Busy Week For Sounders Image

Sounders finish busy week after flurry of player moves

The retooling club is looking for big improvements in 2014 and made a number of bold moves to see that happen.

It has been a hectic week in Rave Green to say the least.

Sounders FC parted ways with some players who had grown to be fan favorites, but in the process added four players that could very well become fan favorites as well.

The haul for Seattle includes two former MLS Best XI players, an up-and-coming goalkeeper and the first Homegrown Player signed in Major League Soccer, as Sounders FC builds towards the 2014 season while also adding other assets to help piece the puzzle together.

The first acquisition came on Tuesday, as Seattle sent a conditional draft pick to Toronto FC in exchange for goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

The 27-year-old product of the University of California, Berkeley, was a three-year starter in Toronto from 2009-2011 before a broken fibula kept him out of action in 2012 and he didn’t regain his starting position in 2013. In 82 starts, he went 20-35-25 with 19 career shutouts. The 13th overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Frei was named Toronto FC Humanitarian of the Year in 2010.

“Stefan is a goalkeeper we have liked for a number of years,” said Head Coach Sigi Schmid. “He is a quality professional who brings experience and leadership to the position. Adding Stefan at this point of his career was very attractive to us.”

Continuing to assist in the efforts to improve on the defensive side of the ball, Seattle then added Chad Marshall in a trade on Thursday, sending a third round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money to the Columbus Crew.

Marshall, 29, is a two-time MLS Defender of the Year winner and appeared on the MLS Best XI in 2008 and 2009. Since then, he has remained a stalwart at the back for the Crew, starting in 110 of their 132 matches over the last four seasons.

A 6-foot-4 Stanford product, Marshall shores up Seattle’s set piece defense and also provides a target on the offensive side, as is evidenced by his 16 goals in 10 MLS seasons.

Then on Friday, another 2008 Best XI player joined the fold when Seattle added veteran forward Kenny Cooper and allocation money from FC Dallas in exchange for midfielder Adam Moffat.

“Kenny is a proven goal scorer who is extremely active in the box,” Schmid said. “At 6’3”, he is a big forward who creates matchup problems for opposing defenders.”

Cooper, 29, has seven years of MLS experience. In his first four seasons with FC Dallas, he had 40 goals and 10 assists in 90 matches, earning Best XI and Comeback Player of the Year honors when he scored 18 goals in 30 matches in 2008.

After two seasons with TSV 1860 Munich in Germany’s second division, he returned to MLS, scoring eight goals in 34 matches with the Portland Timbers before a trade to the New York Red Bulls. There, he scored 18 goals again in 2012, but was moved back to Dallas in the off-season. Last year he was second in scoring for FC Dallas with six goals. In total, he has 72 goals in 188 MLS matches, ranking seventh among active players.

Additionally, Seattle sent former captain Mauro Rosales to Chivas USA for forward Tristan Bowen, also swapping spots in the Allocation ranking with Chivas, taking over the No. 2 spot while Chivas moves to No. 13.

Bowen is a five-year MLS veteran at just 22 years old, still with plenty of potential. He had two goals and two assists in 22 appearances for Chivas last season, giving him four goals and six assists in 48 matches in his career. He was the first player signed to the league through the Homegrown Player initiative in 2009.

Trading Rosales, an important part of the organization over the last three years, was a difficult price to pay, but moving to the No. 2 spot in the allocation ranking allows Seattle flexibility to add talent if players from the U.S. National Team come to MLS or if players who were previously sold to foreign clubs return to the league.

“Mauro has been an important part of our organization, both on and off the field, for the past three years,” said Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer. “It will be difficult to see him leave, but our salary cap situation made this decision necessary. We wish Mauro the very best at Chivas.”

Along with Rosales and Moffat, Seattle also announced that two-year starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning would not return to the team in 2014. In 2012, Gspurning was a Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year finalist, posting a 0.73 goals against average in helping Seattle reach the Western Conference Championship match for the first time in club history, a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup final and in 2013 an appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal. However, an inconsistent season in 2013 and the availability of Frei moved Seattle in another direction.

“He was a goalkeeper that I think was the right choice and was the right person to bring in,” Schmid said. “If we can do something in the goalkeeping area that allows us to use some money from there and use it in other areas, that’s something that’s beneficial to us as a club as well.”

Steve Zakuani and Marc Burch were taken in Stage 1 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Thursday. Zakuani was the second player selected, going to the Portland Timbers, and Burch was the fourth player chosen, going to the Colorado Rapids.

Zakuani played five years in Seattle and showed potential to be a star in the league with his 10 goals and six assists in 2010, but injuries have since plagued him, limiting him to just 22 matches in the last three seasons.

Burch played two seasons in Seattle, splitting time at left back with Leo Gonzalez in 2012 before Gonzalez seized the starting role in 2013.

Just one week into the offseason, there will surely be more tinkering before the 2014 season kicks off on March 8 when Seattle hosts Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field.