The secondary MLS transfer window closed at 9:59 p.m. PT on Wednesday night, and the Seattle Sounders are pleased with their acquisitions as the club prepares for a run at its 10th straight postseason appearance.
Seattle locked up forward Raúl Ruidíaz to a multi-year Designated Player contract in June before bolstering the left side of the team on Wednesday by adding English Premier League fullback Brad Smith on loan from AFC Bournemouth. The Sounders are on a seven-match unbeaten streak, including four wins in a row, and are firing on all cylinders ahead of a crucial home match with Western Conference-leading FC Dallas on Sunday (7 p.m. PT; FS1, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS).
“We believe we have a good team,” General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey told media on Thursday. “We believe that the real team is the one we’ve seen in the last seven games, and not the one that was in the previous 15 games.”
Ruidíaz has acclimated well in his first month, and the 28-year-old Peruvian goalscoring machine has already showed why the Sounders invested so much money into him. He has a goal and an assist in 271 minutes, while being a constant nuisance to opposing center backs and opening space for others around him, including fellow forward Will Bruin in the brief 4-4-2 cameos with which Head Coach Brian Schmetzer has experimented.
“We’re really excited about our summer,” said Lagerwey. “We believe we added a franchise cornerstone in Raúl Ruidíaz. With him and [Nicolás Lodeiro] under contract for multiple years, we believe that’s a really solid foundation upon which to build.”
All Lodeiro has done since he’s arrived is record 16 goals and 26 assists, lead the team to back-to-back MLS Cup appearances, capture MLS Cup 2016, win Newcomer of the Year and establish himself as one of the best engines and facilitators in the league. His production with the addition of an elite finisher in Ruidíaz will have Seattle in a position to succeed for the years to come, which is why it’s so important to ensure that a Designated Player is the right one.
“[Designated Players] are three-to-five year decisions,” said Lagerwey. “I know it stinks to be patient sometimes, but the two we’ve done so far with Ruidíaz and Lodeiro, I think those guys are pretty good.
“If you miss on a DP, you don’t get do-overs on those,” he continued. “If you miss, you’re in a world of hurt. It’s like missing on a first-round quarterback.”
Smith at his first full training session | Jane Gershovich
The Sounders are just as confident in Smith, who joined Seattle on Wednesday on a season-long loan with a right of recall by Bournemouth in January. He is a talented and humble player eager for minutes who fits a specific area where the technical staff felt the club was lacking.
“Qualities we were looking for were speed and power,” explained Lagerwey. “We really wanted to have a fast option, particularly in a wide position. This is less about position than it is about a weakness within a group. It’s my job to give my coach as many good choices as possible and as many difficult choices as possible. This is exciting for us to have an EPL player on loan. It’s a market we haven’t been able to get into before, and it is something we’re interested in exploring now with the influx of money.”
The summer windows have been very kind to the Sounders in each of the last few years — the additions of Kelvin Leerdam and Víctor Rodríguez last year were vital to the team’s return to MLS Cup — and Lagerwey expects that trend to continue. At long last, the team is almost fully healthy and is yet again finding its stride when it counts.
“We accomplished our strategic objectives and we did it in a way that gives us flexibility moving forward as well while creating competition at every position on the field,” said Lagerwey. “I’m very, very excited about where we are.”