Even before the first kick of this MLS season, Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey predicted the club would be better late than early.
A third of the way through the season, the Sounders have started slowly — maybe even slower than Lagerwey had imagined. But in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday, he maintained that the team will be better in summer and better still by the end of the regular season — and the playoffs that he remains confident will follow.
Lagerwey said the surge will come from improvement of existing personnel, but also from the addition of two difference-making players he expects to sign in the summer transfer window that opens July 4. One will be a designated player, the other acquired through targeted allocation money.
“That’s (the formula),” he said. “Stay in the hunt right now, hopefully we can do well on this road trip (starting Saturday at New England), start banging in some goals that we think are likely to start coming at some point, add some talent and then hopefully be ready to make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Everything Lagerwey had to say is transcribed on the Sounders Insider blog at thenewstribune.com. For now, these 10 highlights:
▪ On the 4-6-1 start: “We aren’t and we can’t be satisfied with the number of points that we have right now. I think at times we’ve played better than our record might indicate, but of course the only thing that matters is the record.”
▪ On the transfer of DP Obafemi Martins: “If you remove the guy who was your team MVP and you don’t replace him, that’s not good for your team.”
▪ On why Martins was moved despite being under contract. “Players have leverage in certain situations, the club has leverage in certain situations. In Oba’s situation, I don’t think we had a choice but to let him go. We got a seven-figure transfer fee for him, which I think was at least some value.”
▪ On making no moves in the recent transfer window: “We had half a dozen guys — give or take — that we thought were really our top-tier targets. And as it played out, they were all either on teams battling relegation or contending for a title, and as a result none of our top five guys were available.”
▪ His philosophy on midseason coaching changes: “For all of us, we have more secure jobs — myself included — if the team wins. That’s what we’re focused on.”
▪ More on coach Sigi Schmid: “Sigi’s won more games than anybody else has, so there seems to be some evidence that he knows what he’s doing.”
▪ On if the current roster is underperforming: “We don’t want to be a below-.500 team. I think we’re better than that, I think Sigi thinks we’re better than that. We haven’t had some results, and in some games we’ve played pretty well. Hopefully that stuff evens out.”
▪ On progress elsewhere in the organization: “We’ve really reset the academy to be a bigger focus for the club. We’ve changed that staff pretty significantly in the last six months or so, we’ve added staff. We’re looking to make two hires that are open positions right now. All those are really good things.”
▪ On S2’s 1-5-4 record: “We had an older group last year that was probably prepared from Day One to come in and win soccer games, but that’s not the point of that team. The point of that team is to develop players and push them up to the first team. I think there are five or six guys on that team right now that could one day play for the Sounders.”
▪ On playing philosophy: “You’ve seen us start to become a more possession-based team. And you’ve seen us want to pass the ball and keep it on the ground a little bit more. We haven’t turned that into purposeful possession yet, we haven’t turned it into dangerous possession, but I think that’s the next step in our progress — especially as we look to add a couple of attacking players.”
▪ His message to worried fans: “There is a larger vision I would say at work, a longer-term vision of what we all want this club to look like and play like. We’ve taken our step backward I think in the first 10 games of the year, and hopefully we can use that to take two steps forward even in this season.”