What Waiving Magnus Wolf Eikrem means for the Sounders' Season / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

There is a lot that goes into the signing a player for a club. I couldn’t tell you all the things involved, but my understanding of the situation from others who are far more experienced on the subject is that it’s usually a rather extensive process. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, navigating an international market, dealing with agents, negotiating contracts, weighing the cost benefit analysis of assets, and doing all those things within Major League Soccer’s byzantine roster rules shouldn’t be looked at as a simple process.

The word out of the Sounders camp last night was that Magnus Wolff Eikrem is going to be waived by the organization to open up an international roster spot. International spots are hard to come by in this league and are generally valued over $100,000 in various resources (however we’ve seen them scale up higher later in the season as these resources are generally in even more in demand).

His departure effectively means that the Sounders are okay eating the cap space associated with him. Having dead money on your ledger is the opposite of efficient roster building, but the Sounders were faced with the choice of trading the cap hit (which reaches north of the maximum allowed salary) for the international spot, and when they considered all factors they decided to pull the trigger.

This can be viewed a few ways and none of them are mutually exclusive:

First, it’s a good look by the organization to allow him to leave and pursue other opportunities in Europe as the transfer window opens, especially if he wasn’t going to play much in the second half of the campaign.

Second, that the organization doesn’t view him as highly as certain parts of the fan base and us here at ASA.

Third and lastly, given the choice, they would prefer having this new player (whomever it ends up being) on their team more than Eikrem. Maybe the market on international roster spots is so expensive it isn’t worth it. Whatever the reason, they’ve actively made it an either/or situation and they chose to release him.

So what went wrong with Eikrem, who the team had built up as a major signing when he arrived only five months ago. Personally, I want put this on Brian Schmetzer and his coaching staff. I don’t feel like they’ve done a very good job at integrating him or allowing him to become a useful piece of this roster. But I can’t really know that. I’m not there at training. I’m not in the locker room. I’m not there when discussing tactics. There are a lot of things that could have gone on behind the scene that I just am not privy to.

 Expected goal chain per 96 minutes. For more on what xGC and xBuildup are,  read Kevin's post.

Expected goal chain per 96 minutes. For more on what xGC and xBuildup are, read Kevin's post.

What I do know is that Eikrem, in his short 600 minute spell with the Sounders, was solid on while on the field. His 0.47 xG+xA was third on the team and his expected goal chain for players over 500 minutes was fourth. Aside from the usual suspects of Clint Dempsey, Will Bruin and Nico Lodeiro, Eikrem had been the a huge force for the Sounders.

 Expected Buildup per 96 minutes. For more on what xGC and xBuildup are,  read Kevin's post.

Expected Buildup per 96 minutes. For more on what xGC and xBuildup are, read Kevin's post.

His expected buildup, measuring the passes he made that lead to a shot (but he didn’t assist or take the final shot), was a bit lower, but that’s because he’s not so much of the build-up and is more involved as either the person making the final pass or taking the shot.

Looking at his pass ability, you can see his passing in the final third and how it stacks up to the rest. His score is rather low, but then consider he has the lowest expected passing percentage on the team (minimum 50 passes in the attacking third). This means he’s primarily making low percentage plays, mostly in and around the goal. This makes his almost zero passing score look like a plus. Additionally, his passes per 96 in the attacking third is third highest on the team behind only Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez.

Player Team Min Passes PassPct xPassPct Score Per100 Distance Vertical Passes/96 Score/96 Per100/96
Osvaldo Alonso SEA 556 74 87% 79% 5.83 7.87 21.03 3.67 12.78 1.01 7.87
Harry Shipp SEA 521 58 74% 77% -1.58 -2.72 16.62 -1.78 10.69 -0.29 -2.72
Will Bruin SEA 1326 128 73% 74% -1.2 -0.94 11.44 -2.1 9.27 -0.09 -0.94
Cristian Roldan SEA 1731 192 74% 74% 0.41 0.22 17.45 0.23 10.65 0.02 0.22
Clint Dempsey SEA 959 117 73% 74% -1.22 -1.04 17.32 1.72 11.71 -0.12 -1.04
Handwalla Bwana SEA 413 79 70% 73% -2.92 -3.7 14.5 -6.46 18.36 -0.68 -3.7
Nouhou Tolo SEA 1192 180 73% 72% 1.9 1.06 14.96 -4.85 14.5 0.15 1.06
Victor Rodriguez SEA 610 169 71% 71% 0.79 0.47 14.89 1.33 26.6 0.12 0.47
Alex Roldan SEA 738 103 67% 70% -3.05 -2.96 14.45 -0.78 13.4 -0.4 -2.96
Waylon Francis SEA 517 115 67% 69% -2.61 -2.27 13.95 -2.33 21.35 -0.48 -2.27
Nicolas Lodeiro SEA 1152 295 73% 67% 18.46 6.26 19.58 1.43 24.58 1.54 6.26
Jordan McCrary SEA 849 84 64% 65% -0.45 -0.53 18.7 -2.75 9.5 -0.05 -0.53
Kelvin Leerdam SEA 810 169 61% 64% -4.49 -2.66 16.82 -1.21 20.03 -0.53 -2.66
Magnus Wolff Eikrem SEA 655 160 63% 63% -0.47 -0.29 15.67 -0.38 23.45 -0.07 -0.29

Part of me feels like Eikrem’s departure is a result of more than just of his not “fitting in with his teammates” or “finding a rhythm.” The Sounders just haven’t scored as many goals or even created the amount of goal scoring chances as they should have with this talented group. Part of that is on the huge number of injuries and international departures suffered by the team, but it’s also on aging players (Dempsey) and on the coaching staff that has for some time preferred to deploy a more defensive style.

 Key passes per 96 minutes. A key pass is a pass that leads directly to a shot.

Key passes per 96 minutes. A key pass is a pass that leads directly to a shot.

Any way you want to look at this it’s disappointing for the organization, the players, and the fans. Eikrem was reinforcement for Lodeiro and something the Sounders really haven’t had much of the last few years. And at 27 he was in his prime and someone that could be part of a transition away from the Dempsey era. Now the Sounders must put their eggs in a new unknown basket while the fans wait and hope it’s better than what they had.