Indications are that forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins will return to the Seattle Sounders’ lineup Saturday against Houston.
Kenny Cooper, however, is gone for good.
After missing four weeks of training with what was described as an “excused absence,” the club announced Thursday that Cooper has been placed on waivers. If he is not signed by another team, the Sounders will buy out his existing contract — but that would not count against the MLS salary cap.
“Every player has a value relative to the world market, and you look at who can I sign from abroad relative to what I can get from this player on this contract in the league,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “That’s the decision we made, and that’s why we moved on from Kenny.”
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Cooper, 30, came to Seattle in a December 2013 trade that sent Adam Moffat and allocation money to FC Dallas. In his lone season as a Sounder, Cooper had three goals and four assists in 22 appearances, including 12 starts.
Over eight MLS seasons, Cooper has 75 goals and 20 assists. However, a month into the season in a salary-capped league, Lagerwey said the club couldn’t find a market for Cooper, who last season had a salary of $200,000 and total compensation of $266,625.
“I’d prefer to trade him,” Lagerwey said. “But there was not a market that we were able to explore. A lot of teams … were anticipating potentially a higher cap, so guys with a higher number, it’s a little more challenging to move them in the short term.”
Even with Cooper’s absence, Lagerwey seemed to think the club is well stocked at the position.
“I like Vic Mansaray a lot,” he said. “I think he’s done a great job as a young player. We have Lamar Neagle, who can play up there. I know Chad (Barrett) had a frustrating night the other night, but at the same time, he’s a guy who has averaged seven goals a year for the last couple of years. My job as the GM is not to specifically focus on one game, but to look at the long-term stuff. I think we have options up top.”
That could be especially true this week as both of the club’s starting forwards declared themselves ready after missing the match last week at Dallas: Dempsey with a hamstring injury and Martins with a quadriceps injury.
“After the (March 24 friendly with Club Tijuana) I was feeling a lot of pain,” Martins said. “Now I’m ready to go.”
Dempsey: “I feel good. I was able to get some good training sessions in this week — back in full training for a few training sessions now. Looking forward for the weekend. (Whether I’m in for full 90 minutes) is not really up to me, but I feel good in training, my numbers look good, and I’ll be wanting to start.”
Midfielder Marco Pappa also said he will be ready after playing 80 minutes with the Guatemalan national team on Wednesday.
Coach Sigi Schmid also said central defender Chad Marshall (neck) has been cleared to return. However, Schmid also indicated that while defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso has recovered from his groin injury, he might need additional time to build game fitness.