Following the league-wide release of protected player lists ahead of Wednesday’s MLS Expansion Draft, Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson caught-up with SoundersFC.com to discuss the club’s recent roster decisions.
What are your thoughts on the 11 players the club chose to protect in Wednesday’s Expansion Draft?
“It’s always a difficult decision to protect just 11 players on your roster. There are so many factors to consider on the team side and the player side, as well. We have a lot of great players to choose from because we’ve made it a priority to have a deep roster that can compete in all competitions. We wish we could protect more, but unfortunately it’s a reality of our sport, so we have to make some tough decisions.”
There are some veteran players on Sounders FC’s unprotected list. When you make these decisions on specific personnel, is there a calculated risk for the technical staff?
“Yeah, there is. You have to look at the whole team. It’s a difficult decision having to pick 11 guys. We’ve all discussed things and debated it, and there’s a lot that goes into it with regards to age and player form, contracts, the future of the team and where we’re going. We’ve had some really tough decisions and you can only protect 11, so there’s many times we wish we could protect 15, but we had to cut off the line. We keep our fingers crossed leading into this draft. Sometimes you take risk and you leave a player out there and you can get by without losing someone.”
Sounders FC did not make any transactions this morning during the half-day trade window. To your point about depth, is that a result of this roster being in strong shape heading into 2015?
“I think there’s different reasons that teams make moves. Sometimes there’s a foreign player limit —there’s a certain number of international players that you can have on your roster, which means you’re forced to protect a certain amount of foreign players — so that could have been a reason for players moving. Also, people are seeing if this is an opportunity to improve their team and they expect to protect that player in the expansion draft. You wouldn’t want to make a trade today and then not protect that player and lose him to expansion. I think we’re in a situation where we’re really happy with our roster. We’re always looking to improve, but I think we’re happy with where we’re at today.”
Do you expect to lose a player or two in the Expansion Draft on Wednesday?
“Yeah. We’ve lost players in the past, so I think there’s a chance we lose someone, but when you look through the list there’s a lot of very good players on that list. But when there are two teams picking, you think there’s a good chance we lose someone. I think we have a history of being a team that has a deep roster and has been able to compete in numerous competitions, so we hope we don’t lose any players and we can keep everyone here in Seattle.”
What do you think of the full list of the unprotected players from around MLS?
“It’s a very good list. I wish this list looked like this when we were choosing. Even Mauro Rosales – who was a DP for us – is out there. Some of these guys are going to be Re-Entry Draft-eligible, as well, so there’s going to be a lot of movement in the next months here of players changing teams, but I think Orlando City and NYCFC are in a good position to build quality team — teams that can compete right away.”
There’s a lot going on in the coming weeks after the Expansion Draft, with the Re-Entry Drafts and trade windows. What are your thoughts on the month ahead?
“It’s a really busy time for us in the offseason. There’s a lot of quality players who are going to go into Re-Entry Draft Stage One. Usually Stage One is less active than Stage Two, where you can find players and there’s some negotiating, so I think there’s going to be some players picked. We’re going to have our eyes on some players, as well. If the player fits for us, then we’ll make the move if it can help our roster. I think the coaches have been working hard, the back-office staff has been doing everything we can with research of players and talking with agents and different people about the players. We’re working hard.”
Without giving away your competitive advantage, what on-field needs are the club looking to address this offseason?
“Defense is something — we have some players in the back who are getting a little bit older, so we want to make sure we have a good balance there. I think bringing in a defender is something we’ll look for. With Marcus Hahnemann leaving, also a goalkeeper is something we’ll look at, too, to support Stefan Frei. We’ll look to strengthen at that position, as well. We need to look through our Homegrown Players and see who’s in good form and who’s available there because those players are obviously intriguing players for us — we can get them signed for free in regards to transfer fee and giving-up something in a trade. Adding some more in the midfield, as well, is another position we’d look at."