SEATTLE — Eight years after winning the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool, central defender Djimi Traore has joined Sounders FC with the goal of helping them to their first MLS Cup.
“I’m not … here to retire,” Traore said Wednesday after his first training session with the Sounders. “I know that the football club never (has won the) MLS for example, so for me it is a target. It’s like I want to be part of the history of that club. I want to be part of the team that wins the first MLS Cup.”
Traore, 33, signed his first professional contract when he was 17 years old. His long career has included stops with several clubs in France and England, including the 2005 Liverpool club that beat AC Milan in the Champions League final. He also has won the 2006 FA Cup, the 2005 Super League and the 2003 English League Cup.
Last season, Traore was part of an Olympique de Marseille club that captured the Coupe de la Ligue title.
After his one-year contract expired there, Traore received a phone call from his agent.
“He talked to me a bit about MLS and things like that,” he said. “He said it was Seattle, and that was exciting because from Europe I know it is a very great club, you know; and I am so pleased to join the MLS.”
Traore said he could be ready to play Saturday when the Sounders open their MLS season against Montreal at CenturyLink Field.
Coach Sigi Schmid didn’t commit to whether Traore would or wouldn’t play in the opener or even the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal next week at Tigres of Mexico. However, Schmid indicated that once Traore has settled in, he is projected to be part of the solution for the Sounders’ injury-depleted back line.
“He just flew in (Tuesday) night from Paris, so we wanted to make sure we didn’t do too much,” Schmid said. “… Right now, with (Patrick) Ianni out, we do think he’s somebody who can definitely get on the field for us.
“And he also offers us something different because he’s a left-footed center back.”
MLS COMMISSIONER GARBER SPEAKS
During his “March to Soccer” preseason address Wednesday, MLS commissioner Don Garber said:
Major League Soccer has a 10-year plan to be considered one of the top leagues in the world, as judged by play and fan passion. Ways to improve play include continuing the designated player rule, the new developmental relationship with USL Pro, youth development, and improving referees and coaching.
New York remains the league’s top expansion target. Garber also mentioned Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Minneapolis.
The league made a mistake in not speaking with support groups in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver before seeking to trademark “Cascadia Cup.” The MLS is in talks with supporters, and Garber thinks a satisfactory resolution will be reached.
Sounders midfielder Mario Martinez sat out Wednesday at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila after bumping knees with another player the day before. “We don’t believe it’s anything serious,” Schmid said. … The Sounders will train today at CenturyLink Field. It will be their first practice there this season, and will be followed by the club’s annual kickoff luncheon. … 2012 SuperDraft pick Babayele Sodade and 2013 Supplemental Draft picks Kevin Durr and Jennings Rex are no longer training with the club.