New Sounders import Christian Tiffert could be leader team needs
Seattle is waiting for Tiffert's visa to clear. The hope is he will be able to play Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid kept a close eye on the team's latest addition, Christian Tiffert, during Tuesday's practice.
The German midfielder, who signed as a designated player Friday, arrived after the transcontinental trip Monday, which meant it was perfectly acceptable if he needed to take it easy on his first day.
Schmid, after each drill, would ask: "How do you feel now?"
Tiffert best answered in performance, completing the whole training session with his new team despite the jet lag and fatigue.
The only question left, it seems: When will the high-profile acquisition see the field?
And unfortunately for the Sounders, that answer is unknown.
Tiffert, 30, was brought in to contribute immediately and is in good shape having gone through most of preseason with his former team, Germany's FC Kaiserslautern, but his eligibility rides on the completion of paperwork. Tiffert, as an international signing, must first receive his P-1 visa.
"It's something where you hope ... it goes as quickly as possible, but you're never quite sure," Schmid said of the governmental process. "What we've learned is you just don't predict anything. We keep our fingers crossed and when it happens, it happens."
Schmid said the team doesn't expect Tiffert will be eligible before Sunday's home game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, "but you never know."
Whether it's a matter of days or weeks, both sides of the big signing are excited. Tiffert, who spurned offers from other teams, is eager for an American adventure with his wife and two kids and hopes to help carry the Sounders to greater levels of success.
Schmid has praised Tiffert's vision, shooting, crossing, versatility and leadership.
That last attribute might be most important for a team that has had all the pieces in place for a championship run, but has fallen short in the playoffs. Tiffert is ready for a leadership role despite a language barrier. He speaks what he calls "school English", learned 10 years ago.
"It depends on what are you doing on the field — what kind of action you have, not if you speak too much," said Tiffert, who first visited Seattle in June.
The Sounders had to trade designated player Alvaro Fernandez to Chicago last week to make room for Tiffert on the roster. MLS teams are only allowed three DPs, and Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales also fall under that designation.
Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer said the initial goal was to play out the season with both Fernandez and Tiffert, but attempts to get around the DP restrictions were unsuccessful.
The team was first unable to restructure Fernandez' contract to where he wouldn't classify as a DP. Then the league wouldn't allow the Sounders to loan Fernandez to another team and sign Tiffert (Seattle still would have had control of four DPs).
"It just took a while to sort of muddle through the process and try to argue and persuade and convince, and ultimately it just came down to the last couple of days, and (we) decided that in order to bring Christian in, we were going to need to make that move with Alvaro," Hanauer said.
• Tickets are available for Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League game against Trinidad's Caledonia AIA by calling 877-MLS-GOAL or visiting soundersfc.com. Kickoff at CenturyLink Field is at 7 p.m.
• There will be an announcement in the near future regarding a television broadcast for next week's U.S. Open Cup final, according to a U.S. Soccer spokesman.
• Hanauer said the finalization of a loan deal for Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez is a matter of "crossing the i's and dotting the t's. ... I'm highly confident that in the very near future we'll have something to announce."
• Sounders FC U-23s defender DeAndre Yedlin and Kitsap Pumas midfielder Matt Friesen have been named to the 2012 PDL All-League team. Yedlin, a product of Sounders FC's youth development program, plays collegiately for national power Akron.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.