TUKWILA — Five months is what it took for Sounders FC to regain a Washington feel.
Seattle opened the 2012 season without any local players on the roster for the first time in franchise history. Things finally changed in September, when the team acquired veteran goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann — an accomplished Seattle native who played in the Premier League in England.
That was followed in January by the signing of 19-year-old homegrown player DeAndre Yedlin of Seattle and, finally, Sunday’s trade to bring back Federal Way fan favorite Lamar Neagle.
The moves add new meaning to the term “hometown team” as well as value beyond just the players’ abilities.
“Being able to play here is a great thing for them, but it’s also a good thing for the club,” coach Sigi Schmid said, “because if you can promote local talent, there’s always that special connection between the community and the player.”
The expansion Sounders benefited from that in 2009. The original team had ties to Olympia (three-year captain Kasey Keller), Auburn (backup goalkeeper Chris Eylander), Edmonds (reserve forward Kevin Forrest) and Federal Way (Neagle).
Even when a Keller suspension early that season forced the team to use MLS’s goalkeeper pool, the team was assigned Monroe native Ben Dragavon.
Not since then have the Sounders felt so local, and that’s without mention of goalkeeper Doug Herrick, another Seattle native who’s in preseason camp fighting for a roster spot.
Assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, whose Sounders connections date to the old North American Soccer League and also the United Soccer Leagues, said it’s nice to have hometown products because they are “fully vested in the club and community.”
“Having players that are vested in the club, and don’t just grab the badge when they score a goal and then leave the next year, you want those guys around,” Schmetzer added.
The trend might be heading toward having more locals on MLS teams due to the growth of the academies leaguewide. Yedlin, for example, came up through the Sounders’ youth development program, and more could follow.
Asked what he hopes will come from his signing, Yedlin said, “hopefully just to open the gate for other homegrowns and get the local guys in here. I think it’s good for the club (and) exciting for the fans.”
First round of cuts
The Sounders cut nine non-contract invitees from training camp over the weekend: defenders Justin Davis, Cody Ellison and Isaiah Schafer; midfielders Manuel Asprilla, Jonas Rasmussen, Marvin Angulo and Ross LaBauex; and forwards Jose Cuevas and David Opoku.
Schmid indicated Monday that one player could be brought back to fill a positional need.
Unsigned players still in camp are Herrick, defender Ashani Fairclough, forward Travis Bowen, and midfielders Philip Lund and Guy Essame, along with four draft picks.