In order to make way for the signing of new Designated Player Christian Tiffert for FC Kaiserslautern, the Seattle Sounders have traded Alvaro Fernandez to the Chicago Fire for an undisclosed amount of allocation money. It was apparent early in the day that one of the Sounders current DPs was likely to be on the move after the news of Tiffert's imminent signing began to make its way from Germany to the US, and Fernandez always appeared the most likely to move on.
Fernandez had a somewhat rocky start to his career in Seattle, often finding himself second choice to Sanna Nyassi after joining the Sounders in the middle of the 2010 season. The Uruguay international scored two goals in 12 games (with just four starts) in his first half-season in MLS as he had difficulty adjusting to the physical nature of the league. Fernandez put those struggles behind him in 2011, scoring nine times in league play and becoming a key part of Seattle's high-octane attack. One of El Flaco's most memorable moments came in Seattle's CONCACAF Champions League game in Monterrey, the winger fighting through the Rayados defense to score the winner and give the Sounders a signature win.
The 2012 season started in promising fashion, but Fernandez picked up a thigh injury in training in early April and missed nearly a month of action. Upon his return to the team, it was apparent that either Fernandez was still suffering the effects of the injury or was otherwise below his usual standard. The winger's poor play was often cited as a contributing factor to the Sounders nine-game MLS winless streak. The Fernandez of old had recently begun to show himself again, however, scoring his first league goals of the season in back-to-back games against the Colorado Rapids and NY Red Bulls.
Despite that recent return to form, it likely comes as little surprise that it was Flaco ended up being the odd man out. Mauro Rosales has struggled with injuries this season and likely has more value to the Sounders than he would to other teams, while Fredy Montero is arguably one of the league's most valuable assets, meaning he would be cost-prohibitive for most MLS teams to consider trading for and too valuable for Seattle to sell abroad for anything other than a top-dollar offer. The relative youth and undeniable quality and potential of Fernandez made him an attractive option to numerous teams -both within MLS and beyond- but his inconsistency and Designated Player status made him a player Seattle was willing to lose in order to add Tiffert.
Though Flaco's time in Seattle did not always go as smoothly as hoped, there's little doubt that he was a major part of the team's success last season and on his day he was as technically brilliant as anyone in the league. Coach Sigi Schmid and General Manager Adrian Hanauer made it clear that they explored all available options for adding Tiffert and keeping Fernandez on the team, but ultimately it wasn't possible. While it's never an easy decision to part ways with a high-quality player such as Alvaro Fernandez, the Sounders clearly feel as though it was necessary in order to make the team better. Given the track records of both the front office and Christian Tiffert, it's difficult to think that they're wrong.