Sounders Weekly: The Pre-Season is Here, and it Brings News

Sounders kicked-off their pre-season this weekend, with it comes notes from the event and the week as a whole.

In case you weren’t one of the crazy 50 or so individuals who showed up this weekend, and had forgotten, the Sounders kicked off the start to their pre-season this weekend. Their ever searching quest to bring trophies and glory to the city of Seattle started in Tukwila and the Starfire training compound. The day itself, the launching of a season, is less about the news and various comments by the coaching staff, front office types and various arrivals of off-season additions. It’s more of a ringing bell that tolls in an effort to convey to us all that the start of the season is nearing. And while it wasn’t expected we did have notable details surface about this club heading into 2014.

 

The Sounders look to use their buy out option.

One very large piece of news for all of us supporters was Sharlie Joseph not in camp. Head coach Sigi Schmid later cleared up the details and the roster situation announcing that Joseph was “not a part of the team’s plan going forward”. Joshua Mayers of the Seattle times has since speculated, and it’s largely agreed upon by most on social media, that a buy out would seem to loom for the former e at this point.

Obviously, there are not very many clubs who would part with a resource in return for someone they believe they can have for free. That makes logical sense. The one real caveat to that is if there ends up a market for him–with multiple teams interested in his services. At that point maybe the Sounders could gain a late round draft pick or an international slot in lieu of the oft injured midfielder by someone trying to jump ahead of others in that unlikely event.

I don’t see that happening and fully expect a resolution in the coming days.

The real question is what does a buy out of Joseph mean to the Sounders? Simply put: it frees up more money. A buy out of Joseph has been said by a few different individuals (Dave Clark, Oshan, Mayers) that it would create free cap space. How much is obviously an unknown as there is still some questions surrounding the state of his contract after it being restructured last year. Before this news Adrian Hanauer and Sounders were sitting with enough free cash — by the account of Hanauer himself on the Nos Audietis podcast — to sign an impact talent.

Now whether that statement was issued already taking into account Joseph’s situation is a guess for anyone but Hanauer. What we do know is that the Sounders have money to still change the landscape of this roster. Which is huge even if they don’t take advantage of it until the middle of the season.

The Amoeba formation

Sigi Schmid not only took time to comment on Joseph and his absence but also had somethings to say about a 2014 formation set. Credit, once again, to the Sounder at Heart folks for the quotes from the Sounders coach.

“It’s like I always say, people get too hung up in ‘Is it a diamond midfield? Is it a 4-4-2? Is it a 4-2-3-1?’ It’s all about how players play on different parts of the field. Players like to play in certain areas of the field and they like to drift to certain areas. We just need to construct a system, if you want to call it that, and place guys on the field where they can compliment each other and be able to take advantage of where they like to play and what they do well.

Quickly it’s already been coined the Amoeba formation, by Sounder[at]Heart/MLSsoccer columnist and lover of the army style cap–I assume based only internet photos–Jeremiah Oshan.

I’m a huge fan of basically everything Schmid said. I’ve talked about it quite a bit over at American Soccer Analysis about formation but in an effort to summarize my thoughts; formations are crutch. Their fine in the construct of trying to convey a role. Yet they limit the real function of the player. Players should be acquired to perform in a specific space and in a specific manner with the idea that they exist to execute a vision.

Pursuing this open type of formation where things are in flux depending on whether they have the ball and are attacking or they don’t could potentially explain some of the off-season moves. Chad Barrett, Kenny Cooper a long with Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins form a set of veterans in the forward position with Clint Dempsey with his flexibility could double in the capacity of a striker or, more likely with the Sounders, a midfielder and creative type. Dempsey obviously is a bit of a roaming piece. That means you have to surround him with other pieces that can work with that or can somehow incorporate that into how they are deployed.

It’s obviously a very tricky and complex formula and it’s something that I’m sure we’ll be talking about even far into the season.

Possible Moves Still On the Horizon

As Madison alluded to last week the Sounders could still add to their roster. The Philadelphia Union look to secure the talents of US international Maurice Edu from Stoke City. Once that move is complete, which could already be done, it will move the Sounders into the #1 spot in the allocation order. This will enable them to do one of two things.

1) They could use it to obtain and sign former Chicago Fire starlet Marco Pappa, A creative midfielder who has already resigned with MLS and is awaiting his turn to be dispensed through the allocation process. By all accounts he’s a natural fit on the left side which is obviously a boon for the Sounders who need someone to fit in on the left side.

OR

2) The Chicago Fire and new head coach Frank Yallop have already voiced their interest in seeing their former play maker return to the club for the 2014 season. The Sounders could be reasonably scared off by the lack of time that Pappa has seen on the pitch over his time in the Eredivisie. He’s largely been buried on the back of the bench this past season which prompted a return back to MLS.

The Sounders could reap the rewards of what Chicago could offer them, though, admittedly it’s not much at this point. Chicago would need to find a way to free up cap space. They didn’t exactly do themselves any favors when they fell all over themselves trying to acquire Jhon Kennedy Hurtado two weeks ago, taking on his contract and that of Patrick Ianni’s too. You already know the end of this story, they gave Seattle the relatively positional inexpensive Jalil Anibaba.

A one of avenues, of many, that could be explored to clear cash for the Fire is the Sounders taking on the complete brunt of Dilly Duka’s salary while also maybe exploring the possibility of raiding the Chicago Fire cupboard and asking for the home-grown rights of someone like Collin Fernandez or … whomever else. There are some inventive ways to extract value, take on salary and still work out a deal.

One other possibility that has been talked about quite a bit is the fact that Toronto still has needs and is the owner of the #3 spot in the allocation order. They also have Matias Laba who needs a good home. But more importantly the #3 spot in the allocation order, if that interested the Sounders. It’s possible that a three-way deal with these other clubs could be executed to extract the value they would expect in a deal to pass on Pappa.

Regardless of what happens I would expect this to be a busy week for the Seattle Sounders front office and fans alike. There are some important decisions to make and a roster to finalize.