Making sense of Garth Lagerwey’s move from Sounders to Atlanta

For those who have been paying close attention, it will not come as much of a shock that Garth Lagerwey left the Seattle Sounders to become the CEO and President of Atlanta United. Although he became the boss on Tuesday, there are suggestions that Lagerwey is more interested than the title of general manager or “President of Soccer” can fully fill.

These feelings began in 2019, shortly after the Sounders won their second MLS Cup under Lagerwey’s leadership. At that time, there were rumors about Lagerwey in the Chicago fire where Nelson Rodriguez was in charge. In shooting down those rumors, however, Lagerwey revealed that the idea of ​​running an entire team was appealing to him.

Over the years, I’ve asked him about it on and off the record. Lagerwey didn’t really feel that he was unhappy or unfulfilled here – and he often went out of his way to thank the owner for the resources he provided and how the profits were being reinvested – but he did. It is clear that he is the champion of the matter. he can achieve, business.

Yes, he can continue to win trophies and have an important place in the “big game” of acquiring international talent, but those are only parts of what makes him happy. do football. Basically, I’m not sure there’s much he can do on the athletic side that he hasn’t done with the Sounders. But Lagerwey is more optimistic, meaning that his ambitions continue to grow.

Even in his playing days, he saw the moon as a column. When he retired from playing, he began working as a speaker while attending law school and then took a job with Latham and Watkins. He replaced his previous GM role at RSL. You can see how…

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However, I think people have a lot of questions about this move. Here is my attempt to answer some of them:

The title is good, of course, and I’m sure it will come with a big increase. But I don’t think this is about money or brand names. The Sounders, I’m told, are making a serious offer that can be a little competitive in those ways. What they can’t offer is what kind of influence Lagerwey will have in Atlanta where he will replace Darren Eales, who has parlayed that role into his current role as Manager of the Premier League’s Newcastle.

As he aims to fill a similar position to Eales, Lagerwey will focus on the sporting and business sides of the club. He may be able to help arrange exchanges one day and accept clients the next. He is free to join forces with other clubs, such as Atlanta and Aberdeen of the Scottish Premier League. In other words, it’s a job as big and wide as he wants to do it.

Another thing I noticed that Lagerwey really liked was the ability to take the owner’s chair on various MLS sub-committees. I don’t know how those things are going to be delivered, but it gives him a real seat at the table for deciding the direction of MLS. Although Arthur Blank is the owner of the company, my understanding is that he set the budget and then left.

I’ve already heard some people think that the Sounders’ reluctance to give a team like Lagerwey shows a lack of imagination, but I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.

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The first thing to note is that the Sounders are set up differently this season. The group is divided into two branches. Lagerwey is the top footballer, but Peter Tomozawa is the same on the professional side. Both represent majority owner Adrian Hanauer, who is the CEO. Tomozawa is a small part of the team.

I think Hanauer has given Lagerwey and Tomozawa a lot to do in their roles without any problems, but he’s really attached in a normal way. He sits in the meetings and is consulted on most of the major projects. Hanauer is also the Sounders’ representative on those MLS-level committees.

I think Hanauer could have offered to step down and put Lagerwey in his position, but I don’t think anyone is asking for it. The impression I get is that Lagerwey is fine with the house here, and he likes it apart from a few minor issues. Hanauer and Tomozawa are excellent at what they do, and Lagerwey is the first to understand the impact of this unusual combination.

If I thought this news was possible, I’ll admit that I had a bit of a surprise at the time. Less than a week ago, after all, the Alliance Council announced that Lagerwey had won his GM nomination with 90% approval. During the Annual Conference, he looked more like a man getting ready to settle down, not someone with one foot out the door.

My understanding is that what he’s talking about is true, he’s acting like he’s coming back because he believes that’s a different possibility. The Atlanta offer came together quickly and only became a real possibility over the weekend, I was told.

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In announcing the move, Hanauer said “we will continue to strengthen and trust” the current front office staff during the transition. On the other hand, I don’t see why CEO Craig Waibel should be the interim CEO. It’s possible he ends up with a permanent gig (yes, that’s what happened at Real Salt Lake when Lagerwey took over the Sounders job). In that scenario, I expect a series of local announcements to follow soon.

This is referring to the houses built by Lagerwey, I think. Although Lagerwey is not very good at talent evaluation or salary magic, his greatest ability is to identify the best people and give them a place to work. As a result, the Sounders front office is stacked with talent.

I think it depends on your experience. From one point of view, they have a solid roster with different players in almost every position and a repeat win in the CCL. If they do not add one, but stay healthy, I think it will not be possible to be a competitor in 2023.

A pessimistic view is seen in a list that is burdened with veterans, who are coming off a period of lack of play and need a major overhaul.

I would like to think that this team needs more change than the front office. I think they are close to bringing in people like Chris Henderson or Ravi Ramineni, but I don’t think they need to bring in someone who will make a big difference in what’s going on for a long time.


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