Forward Blaise Nkufo leaves Sounders FC
Surprising announcement came roughly an hour before the team's season opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Tuesday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Sounders FC and designated player Blaise Nkufo agreed to part ways Tuesday, a surprising announcement made roughly an hour before the team's season opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Nkufo's status with the league is being negotiated by Seattle's front office, MLS officials and Nkufo's representative. The 35-year-old forward joined the team in July after playing for Switzerland at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and winning the Dutch league title with FC Twente.
"We mutually agreed, he didn't want to be part of our plans and we didn't think it would be best if he was in our plans," general manager Adrian Hanauer said after Seattle's 1-0 loss to Los Angeles.
Nkufo had five goals in 2010, including the organization's first hat trick against Columbus in September. He was expected to be a regular starter for the third-year franchise until Tuesday's departure.
The details of the break up weren't exactly clear, but a source told KIRO (97.3 FM) radio, Sounders FC's radio partner, that Nkufo was unhappy with the style coach Sigi Schmid asked him to play and had lobbied for a trade. That sounds similar to the team's falling out last season with another designated player, Freddie Ljungberg.
Regardless of any disagreement, Nkufo was expected to retire after the 2011 season.
The Seattle Times reported earlier Monday that Nkufo would not start the team's opener because of a disagreement at practice. Hanauer denied there was a problem at practice and made no mention of Nkufo leaving the team. That announcement came a few hours later in a club news release.
In the release, Hanauer said the "move improves our flexibility with regard to the salary cap."
Nkufo made $480,000 in base salary last season, but as a designated player would have hit the salary cap at $335,000. The flexibility could ease the arrival of Argentine midfielder Mauro Rosales, whose signing is expected to be announced soon.
Forward O'Brian White, acquired in an offseason trade with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, started in Nkufo's place against the Galaxy.
Joshua Mayers; 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
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