By John Boyle
Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer just did a conference call with local media to discuss the trade his team made Tuesday to acquire All-Star midfielder Shalrie Joseph. Hanauer not only talked about his team’s decision to add Joseph as its third designated player, but also the fact that, despite filling that third DP spot, Seattle is still looking to make a big-name addition.
“It was effectively the only way to get the deal done,” Hanauer said. “But all in all, we’re very happy with the deal, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. We realize that gives us three designated players between Mauro (Rosales), Christian (Tiffert) and Shalrie, but we also have two weeks left and we still have the ability to buy a player out if we decide to do that to open up a slot for a regular salaried player, or a design player spot if that was something we decided to do. Would we rather have not absorbed the designated player slot? Sure, but it was the only way to get a deal done.”
Hanauer and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid have said repeatedly that they hope to add another forward to replace Fredy Montero, and Hanauer acknowledged they’re still looking to “spend money on a big DP, and those plans haven’t changed.”
That could mean signing somebody in the next two weeks ahead of the March 2 season opener, or it could mean adding a player this summer after that player is finished with his season in Europe or some other part of the world. So how would Seattle add another DP when all three slots are filled? As Hanauer mentioned, they could buy out one of their three designated players, and of the three Tiffert seems by far the most likely candidate, or they could renegotiate a player’s contract to free up a DP spot. Tiffert, a late-season signing last year, has been injured through much of preseason training, and the addition of Joseph adds yet another talented player to an already crowded midfield.
“I’d be lying if I said that we’re not very interested in acquiring another forward, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a player who potentially could fill that designated player role, of which we’ve got three right now,” Hanauer said. “So that gives you a heads up that we all considering all of our options over the next couple of weeks.”
One player who has been rumored to be that potential DP is Argentine forward Javier Saviola, who currently plays for Spanish club Malaga, and in the past has played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Asked specifically about Saviola, Hanauer said the forward is a player they like, but noted that another team has “discovery rights” on him. That, however, wouldn’t necessarily stop a move from happening, Seattle would just have to compensate whichever team did own those rights if it were to try to sign Saviola.
“He’s a fantastic player, we rate him very highly,” Hanauer said. “I believe he’s discovered by another team in our league, so there are a lot of great players out there who we’d love to have on our team, but at this time there are no conversations and no progress directionally towards Saviola playing with the Sounders.”
Hanauer pointed out that while Joseph is taking a designated player slot, the Sounders won’t be paying his entire salary. And in addition to getting draft picks from Chivas for taking Joseph, Seattle also moved up in the allocation order from 15th to 3rd, which could help the Sounders land a future US National Team player who wants to come back to MLS from another league.
Hanauer said it is too soon to know exactly where Joseph will fit in with Seattle, nor did he know how long the 34-year-old plans on playing. He did concede that Joseph is not in top shape as of now, so he may not be ready to jump into a starting role immediately when the season begins.
While unrelated to the Joseph signing, Hanauer did say that “There’s a high likelihood” of Seattle signing defender Djimi Traore before the start of the season. Traore, 32, has been training with Seattle for the past couple of weeks, and would fill one of the team’s biggest needs at center back. Traore, who most recently played for Marseille, has an impressive résumé that includes a UEFA Champions League title won with Liverpool in 2005.