At this point, you’ve probably struggled with the idea that the Seattle Sounders are about to make history, to do something that so far has been everything just short of the impossible. You have read and listened to discussions on the subject, you have heard Garth Lagerwey say that it is a chance for immortality. I know that thought made your heart beat a little faster, maybe a little heightened your senses as the adrenaline courses through your veins, because I know it did for me. And maybe you’ve also thought, “I wonder how that’s even possible,” because, frankly, if no one else has been able to do it, why is this team any different?
It’s easy enough to say that Garth Lagerwey is the difference, or that Garth Lagerwey and a handful of signings are, but none of us are here for an easy or incomplete answer. Garth Lagerwey is a big part of the answer, because if you want to build the Tower of Babel, you’re going to need a top-notch architect to raise that tower to heaven. The Sounders have spoken of a desire to make a name for themselves on the world stage from the very beginning of their MLS career. They collected US Open cups, a fan shield and entered Concacaf Champions League – that aforementioned global stage – constantly, but never quite reaching the heights they wanted or felt they needed before Lagerwey joined the club before the 2015 season. Seven years later, the club won two MLS cups, a been to the final of two others, and now they are one win away from doing something no other MLS team has ever done to claim the only still unchecked achievement on the club. -make a list.
Success didn’t come from nothing, and Lagerwey didn’t do it himself. He came from Real salt lake, where he had built an MLS champion and was as close as anyone else to winning CCL with a limited budget and a thriving academy to nurture a talent pool that allowed them to compete against better endowed MLS teams in resources. He had the experience to know what it would take to return to that precipice and cross the final stages of history. He came to Seattle with a plan, and over the next few years he laid out his plan and helped the organization execute so that all that was left to do was lay the last bricks.
Garth Lagerwey joined a team that was already at the forefront of MLS teams in terms of personnel and infrastructure supporting players. The Sounders may not have the best training facilities at the moment – that will change when the club moves to Longacres – but they were among the first to focus on analytics, player data / performances and integrating them into both screening and training. and preparation. Since Lagerwey’s arrival in Seattle, the Sounders have grown their staff to the point where the team now has a group of 40 people focused entirely on the athletic side. This includes data and analytics, scouting, coaches, trainers, etc. These people do not enter the field, but their work does. They help prepare the team day in and day out, making scouting reports and training plans and making sure each player is at his best physically and mentally when he steps onto the pitch. These are the scaffolding that is erected around the team, allowing for advancement as well as repairs and corrections. The scaffolding is modular, the parts can change and the structure can grow alongside the tower, and it would not be possible to build the tower without it.
A tower needs a foundation, and the foundation of that tower is the development system. Perhaps the biggest direct impact Garth Lagerwey has had on the Sounders is his work to build and maximize the Sounders Academy and development system. Again, this existed before he was hired, but Lagerwey helped take it to new heights. The Sounders Academy had certainly helped develop some quality players, with Jordan Morris and DeAndre Yedlin starring among more than a dozen current professionals coming out of this academy setup, but it wasn’t as consistent or nearly as high. than necessary. to meet club goals. Over the past seven years, the Sounders organization has invested in academy staff and infrastructure, given more resources to recruit and raise the general level of youth football in the region, and this has brought its fruits. The Sounders Academy made MLS history in 2019 when the U-17s won the Generation Adidas Cup Premier Division, becoming the first MLS academy to do so. Then they made history again when they repeated as champions in the same age group this year when the tournament returned. The Sounders’ first team now includes eight players who spent time at the Academy, five of whom appeared during the Lagerwey era, and there’s no end in sight for the development pipeline.
It’s not just the academy, though. Tacoma Defiance – formerly Sounders 2 – is an important and necessary part of the development path of the Sounders organization. Defiance serves as an incubator where academy players can mature and develop, alongside young-to-young players from outside the system. Without Tacoma Defiance/S2, we wouldn’t have Nouhou and Abdoulaye Cissoko, we probably wouldn’t have Jackson Ragen, and Josh Atencio, Danny Leyva, Obed Vargas and all the players who followed them and will follow them wouldn’t have also been well prepared to step in when called upon. The development system ensures the stability and the future of the club. It ensures that the beliefs and ideals that guide the team – both on and off the pitch – are instilled from a player’s first step on the path to MLS and beyond, and as the quality increases in the academy teams and Tacoma Defiance, this quality is then continued in the Seattle Sounders team as these same players round out the roster. A thriving development system, at best, raises the floor and ceiling of what a club is capable of, and that’s exactly what’s happening with the Sounders.
With a foundation in place, our tower structure begins to take shape. Stones of different shapes and sizes are sought and found which fit together like the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. Having brought in expert craftsmen who know which stones will be able to withstand the pressure and the weight of what is asked of them, and masons who know how to bind them, the architect sees his vision taking shape. Alex and Cristian Roldan reunite in the club’s backyard after playing college football at Seattle University and the University of Washington, and familiarity with them and their college coaches allows the Sounders to bring them in and trust them to become a club legend of international caliber. types of players. They may be small, but the club know they won’t crack under pressure, they can be expected to carry the weight of expectations. Will Bruin, Xavier Arreaga and Yeimar join other teams with a wealth of experience and all the motivation and skills to help the club reach new heights. The mortar that ties it all together is the club’s culture and connection to the city of Seattle and the region around it. This link brings Kelyn Rowe and Fredy Montero to Emerald City. Rowe, after nearly a decade in MLS, came to play for the hometown club, while Montero returned after years away after his first stint as the team’s talismanic goalscorer. To be able to return home, they have accepted the reality of reduced roles and reduced salaries, because some things just mean more. That’s what the Seattle Sounders are made of; that’s what the club stands for.
This tower is built of mortar and stones, but to achieve greatness, to complete the beautiful and intricate designs, it takes more than the highest quality of stones. A tower that rises high enough to converse with God and engrave your name in eternity, well, that tower is no use without a way to get into it. This tower needs arches, beautifully crafted and skillfully crafted, and those arches need keystones. The crowning glory at the top of each path through the tower, the keystones not only hold it all together, but also provide a great amount of beauty and majesty. In an MLS listing, these keystones are the stars. They are Designated Players, TAM signings, and captains and managers who elevate and delight.
The club’s infrastructure and scaffolding make it possible to find the right players to make the most of the significant investment that such a place in the team requires. The foundation and bricks and mortar of the development system and careful roster building allow Sounders to invest heavily at the top of the roster. That may mean shelling out multi-million dollar transfer fees and millions in wages to lure the likes of Nico Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz, and the high-priced players who came before them. Players capable of moments of pure beauty and magic in the most tense situations – revisit what they did in the first leg against the Pumas as the most recent example – while being the kind of men and players who will give everything they can to see the team succeed. It may mean bringing in an excellent if underrated player like João Paulo, who would have been impossible to bring to MLS a few years earlier, or it may mean committing serious resources to retaining players who have become stars. in their time with the club as Stefan Frei. , Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. Morris and Roldan, you may recall, signed big extensions ahead of 2019 in a move that now seems like genius but has met with skepticism from some.
These keystones are arguably the most important to master, and Sounders consistently do their best with them. The record was good before Garth Lagerwey, but under his leadership they have been excellent, and it is no coincidence that the club reached its greatest heights during this time. We now have one last step to take.
The Tower of Babel is perhaps a dangerous metaphor to use when discussing or describing something you love, as the story involves the tower and its builders being pulled down and thrown into the wind. But life has inherent risks, especially when you try to do what has never been done before. It requires a leap of faith, the knowledge that the price to pay for making history is the possibility of great pain. Pain is inevitable, however, and so it’s worth risking a bit in the hunt for immortality. Garth Lagerwey did the grueling, painstaking work that helped transform the Seattle Sounders into a tower capable of touching the sky. Now all that remains is to reach it.