The offseason of change for the Seattle Sounders continued yesterday with the shocking trade of fan favorites Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to the Montreal Impact in exchange for 27 year old former US International Eddie Johnson.
The Sounders had a need for a consistent partner for Fredy Montero at forward, and the combination of Fucito, Sammy Ochoa, and Roger Levesque only had a total of seven MLS goals between them last season. Last year the Sounders had to count on goals coming from all over the field to make up for the lack of secondary production up top. While having that many scoring options at other positions is a real weapon, more goals from the forward position to go along with Montero’s 12 would undoubtedly be welcomed. Johnson’s record of scoring in the MLS and with the US National team mixed with a full season of Ochoa and the possible return of O’Brien White should help solve the problem.
From 2001 to 2007 Johnson scored 41 goals for FC Dallas and the Kansas City Wizards including his break out 15 goal season in 2007. After the 2007 season he signed with English Premiership team Fulham, but bounced around Europe on various loans for the next four years. His production abroad dropped sharply, but the Sounders are acquiring a player with a nose for the goal in MLS play and a guy coach Sigi Schmid thinks will be playing up top with Montero every week.
Unfortunately in order to acquire something you have to give something up, and GM Adrian Hanauer and Technical Director Chris Henderson made the tough decision to send the energetic Fucito and hometown hero Neagle to Montreal. Fucito is a player our fans love, and Montreal’s will too. He has a high motor, always outhustled and outworked defenders, and after a couple years watching Blaise N’kufo and Freddie Ljungberg mope around the field, the Sounders fans have become attached to the players that give us their full 90. There’s also something about seeing the little guy prevail over the big guys that the fans loved to see. Last year he started to deliver on a little of his promise, scoring two goals in MLS play and turning in a memorable two goal game in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Sounders have a wealth of talent in the midfield and despite his seven goals and two assists in all three competitions last year, Neagle was going to struggle to find significant minutes this season. It’s safe to say that Osvaldo Alonso will be starting at the holding midfield spot, and with leading assist man Mauro Rosales on the right and the combination of Alvaro Fernandez and Steve Zakuani (after his May or June return) on the left, the only starting spot left would be the center attacking midfielder in Sigi’s diamond midfield formation. That position should be filled by Brad Evans (if he can stay healthy this season) and possibly newly acquired Christian Sivebæk.
Neagle is better suited to be a winger, and although depth is important due to how many games the team will play this year between the MLS schedule, the end of this CONCACAF tournament and the beginning of the next, and hopefully another repeat in the US Open Cup, the Sounders front office felt Johnson was worth trading some depth for.
For three years the Sounders had to take the approach that the Mariners and Seahawks are currently taking of building their depth and loading up on young players with potential to become real contributors down the road. Now that they have a solid starting eleven and enough depth to cover the injuries and match congestion that come in a season, the time to pull the trigger on this type of deal was now. This trade is a message from the top that the time to win is now, and giving up two young players while their trade value is high for a piece the team has coveted since its inception is the type of move that could pay huge dividends for the team if Johnson can manage at least ten goals and take some heat off of Montero.