After practice in Seattle on Tuesday, Sigi Schmid gave the verdict some had anticipated all offseason, though after four March games, others thought the news would never come. Yet there he was, the Sounders’ head coach, breaking the news to the media after today’s practice: Right back Adam Johansson, in Seattle for only one year, was gone.
The 30-year-old started 25 games for Seattle last season, a number that would have been greater were it not for his responsibilities with the Swedish national team. When available, he was Schmid’s obligatory first choice, which makes it all the more remarkable Johansson is being let go.
Johansson hadn’t been healthy enough to regain that role, a right knee problem keeping him out of the lineup for each of Seattle’s first four games. Now back from injury, Johansson is expected to be waived on Wednesday.
“It’s really a salary cap situation primarily,” Schmid told the assembled media after practice. Johansson’s 2012 cap hit was $175,000, a difficult hit to absorb when your team has other options.
The most obvious of those is DeAndre Yedlin, the 19-year-old right back who has started three of Seattle’s four March games. His long distance goal in last Tuesday’s win over Tigres has been the highlight of his season, one that’s made him a quick favorite with Sounder’s fans. His defensive contributions have been inconsistent, though his ability to burst forward fits perfectly with a Sounder approach that prefers to give Mauro Rosales and Mario Martínez the ability to cut in from the midfield’s right.
Just like Johansson, Yedlin’s eager to fill that space, only the Home Grown Player will do so at a fraction of the cost.
Seattle also doesn’t lack depth at right back. Veteran Zach Scott started March 6’s match at Tigres, while players like Marc Burch and the currently injury Pat Ianni could provide in-a-pitch solutions. There are immediate as well as emergency alternatives, should Yedlin’s defensive struggles start to overshadow his ability to get forward.
But the biggest news here may involve Brad Evans, somebody who has been a regular in Sigi Schmid’s midfield. Earlier this year, Evans discussed the possibility of him playing right back. Now it seems like that’s an inevitability.
“[W]e know that Brad Evans has played some at right back,” Schmid explained, “so that’s a consideration that we have moving forward — that Brad would go back there.”
It’s not a bad option. Full back isn’t exactly a position of strength in Major League Soccer1,2. If Shalrie Joseph becomes a regular contributor (something the Sounders seem convinced he will), being able to push a player of Evans’ quality to right back shows great depth. How many teams could not only outright cut a Swedish international but also replace him with a U.S. international, albeit one that’s moving from a different position?
We’ve talked before about how Seattle’s team was a bit of a work in progress, but thanks to the arrival of Obafemi Martins and departure of Johansson, we’re finally getting a clear picture of what Schmid’s ideal team. Evans will be the first choice right back. Yedlin will still get plenty of time as Evans’ utility man role sees him fill in across the midfield. Joseph will partner Osvaldo Alonso in midfield. Martins pushes Mauro Rosales back to right wing.
Four weeks ago, it didn’t look like that picture was going to come together until the summer. Now, we can see Seattle’s core, and with Johansson gone, there’s potential to find another Djimi Traore-level acquisition to add depth in midfield or attack. While that may not happen, losing a $175,000 player from a position of depth will give Adrian Hanauer options, even if he elects to use those options at the back (not middle) of the roster.
As Sigi Schmid said after Saturday’s draw with Portland, he finally has his full team. Now they can start moving forward, even if that means they’ll do so without a good right back. While one year in Seattle proved Adam Johansson to be a dependable player, he was one Seattle could do without.