Over the past few days, the Los Angeles Galaxy has welcomed Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard into the lineup, signed Mexican national team star Giovani dos Santos and crept to one point behind the Seattle Sounders atop the MLS Western Conference standings.
That’s not a bad few days, even by the standards of the five-time and defending MLS Cup champions.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders have lost four of their last five games. Newly signed midfielder Erik Friberg is working his way to game-readiness, but there seem to be no additional roster moves on the front burner.
And if one comes, general manager Garth Lagerwey says it will be an action and not a reaction, as Sounders FC has no interest in keeping up with the Joneses — including the Joneses of Carson, California.
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“I have zero interest in what the L.A. Galaxy does, and I never will,” Lagerwey said. “… We value ourselves enough where if we run a good organization the way we want to, then we will have success; and that’s what we have to believe. The Galaxy have had a ton or success, and they’re worthy of our respect. But they’re a different organization than we are.”
Whatever the Sounders do, MLS has provided new tools to do it. Revised roster rules include the creation of what is called targeted allocation money (TAM). It represents an infusion of $500,000 per team, which can be used in a variety of ways, perhaps most relevantly to buy down the impact of existing designated player contracts, thereby allowing the signing of an additional designated player.
That’s what the Galaxy did to sign dos Santos, who became the club’s third DP after TAM was used to drop Omar Gonzalez out of that status.
It’s something the Sounders could do with midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, currently on the books as a DP along with the vastly higher-paid Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
“You’re looking at $500,000 per team, times 20 teams; you’re talking about $10 million invested in new players. That can only be a good thing,” Lagerwey said. “… Good for the Sounders? Long-term, yeah. I don’t know if we’ll do anything this summer. We could. We might. But we’re going to do everything in the context of what’s good for us long term.”
It’s something like the internal debate you might feel when given a gift card. Do you treat it as mad money? Or do you pocket it until it’s time to purchase something you really need? The Sounders seem to be taking the latter course.
Yes, they are in the midst of a slump: three points from the last potential 15. But they believe that will last no more than the couple of weeks until Dempsey, Brad Evans and Marco Pappa return from international duty, and Martins and Stefan Frei recover from injury.
Lagerwey and coach Sigi Schmid note that when those players were in the lineup, Seattle had the best record in MLS.
In their absence, the problem has been the absence of goals: two in five games. But the club believes that problem vanishes when Dempsey and Martins reappear.
Even with newcomers Friberg and Thomás and the returning guys, Lagerwey says his wish list is topped by an attacking player who can handle a forward spot when Dempsey or Martins is out, then slide into an attacking midfield role when the club is at full strength.
“The transfer window’s open,” Lagerwey said. “That is at least arguably what they pay me for: to find players. … We might ultimately do something and we might not. Certainly we’re going to look — but we’re always looking. Right now we haven’t had a great run of results. We’re going to take a long-term view on what’s good for our team.”
Given the time needed for international paperwork and travel, no new help is coming before Saturday, when the Sounders return home against Colorado — although Frei and Friberg could join the mix.
Seattle goes into the weekend in a three-way tie with Vancouver and Dallas atop the West, one point ahead of Portland and L.A., and two up on Sporting Kansas City, which holds the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference, but with games in hand.
“It’s a very tight conference,” Schmid said. “It’s fortunate for us right now because everybody is sort of taking points off of each other as well. We’ve got a conference game this week with Colorado, and it’s important that we get three points.”