer is to ask would it be appropriate to break up the team that won Champions League three months ago,” he said. “I thought that was a really bad message. These guys that have grinded for us, that have put it in, that have done something historic and made it an immortal team.
“We believe in them, and we should believe in them. This was the best team on the continent three months ago. To put ourselves in a position where we had to break the group up after the season, that didn’t make any sense to us.”
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The MLS salary cap can be a complex structure for even the closest followers of the league to fully comprehend. As Lagerwey explained, most of the club’s acquisitions of Allocation Money in various trades this season have been to stay roster compliant next year, given the back-loaded nature of many of the contracts.
Lagerwey also noted that the front office didn’t stand pat during the past few months. They chased down countless leads, trying to thread the needle to bring in a player that could contribute this season without having to offload multiple players they value highly next year. While they did target some assistance in central midfield and on the wing, any such players on a long-term deal would likely become redundant when 2021 MLS MVP finalist João Paulo returns from injury and Cristian Roldan moves back to the wing.
“The good news is that by taking that approach, we can keep the team for next year,” noted Lagerwey. “That was the decision that we made. It was a vote of confidence for the group that won the Champions League.”
To be clear, the decision to move forward with the current group doesn’t signal a change in the club’s goals for this season. For a club with a history of contending for trophies ever year the objective remains the same: win MLS Cup.
“We won a title in May,” said Lagerwey. “The group deserves a chance to repeat in November. So, that’s the decision we made.”