Garth Lagerwey reflects on his first eight years as Sounders GM

By nearly any affordable normal, Garth Lagerwey’s eight seasons as Seattle Sounders basic supervisor and President of Soccer have gone about as effectively as anybody may have hoped. He’s helped ship two MLS Cups, led the Sounders to 6 cup finals in three completely different competitions and, in fact, scaled the regional mountaintop by turning into the first MLS group to win the Concacaf Champions League.

Beyond the first group success, the Sounders have additionally laid the inspiration for future achievements by way of the academy and Tacoma Defiance. He hasn’t gotten actually each determination proper, however the total course of the group appears as robust as it has ever been.

As Lagerwey enters his second retention vote, now looks as if as good a time as any to ask him to replicate on the earlier eight years and to stay up for what would possibly occur over the subsequent 4. Seattle clearly has a particular place in his coronary heart, even when it will not be his final cease. There is clearly no assure that he’ll be round that lengthy, however he does appear bullish on each the way forward for the Sounders and MLS.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Lagerwey has been constant since his hiring that he might not just like the uncertainty that comes with followers casting a binding vote on his job efficiency, however he undoubtedly appreciates the method and considers it a foundational a part of the Sounders group.

“I take pleasure in it holistically in that it is an essential a part of the Sounders. The pragmatic facet is that the vote may go badly. But this is not about me personally. You need to put it into context. If you are the GM of the Sounders, you are the steward of the membership and a part of this practically 50-year historical past. It’s a part of the job. It is genuine.

“It’s arduous to fully divorce myself personally as a result of if we lose the vote, our household has to maneuver and we lose all our buddies and our college and all of the cool issues that include dwelling in Seattle. But I additionally understand nobody cares about that, nor ought to they. It’s private to me in that sense, however you do have to take a look at the massive image.”

Lagerwey has been doing this job for 15 years now, relationship to his time with Real Salt Lake when he was lured away from a soft job as a lawyer at a Fortune 500 agency and will simply do one thing completely different if he needed. His perspective has developed, however whereas the each day work should be a little bit of a grind, he finds nice pleasure within the bigger-picture features of the job.

“I work for a children’ recreation and so they pay me for it. I pinch myself each every so often, I joke with my spouse that ‘I get to look at TV tonight.’ It’s a great gig.

“Eight years in, the excellent news is we have had some success. The different aspect of it’s you do it for lengthy sufficient, you realize the place the moles are, too. What’s enjoyable is working on the folks with the soccer aspect, the 40 folks right here and the way we got here by way of the pandemic, who had been the frontline staff. That’s the form of stuff that’s its personal reward. Yes, it is a enjoyable job.

“There’s no different place in America — besides, perhaps Atlanta — you could put this crowd collectively and to do it twice in 4 years [in addition to MLS Cup 2019], it was a non secular expertise. People are actually swaying backwards and forwards however it was a shared second we collectively had collectively after which we scored the third purpose and also you thought the constructing was going to break down. That might be with me eternally. I am unable to think about having a reminiscence that is higher than that. My household was there with me. It was every thing you ever hoped for. What do you’re employed in sports activities for? It was that.

The Sounders had been coming off a Supporters’ Shield-US Open Cup double when Lagerwey joined the group from RSL. Improving issues was not going to be a simple job. Lagerwey took on the problem as a result of he noticed room for development, and that was in serving to the Sounders go from an excellent group into a terrific “membership.”

“We had a employees of 11 folks at RSL. I got here right here and Chris [Henderson] may have sunk me or made me. He was unimaginable for Day 1, he did not need to do any of that, I used to be the brand new man imposed on him. I labored out that he is an elite expertise evaluator, and I had performed that at Salt Lake, however what is the one factor I can do for him since he is performed me greater than a stable? I’m going to maintain him doing what he is doing, and I’m going to empower him to go additional with it. I can work more durable and make myself 2-5% higher however now that I’m on the Sounders and now we have 40 folks, the actual systematic distinction is you may make eight division heads 2-5% higher? Now the group is 40% higher.

“This was a soccer group after I got here right here, however we have constructed a soccer membership. I do not imply that in a derogatory method to what got here earlier than, however we have invested on many alternative ranges and platforms. Ownership took a danger with that and made important investments on issues folks do not see, and it is value my singing the praises of the possession right here in that they’ve constantly reinvested the followers’ heard-earned a reimbursement into the membership and performed it in strategic ways in which might be a long-term profit to the membership.

It’s no secret that Lagerwey may have choices outdoors of Seattle if he desires them. Atlanta United is in search of a membership president and has mentioned they intend to at the very least discuss to Lagerwey. There are definitely different jobs that would entice him, particularly if they provide a stage of management he merely does not have right here. But Lagerwey additionally insists that he has fallen in love with Seattle. More than that, his household loves it right here. He joked that he feels as although he is even discovered his “tribe,” in fellow sci-fi and comedian e-book “nerds” who additionally occur to like soccer.

“Seattle is superior, the group is superior, buddies and colleges… now we have a great life. That means lots. And the household’s happiness is lots. Yes, there’s at all times going to be profession issues, however you at all times need to weigh that in opposition to household. Going again to after we got here right here, there was one other membership that had floated the thought of ​​me turning into the CEO there, and purely career-wise that was perhaps the proper alternative however family-wise this was the proper alternative. Family has a manner of informing that. That’s the proper stability. If you need to be joyful and have enjoyable days, I feel that goes a good distance. We’ll need to see the way it performs out.

“I’ve performed interviews concerning the Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons, lengthy conversations about comedian books and the MCU. For higher or worse, that is my tribe I feel.”

We nonetheless do not know for certain the place or when the subsequent Club World Cup might be held. But even when it is scheduled for early February and held within the United States, the Sounders would solely play two or three video games. Lagerwey mentioned they are not going to make any plans explicitly designed to bolster the roster for that. A much bigger a part of the planning course of, Lagerwey mentioned, is the upcoming Leagues Cup which may have its first expanded event subsequent summer season. He additionally does not assume the Sounders will get any kind of basic allocation cash or roster bonus to assist them compete within the Club World Cup.

“I do not know that [the Club World Cup] does. We do not know when, the place and we do not know when the switch home windows are going to be. If the switch home windows are lined up like this 12 months and it is performed in early February, there’s a situation the place we will not signal any extra gamers. I feel we’ll discover a answer, however that is the extent of the place we’re at by way of planning. There’s a ton of uncertainty round it. I do not know greater than you. We don’t have anything in writing concerning the event. It’s two to a few video games. Are you to signal a participant for 2 to a few video games?

“I feel the reply goes to be nothing [as far as new resources from MLS]. We had three years of a flat wage cap and since we saved profitable, we pushed all that wage into subsequent 12 months. You can undo that, there’s at all times issues you are able to do, however you are going to need to stability the probabilities of profitable the Club World Cup. I’m undecided how probably that’s. Do you go all in for 2 video games?

“The MLS season essentially adjustments subsequent season. The construction of the season — 34 regular-season video games, plus probably seven Leagues Cup video games, plus Open Cup, plus playoffs [plus CCL]. You’re most likely enjoying, at the very least a great group, 45 video games at a minimal. Literally a [UEFA] Champions League schedule each single season. We might be within the 50s. It essentially adjustments the way you method the season. You need to play extra gamers, you must rotate extra and you must evolve. [UCL teams] do not play 13 guys 60 occasions. We need to do the identical factor.

Lagerwey has been open concerning the Sounders successfully going all in on the Champions League. The draw back was that the Sounders did not have the salary-cap house to do a lot in the summertime. Even as the Sounders head down the ultimate stretch of the season chasing a playoff spot, Lagerwey says he feels they made the proper alternative.

“For higher or worse, I imagine what I imagine. I imagine in participant improvement, I imagine in enjoying younger gamers. We completed one thing nobody has completed earlier than and no matter the price of that’s I’ll pay. Does that imply I need to miss the playoffs? No, and I do not assume we should always. There’s a situation the place we’re favored in each single recreation the remainder of the way in which. That does not make it simple, it’s totally, very arduous, which is why web sites like 538 have us at a 29% probability as a result of we have not beforehand received six in a row. But we’re definitely able to that. As just lately as July 2 we had been enjoying at one of many highest clips post-Champions League. As just lately as the final recreation, we had been fielding seven Best XI gamers and that is with out [João Paulo] and Cristian Roldan.

“It was a take a look at of religion. We had this plan, we knew the downsides and we have seen the upsides. The upsides of profitable the Champions League kinda steeled us. We had been provided gamers, however in case you did it, it could price us a starter subsequent 12 months. That was it. If you imagine the group is basically good and in case you imagine that you’ve got younger gamers who’re actually good, it’s going to play out.

“Danny Leyva and Josh Atencio have been superb for the higher a part of two years. We’re going to make it or not make it on the higher a part of their efforts. We’ve surrounded them with 9 different veterans and put them able to succeed.

Lagerwey might or might not nonetheless be with the Sounders by the point the 2026 World Cup rolls round, however he is undoubtedly planning to work in MLS. In truth, he finds it nearly weird that any league official would think about leaving earlier than the world’s greatest soccer occasion returns to the United States and he’s a agency believer that AppleTV’s streaming deal is the car to assist ship a worldwide viewers.

“If you attain a very world viewers by way of Apple, does that spur all these different ecosystems to come back to life round MLS? I feel individuals are nonetheless fascinated with America and MLS hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves, which is why profitable the Champions League is so large. It was actually arduous however value making an attempt. I do assume that is the first step. It’s not the entire mountain, however you’ve got climbed the mountain as soon as. Now you must keep on high.

“The Leagues Cup goes to be superior for the profile of MLS. As we construct into the World Cup, soccer is simply going to get greater, in case you have a look at the valuations which have constantly ticked up. I feel there’s going to be a ton of funding within the sport and in Seattle particularly. If you have a look at the infrastructure round MLS, it is actually thrilling.

“This is the guess. The complete ecosystem goes to develop and be elevated. I feel we’ll see what it may be. I’m actually excited to be part of it.

“People ask if I need to go to Europe and I simply cannot fathom going to Europe proper now earlier than the World Cup involves America. Maybe I’m lacking one thing, however it looks as if a possibility of a lifetime.”

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