After a week of moves that reshaped the roster, Seattle Sounders FC on Tuesday announced the biggest change yet, sending two-time team goals leader Eddie Johnson to D.C. United for allocation money.
“It was a large amount (of) allocation money, which will help make some of the roster moves that either we have already made (or) will continue to make in the not-too-distant future,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said in a conference call. “This was the best solution for us to manage the roster the way we need to manage it and hopefully get us in a position to compete for a championship in 2014.”
Johnson, 29, was the Sounders’ goals leader in both of his seasons since coming to Seattle in a trade with the Montreal Impact. His 23 regular-season goals rank second on the Sounders’ career list. He also ranks second with eight game-winning goals, and he is the club’s career leader with three playoff goals.
However, his second season in Seattle also was dotted with off-field issues, one of which caused coach Sigi Schmid to banish him from a training session in the last week of the regular season. Johnson also complained publicly about his $150,000 salary, and in late August celebrated a goal by rubbing his fingers together and mouthing the words, “Pay me.”
Hanauer said the trade came down to money far more than the off-field issues.
“There were some minor incidents, but minor incidents happen on every team with many players,” he said. “I know the speculation is going to be there were these other massive issues, but, really, when it came down to it, this was about getting our team balanced in a way from back to front that gives us the best chance of winning. Eddie obviously wanted to make more money, which sort of started this process down the path that it’s gone.”
The Johnson trade follows other offseason moves in which the club:
• Re-signed defender Leo Gonzalez, midfielders Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso, and reserve goalkeeper Josh Ford.
• Parted with starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, defender Marc Burch and midfielders Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales and Adam Moffat.
• Acquired goalkeeper Stefan Frei, central defender Chad Marshall, midfielder Tristan Bowen and forward Kenny Cooper. (Hanauer indicated the club is down to the details on new contracts for Bowen and Cooper.)
Hanauer cited salary-cap issues for the partings with Gspurning, Zakuani and Rosales and said he regretted seeing them go.
However, he also cited some advantage in shaking up the roster after a disappointing 15-12-7 regular season — fourth place in the Western Conference — and elimination by Portland in the conference semifinal playoff series.
“It’s been five years,” Hanauer said. “Obviously a lot of success — maybe not the pinnacle of success in our league. But this last year was inconsistent, so I guess we wanted to shake that up and try to create a scenario where we have more consistency. And it wasn’t the best locker room we’ve had. The locker-room thing is a combination of a lot of factors, but it’s something we considered.”
Hanauer said more changes are coming, and they could involve all parts of the field. He added that he hopes to have most of the roster settled before the club reports to training camp in about a month.
“We do have pretty good flexibility now,” he said. “I would count on one or two more pretty major signings, potentially. I think it’s fair to say with Mauro and Steve going, that width in the midfield would potentially be an area looking at. We could potentially still be interested in getting better defensively, another spot in the midfield, or potentially adding another forward. I would say we’re still pretty far from the finished product.”
Hanauer said it is likely that designated player Clint Dempsey will go out on loan this offseason. The club expects to soon re-sign reserve goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who played for Kentridge High and Seattle Pacific University. Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft will be held Wednesday. Midfielder Blair Gavin is the only Sounders player eligible for selection.
KICKING AROUND THE ROSTER
It’s been a busy offseason for Seattle Sounders FC. A look at the moves the Major League Soccer club has made so far:
Forward Eddie Johnson (to D.C. United)
Midfielder Mauro Rosales (to Chivas USA)
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (declined option)
Midfielder Adam Moffatt (to Dallas)
Midfielder Steve Zakuani (to Portland)
Midfielder/defender Marc Burch (to Colorado)
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei (from Toronto)
Defender Chad Marshall (from Columbus)
Forward Tristan Bowen (from Chivas USA)
Forward Kenny Cooper (rights to contract from Dallas)
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