By John Boyle Herald Writer
TUKWILA — Sounders FC wanted to add a difference-maker, but to do so, Seattle had to let one go.
Seattle signed German midfielder Christian Tiffert on Friday, the final day of Major League Soccer’s transfer window. And because the 30-year-old with extensive experience in Germany’s top league comes to Sounders FC as a designated player — MLS’s term for highly paid players whose salaries count only partially toward a team’s salary cap — signing Tiffert meant parting ways with an existing designated player, midfielder Alvaro Fernandez. MLS allows teams just three DPs, and Sounders FC was already at its limit with Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Fernandez, so to make room for Tiffert, Seattle traded Fernandez to the Chicago Fire for allocation money.
“That was a very, very difficult decision for us to make,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said on a conference call. “(Fernandez) has fit into the team very well, the guys like him, he’s done very well for us … We’re sorry to see Alvaro go.”
As well as Fernandez fit in — he was second on the team last season with nine goals — Seattle sees Tiffert as an even better fit. Tiffert plays mostly as a central midfielder, and both Hanauer and Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid praised him not just for his creative ability on the field, but also for his leadership. For a team that has parted ways with a few important veterans in recent years, most notably former team captain Kasey Keller, Tiffert’s leadership should provide a boost.
Tiffert, who has played 12 professional seasons in Germany and Austria, spent the past two seasons with FC Kaiserslautern in Germany’s Bundesliga and was the team’s captain. Two seasons ago he led the league with 17 assists and the team finished seventh in the league standings, but last season the team finished last in the Bundesliga, leading to its relegation to the second division, and causing Tiffert to seek a new playing opportunity.
“We wanted someone there with playmaking abilities, which he’s demonstrated in the Bundesliga over the last few of years,” Schmid said on a conference call. “… He’s a player who can play-make and help run our game, a guy with a lot of experience, and a guy who has been captain of his team, so he’ll help us as well from a leadership standpoint.”
Tiffert has to obtain a P-1 Visa before joining the team, something Schmid said will happen quickly, and when he does arrive, Schmid expects Tiffert to be in good shape having been in preseason training with Kaiserslautern.
And Sounders FC likely isn’t done making moves in what Hanauer described as “an absolutely chaotic, hectic three or four days.” While nothing has been announced yet, Hanauer said the team is in talks with Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez. Martinez, who turns 23 next week, is currently in England playing for Honduras in the Olympics.
“There’s nothing official on Mario, but pretty advanced negotiations,” Hanauer said. “… If we in fact are able to add Mario, he’s an exciting young player.”
Assuming the Martinez deal does go through, he could step into the left wing spot vacated by Fernandez. In the short term, Schmid said Alex Caskey is an option as is Brad Evans or even defenders Leo Gonzalez and Marc Burch. Steve Zakuani was Seattle’s starting left wing before his leg injury last year, and is slowly working his way back into action, but Martinez would be an intriguing option out wide.
“He’s a young player that we’ve been tracking for a while now,” Schmid said. “He’s got a very good left foot, he’s got a good shot from distance. … He’s a player who we think has a big upside.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.