Sounders FC

Decisions loom as Sounders’ offseason begins

AP

On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders headed into an offseason that will be longer than they had hoped.

It also could be more eventful than some current players and staff would like.

Although the team was ousted from the Western Conference semifinals by the slightest of margins — a 3-3 aggregate-score series finally decided by penalty kicks — general manager Garth Lagerwey had indicated last week that an early exit from the playoffs could cause changes that an MLS Cup victory wouldn’t.

“If you lose in the first round to a young, hungry team … you’d say it would be foolish of us not to consider some of the things they’re doing,” Lagerwey said last week. “But again, I think we’re doing a lot of things right here. … You’ve got to figure out what’s right for you. But those are offseason conversations to plan and think about.”

Lagerwey was not available to the media after the season ended Sunday at Toyota Stadium. However, coach Sigi Schmid was asked if he believes the team’s core could return next season and contend for an MLS Cup.

“That’s something that I’ve got to think about, and we’ll make decisions on that,” he said. “I thought the team did well considering all the obstacles and all the difficulties we’ve had this season, with all the injuries and people being out. … At the end of the day I think they showed a lot of character, a lot of desire. The three games in a week, winning all three of those games. And pulling back today when we went down 1-0. I think there’s a lot of character that’s really been brought out by this team. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough.”

Last week, Lagerwey was asked whether Schmid being brought back for an eighth season in Seattle was one of those offseason decisions that could be influenced by playoff results. He declined to comment, noting that such a move might not even be his to make.

However, after the match Schmid made clear that he wants to return, regardless of the disappointing finish, and regardless of the two games he missed this season because of a still-undisclosed health issue.

“But obviously that’s not my decision,” he said. “That’s ownership’s decision, and they’ll decide that. But I feel fine, and I still feel capable of coaching.”

The Sounders’ final starting lineup averaged about 30 years of age, including designated players Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez, who are 32, 31 and 31, respectively.

In the end, they were ousted by a Dallas team whose 11 starters averaged about 24 years of age.

“We’re not looking right now in terms of evaluating how long can this core stay together,” Schmid said last week. “We’re together right now. The moment is right now. We need to take advantage of this moment.”

Now the moment has passed, and an offseason has begun.

The Sounders are expected to report back to camp around mid-January, preparing for the quarterfinals of CONCACAF Champions League and another run at the MLS Cup.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808

druiz@thenewstribune.com

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