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Originally published July 29, 2010 at 11:35 AM | Page modified July 30, 2010 at 12:56 PM

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Sounders FC signs midfielder Alvaro Fernandez

Sounders FC has signed Alvaro Fernandez, a midfielder for the Uruguay National Team. Fernandez, 24, is the club's third designated player.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TUKWILA — When Sounders FC announced the signing of its third designated-player Thursday, it wasn't a household name or an experienced veteran with years of international stardom.

Alvaro Fernandez doesn't have a laundry list of endorsements or a bronze statue of his likeness outside the stadium of his former team.

What the 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder does have, however, is a boundless future. And in joining Seattle, the versatile playmaker might already be one of the brightest young stars in Major League Soccer.

"He's a guy whose best soccer is still ahead of him," said coach Sigi Schmid, "which is always nice when you can bring players like that into the league. ... When you get players at that age and at that level it just shows that you are a more viable league, that you are higher up in that pecking order across the world."

Fernandez's résumé includes participation in the FIFA World Cup (he played four games in Uruguay's fourth-place run in South Africa) and time in the top leagues in Mexico, Portugal, Uruguay and Chile.

So touted is Fernandez that Schmid and Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer each hinted that the new signing's stay in MLS could be a relatively short one before he moves on to bigger leagues.

Hanauer scouted Fernandez at this summer's World Cup and said he felt the team needed another quality player to build upon recent successes and make a playoff push. He also said emphasizing youth has become an important part of team strategy.

"Bringing in younger players, whether that means for many years or whether a player's value increases and then we sell the player back out of the league, by doing so we get allocation money and/or additional cash to help fund other parts of our soccer operation," Hanauer said. "It is a bit of a departure (from the norm), but something that we've thought a lot about and we feel very good about."

Nicknamed "El Flaco," the slender Fernandez can play anywhere in the midfield but still needs to receive his International Transfer Certificate before he can be added to the active roster and become eligible to play. To that end, Seattle would also need to make space on its already-full 24-man roster.

Fernandez has taken well to his new surroundings.

"I'm very impressed by the team; I'm very impressed by the sports complex that we have here," he said through a translator after Thursday's training. "I was very impressed with the fans last night in the stadium."

Fernandez, who got married a few days ago, most recently played for Chilean club Universidad on loan from Nacional of Uruguay. He hopes to learn English and soon bring his wife to Seattle to start a family.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller is eager to see how his new teammate adapts to the change and said Fernandez's success should be measured in part by the team's performance in the second half of the season.

"It's one of those situations where he looks like on paper a good signing," Keller said. "We just have to wait and see how he fits in to this group and this squad and how he plays. But he looks solid."

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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