Seattle Sounders FC appear to be getting some Bundesliga love. According the Sounders, the deal is not completed, but the team is in “”advanced negotiations with Christian Tiffert,” as the Sounders told the folks at the SounderAtHeart SB Nation blog.
The German media and Richard Motzkin are reporting that the deal is done – a three-year deal with no transfer fees. Motzkin’s tweet reports that Tiffert will be a “Designated Player,” meaning Seattle will be shedding someone to open a slot for the former Kaiserslautern captain and central midfielder. The German midfielder began his professional career with Tennis Berlin in 2000, and has also played for German clubs VfB Stuttgart and MSV Duisburg, along with Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, before joining the Red Devils of Kaiserslautern in 2010. Tiffert won an Austrian championship with Salzburg in 2007, and joins German-born footballers Torsten Frings (Toronto FC), Arne Friedrich (Chicago Fire) and Florian Lechner (NE Revolution) in the MLS.
After only scoring 24 goals coupled with a dead last table finish, 1. FC Kaiserslautern was relegated to 2.Bundesliga for the 2012-13 season. So it’s no surprise that the squad was looking to trim its salary with the decreased revenue stream of Germany’s second tier.
Despite Tiffert’s presence in midfield, Die roten Teufel‘s could not score in 2011-12, thanks to a wasteful frontline, which was decimated by the departure of goal machine Srdjan Lakic and its three other top goalscorer following the 2010/2011 campaign. Kaiserslautern’s 2011/2012 scoring production was the worst seen in the Bundesliga in five seasons. The now unemployed Kaiserslautern boss, Marco Kurz, resorted to incessant tinkering with Tiffert’s position in his midfield lineup, looking for the magic formula to bag some goals. Indeed, Tiffert’s WhoScored.com profile reveal that the captain played in five (!) midfield positions last season.
Tiffert’s production plummeted in 2011-12 with only 1 assist and 2 goals. This output is a pittance from his league best 17 assists in 2010-11, as he dominated from the central midfield position. His performance earned him the 12th slot in Bundesliga Fanatic’s top 25 Bundesliga players for 2010-2011.
Tiffert’s strengths lay in his passing. Whether it was his link up play, crosses, set pieces, Tiffert did it all with pin point precision. More importantly, Tiffert led by example and was key in some of his team’s most important matches this season. Amongst those were the home win against Bayern Munich, the comeback against Stuttgart after being down 3 goals, the 5:0 demolition of Schalke, one of the finer team performances anywhere in the league this season or the final couple of games of the season, which Kaiserslautern needed to win to pull away from the relegation zone.
Even last season, Tiffert, who is 30, still completed about 80% of his passes. Skilled with both long and short ball passing, Tiffert was something like a Bundesliga Andreas Pirlo from the center circle for Die roten Teufel. He’s also durable. During his supreme 2010-11 campaign, he appeared all but one of Kaiserslautern’s matches.
Despite his age (let’s just be Italian about it, eh?), Tiffert is a mouth-watering addition for Sounders FC fans. Sounder at Heart’s scouting report describes him, in MLS terms, as an upgrade from Houston’s Brad Davis with David Beckham qualities. Look for the Sounders to slot him into Brad Evans’ midfield position, allowing Ozzy Alonso to shine even more in his “enforcer” (destroyer?) midfield role. When everyone is fully healthy, Tiffert will have Rosales, Fernandez, Montero, and Johnson directly in front – a big upgrade compared to what Tiffert was stuck with at Kaiserslautern last season. Look especially for Montero to benefit from Tiffert, who will become the youngster’s quality feeder – a support that Montero has lacked. Tiffert will probably take a majority of the Sounders’ free kicks too, given his skilled right foot in “Beckham bending.”
What’s not to love?
As a passionate Sounders fan myself, what excites me most is Tiffert’s passing vision. The Sounders, coached by German-born Sigi Schmid, have lacked midfield link-up play, instead relying on Alonso to compensate by over-extending himself. Their play in the middle, despite the pretty passing triangles they pull off on the flanks, usually seems so disjointed. Montero and Johnson are forced to create so much on their own. Speaking in clichés, the Sounders needed the “European touch” of class and technique to upgrade their midfield quality.
Here’s a possible starting XI, thanks to CheekyBackHeel’s great analysis:
For Sounders’ fans, the only drawback (if you could call it so) is who gets axed. Because the team is so young in its MLS status, fans are quite attached to our core group of guys. I won’t belabor you with details, but look out for who gets displaced in Seattle’s starting XI for Tiffert.
Finally, a small part of me is just a bit rankled that MLS is still where the aging Euro dudes go. Tiffert is 30 and it seems Kaiserslautern view his age – and salary – as expendable. I believe that the upgraded front line Tiffert will have to work with should give us Sounders fans at least three years of passing vision and wizardry from the Halle native. So instead of framing this move as Tiffert’s retirement league, I’m thinking about it as his second chance.
Welcome to the great Northwest, Mr. Tiffert!
The Sounders are currently 8-5-7 in 2012 MLS play. They will look to capture a record fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup on August 8th against Sporting Kansas City. No club in the history of the Cup competition, that dates back to 1914, has ever won the trophy four times in a row. On August 2, they begin the first round of CONCACAF Champions League play against Trinidad & Tobago side Caledonia AIA.
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