Sounders FC

Sounders add DP striker to rapidly changing roster

For the second time this week and the third time this summer, Seattle Sounders FC has reached out internationally for added skill and depth.

On Friday, the club landed what projects as the biggest fish of the haul, signing Paraguayan forward Nelson Valdez to a designated-player contract.

“His pedigree just doesn’t come around very much,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “… This is a guy that has played at the very highest level very recently, and he’s a guy that we think is going to transition (to MLS) quickly.”

With all the international paperwork behind him, Valdez joined the Sounders for Friday training. Coach Sigi Schmid called the team into a circle, introduced Valdez and had him say a few words to his new teammates — including Obafemi Martins, whom he previously played with at Russian club Rubin Kazan.

“I know Oba for a long time,” Valdez said, translated from Spanish. “And there are many other Latin players here as well. And I’ve been chatting with the coach for a little bit of time now, so I feel very happy and very comfortable.”

Valdez, 31, has 12 goals over 68 caps with the Paraguayan national team, including appearances in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and the 2011 and 2015 Copa America tournaments.

He has spent the past 15 seasons in the top leagues of Europe, including the German Bundesliga, where he scored 37 goals for Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund and more recently Eintracht Frankfurt.

He is listed as a forward — the same position as Seattle’s other designated players, Clint Dempsey and Martins.

“I prefer to play on the front,” he said. “But I talked to the coach about it and I can play anywhere on the front, but I can also play as a winger.”

Schmid declined to tip his lineup ideas for when all firepower is available — partly because that could still be a ways off. Dempsey is expected back in the lineup Sunday when the Sounders visit Los Angeles, although he left training early Friday in what Schmid called a precautionary move. Martins remains questionable with a leg injury that has kept him out since mid-June. And Valdez isn’t expected to make his Seattle debut until Aug. 16, when Orlando City visits.

“We also have five games in 14 days after this next game in L.A. when we go into the next series of games,” Schmid said. “There’s probably a little bit of rotation in there, and after we get through with that rotation we’ll figure out what’s the best way to get as many talented players on the field at the same time.”

MLS limits teams to three designated players, so the Sounders used the league’s newly instituted accounting tool called “targeted allocation money” to move midfielder Osvaldo Alonso off the books as a DP while not affecting his actual salary.

Valdez is the latest of three high-profile additions by the club, which started June 29 with the signing of midfielder Erik Friberg, and continued Tuesday with the signing of attacking midfielder Andres Ivanschitz. Friberg moved quickly into the starting 11, while Ivanschitz is expected to join the team for training next week now that his international paperwork is complete.

“We’ve added three starting-caliber players,” Lagerwey said. “Just doing the math, that’s 25 percent of a team. … It’s going to depend on how they come in and how they perform, but I think we made the group better.”

August projects as another busy month for the Sounders, with four more MLS games and two more CONCACAF Champions League matches — including a trip to Honduras.

Schmid believes there are plenty of games and plenty of time for the newcomers to find their roles and develop cohesion for the stretch run of this regular season.

“Our objective as always is to make the playoffs,” he said. “It’s something we’ve done every year; we don’t expect that to be different this year. Right now we’ve just got to get ourselves healthy and get everybody out there on the field, get everybody on the same page and get everybody out there competing for positions. That will make us a better team.”

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

SUNDAY: Seattle at Los Angeles, 1 p.m., ESPN, 97.3-FM

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