Disclaimer: This views and commentary expressed in this article are my own. This is an article of analysis and opinion.
On Monday December 14, the Seattle Sounders announced their end of season roster moves listing the players whose options have been exercised, what players options were declined, and what players contracts expired. That being said discussions with several players remain ongoing.
It was a shock to many fans that the Sounders did not immediately exercise the purchase options of Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo. However, there may be reason the Sounders are waiting to exercise the option and renegotiate a new deal, keeping in mind the direction the club moves forward from another player.
That particular player is Swedish midfielder Gustav Svensson, one of four players whose contracts expired. It makes sense why the Sounders may be renegotiation a deal with Botafogo on Joao Paulo, the Sounders are deciding the future of Svensson first then building the roster from that decision. It makes sense when you think about it.
Age and Ability
Consider the following. First let’s start with his age. Svensson is 33 years old and will turn 34 years old in February. He’s past the prime years and his ability to play soccer at a high level will be on the down. Playing as a central defensive midfielder requires the most running and professional soccer players in midfield can run almost 9.5-10 miles per match. Do that for a span of 30-35 matches 9-10months out of a year on top of 4-5 days of training for 10 years, you can start to see the toll it can take on your body. Throughout his career he’s had the fortune to have not had injuries constantly plague him that would force him to miss large portions of the season at a time.
Signed at the end of January in 2017, Gustav has played four seasons with the Sounders. In that time period, he’s been part of three of the four appearances the club has made in MLS Cup Final. He had to compete for minutes among fan favorites Brad Evans, Cristian Roldan, and Ozzie Alonso when he arrived. In fact, Svensson wasn’t brought to the team using either a Designated Player Spot or Targeted Allocation Money but was signed using an international spot on the roster as a depth piece. That’s a long time to be on one club if you’re not signed as a designated player like Lodeiro or homegrown talent like Jordan Morris. Through the last four seasons, Svensson made himself indispensable to the Sounders on field success considering the team could have looked for younger alternatives.
The Current Depth Chart
Svensson in the depth chart of central midfielders includes Cristian Roldan, Jordy Delem, Danny Leyva, and Joao Paulo should the Sounders reach a new deal with Botafogo. Going back to age Svensson is the oldest out of the four players, Paulo will turn 30 in March of 2021. If there’s no place for him in central midfield could the Sounders experiment with Svensson in center back to prolong his career similar to what they did with Brad Evans back in 2015?
The answer is likely the Sounders won’t go down that route. Even when he first joined the team back in 2017, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer used Svensson at right back and center back several matches but only to fill the role as a temporary solution. He’s a midfielder by trait not a defender. Looking to the current depth chart Svensson would have to compete behind Yeimar Gomez Andrade, Shane O’Neill, and Xavier Arreaga. A permanent move to center back is likely out of the question.
The Best Thing Going Forward
If Gustav is no longer part of the Sounders plan and no other team within MLS is interested in acquiring his services, where could he go? There is one possibility of a move many have overlooked. Likely it will be his last club he plays for.
Back in 2017 in the Sounders video segment “To Be A Sounder”, Gustav stated in an interview that his goal was to finish his professional career back in Sweden with his hometown club IFK Göteborg if he got the opportunity. He joined the club at 14years old going through their academy system before being signed to the first team at 19 years old in 2006. He also stated in the interview he may have 5 to 8 years left to play depending on how well he took care of his body.
With his contract with the Sounders set to expire at the end of December this year, returning to the club he first started his professional career with would allow him to come full circle. That opportunity to do just that could be finally here at last.