By John Boyle
Following a disappointing finish to the 2013 season, Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer hinted that some significant change could be coming to his team’s roster. Actually, come to think of it, he pretty much flat out said change was coming, and on Monday it became more evident than ever that next year’s team will be significantly different than the one Seattle fielded this season.
The Sounders announced Monday that they have declined the option on Michael Gspurning, the team’s starting goalkeeper for the past two seasons. Major League Soccer also announced Monday the list of players available in the league’s re-entry draft, and it included five Sounders, Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales, Marc Burch, Josh Ford and Blair Gavin. Zakuani’s rookie contract was up after the 2013 season, and his inclusion on this list obviously means no extension has been worked out between the two sides. The Sounders declined options on the other four players, including Rosales, who had previously been one of the team’s three designated players.
“We do feel like we need to make some changes on the team to win a championship and so we are going to create some cap space,” Hanauer said on a conference call following Seattle’s elimination from the playoffs. “It will take time and obviously I’m not going to talk about how we will get there exactly, but there could be some decent turnover on our roster.”
That “decent turnover” ended up including a former No. 1 overall pick, a designated player and a starting goalkeeper.
Zakuani, the top pick in the 2009 draft, had been one of remaining six original Sounders from that expansion team along with Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni—defender Leo Gonzales was also on that team as a midseason addition—but now his career in Seattle is likely over. Though Seattle could re-sign any of the players on that list between now and Thursday, or after the re-entry draft if they aren’t selected, players don’t often go into to re-entry draft then end up back with their old teams.
Early in the 2011 season, Zakuani was emerging as one of the game’s most promising young players, but a broken leg sidelined him for the rest of that season and much of 2012. He returned late in 2012, but more injuries led to him missing the bulk of the 2013 season as well.
Gspurning, who was signed after the 2011 season to replace the retiring Kasey Keller, was very good in his first season with the Sounders, and was enjoying a solid 2013 season as well until late in the year, when he was benched following a two-game stretch that saw Seattle give up nine goals in consecutive losses. Gspurning eventually returned to the staring role over Marcus Hahnemann, but with a salary of $285,000 last year, he was the second highest paid goalkeeper in the league.
Hahnemann has indicated he plans to return for another season—he’ll turn 42 next year—but expect the Sounders to add another goalkeeper either to be their starter, or at the very least one capable of competing with Hahnemann for the job.