For most of the Seattle Sounders’ two-month tumble, goal scoring has been a bigger problem than goal preventing.
However, the Sounders made a major move to shore up their back end Wednesday with the signing of Panama national team defender Román Torres.
“This was a question of a good player that became available and a deal that we couldn’t pass up on,” Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “I think it gives us a little more tactical flexibility.”
The Sounders have lost eight of their last nine MLS matches, including four 1-0 defeats. However, Seattle has allowed three goals in each of its last two league games, including a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on Sunday.
In Torres, the Sounders believe they have a defender who can also help on the attacking end.
“He gives you another target on set pieces,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “It makes it a little bit harder to match up on (center back Chad) Marshall. … Anytime you add another offensive element to the attack it’s good.”
Torres’ reputation rose last month during the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He was the Panama player called for the controversial handball that allowed Mexico to pull even and eventually win its semifinal match. And after Mexico advanced, Torres worked to calm flaring tempers.
“I thought he had a good Gold Cup,” Schmid said. “I thought he handled himself really well as the captain of the team in a big fracas at the end of the game. But I thought he showed a lot of character.”
Terms of the Seattle deal were not announced. However, the Sounders used MLS’ new targeted allocation money.
Torres, 29, is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. He has spent the past 11 seasons in the top leagues of South American and Central American soccer, most recently with Millonarios of Colombia. He is a native of Panama City and has 79 appearances with his national team.
“What I bring the most here is my strength, my aggressiveness of playing,” Torres said, translated from Spanish. “I’m also very good at playing with my teammates. … I have been able to practice very well with everybody else. Now I’m just waiting for instructions from the coach about what he wants me to do and hopefully earn a (starting role).”
The assumption is that Torres will start alongside Marshall in the middle of the Seattle defense. That would keep Zach Scott in his current reserve role, while perhaps allowing Brad Evans to move outside or return to his former midfield duties.
“Zach’s a lion, and he fights and he battles, and he’s still an important member of our team,” Schmid said. “But how many more years does Zach have? We really don’t know at this stage. He’s an important member. It just gives us options. And right now with Ozzie (Osvaldo Alonso) being injured, we used Brad in the midfield in that last game, so it gives us that option of pushing Brad into midfield if we need it.”
When Evans was shifted to central defense at the beginning of this season, he asked that he be allowed to stay there all season. However, Schmid said he talked with Evans in advance of the Torres move. “We’re good,” he said.
Schmid said Torres is expected to be in uniform Sunday when the Sounders meet expansion Orlando City SC at CenturyLink Field. Also available should be Seattle’s high-profile additions from last week: forward Nelson Valdez and midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
The club gave its most optimistic indications yet that forward and goals co-leader Obafemi Martins could return from a leg injury that has kept him out throughout this nine-game swoon.
However, Schmid indicated that midfielder Alonso and forwards Clint Dempsey and Chad Barrett need more time to recover from hamstring injuries.
SUNDAY: Orlando City FC at Seattle, 2 p.m., ESPN2, 97.3-FM