By JASON MITCHELL
The Seattle Sounders dropped their season opener Saturday night, but much of the news surrounding the team this weekend involves a confirmed departure, a potential arrival, and a start for a rookie.
The big news in recent days was the team’s completion of a buyout of Christian Tiffert’s contract. Tiffert joins Freddie Ljungberg, Blaise Nkufo, Alvaro Fernandez, and Fredy Montero as Designated Players the Sounders have bought out, traded, or loaned away before their contracts expired.
The Sounders announced the expected buyout of the German midfielder Saturday afternoon. Tiffert signed last July and appeared only 12 times with Seattle. While the 30-year-old didn’t set MLS on fire, the Sounders insisted his departure had everything to do with the team’s pursuit of a high-priced forward and was unrelated to performance or locker room tension.
“I thought Christian did well for us,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “It was just more a situation of where we were at cap-wise, and we really had to go from three DPs to two. I know Shalrie [Joseph] is a DP in name, but he’s not a DP in terms of how he hits our cap. And we really needed to go from three DPs to two. We’re keeping Mauro [Rosales], and we decided that we needed to have a DP forward, and that takes care of our two DPs.”
“This was not an issue of Christian not performing or not being a good teammate or anything,” said general manager and part-owner Adrian Hanauer. “I read something that he and Sigi had a falling out or something, which is just absolutely, categorically untrue. It was just a situational thing with the cap and where we thought we needed to invest.”
The Sounders made it clear over the offseason they planned to start pursuing pricier designated players.
“Any time you buy out a player you probably have to admit some kind of flaw in the plan,” Hanauer conceded. “That said, we also made a strategic change in the way we think about our designated players, where we said we’re going to try to invest a little bit more in one or two. So, our strategy changed as well.”
Hanauer confirmed negotiations with a transfer target continue. It’s been widely reported the Sounders are working to land Levante UD striker Obafemi Martins.
“It’s a fluid and complicated jigsaw puzzle,” Hanauer said. “But obviously, from the reports, from what I’ve told you guys, we’re trying to sign a striker. And we’re hoping we can get that over the finish line. If we can, fantastic. And I guess if we can’t we’ll go to Plan B.”
As for Tiffert, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning wasn’t worried about his close friend’s future in soccer. “We’re long enough in this business to know things like this are normal,” he said. “Tiffy’s got a lot of quality, he will find another job. Life goes on.”
Young Yedlin gets the nod
It’s well-known that the Sounders are very high on 19-year-old rookie DeAndre Yedlin, a Seattle native and the team’s first Homegrown signing. Most analysts suggest he would have been a top-ten pick had he entered the SuperDraft.
Still, not many likely predicted he would start the season opener his rookie year. But surveying a back line thinned by injury and suspension, Schmid gave the Akron product the start at right back.
“I thought DeAndre played well in the preseason,” said Schmid, “and with where we’re at injury-wise and everything, he was the logical choice to play there.”
“I thought he played well,” Schmid added. “I thought for a young man making his debut at home there could have been a lot of pressure. He could have not handled that well, but I thought he handled it well, I thought he played well, and I thought he had a good game.”
“It was good,” said Yedlin. “Obviously a loss is never the result you want, but it’s good to get a game under my belt and see what it’s like to play with the first team and get to start.”
His teammates were full of compliments.
“Absolutely fantastic,” said Gspurning when asked how Yedlin looked.
“He was very cool and composed with the ball and he connected his passes,” said starting midfielder Andy Rose. “He really played to his strengths. He’s a very good player.”
“He is fearless and has fun when he is out there because he is playing with his friends,” said Steve Zakuani. “He did well. I am very proud of him and very happy for him. He is only going to get better.”
It’s unclear how many minutes Yedlin will see once Adam Johansson returns from a knock to his to knee, but his performance certainly didn’t seem to hurt his standing with his coach or teammates.