Ex-Real Salt Lake GM Garth Lagerwey enjoying new life, new job in Seattle

MLS • He’s already making his mark by making big moves for Sounders, and will return to SLC this week.

Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey pose for a portrait at Rio Tinto Stadium Wednesday June 13, 2012.

It's been seven months since Garth Lagerwey packed up what remained in the house on Capitol Hill to finalize the end of his Real Salt Lake career to start a new one with the Seattle Sounders.

"The same house costs about three times as much in Seattle," RSL's former general manager joked. "We'll miss that house for about another 20 years or so. Maybe longer."

Shocker: Life in the Emerald City is different.

It no longer takes Lagerwey 20 minutes — tops — to get to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. On Tuesday, Lagerwey was stuck in the usual 7:45 a.m. bumper-to-bumper traffic on his way to the Sounders offices in downtown Seattle. Introduced as the newest general manager and president of soccer in early January, Lagerwey's transition in the new gig has been, for lack of a better term, eventful.

He was hired in Seattle because owner Adrian Hanauer said if Lagerwey, widely-respected as one of the premier front-office minds in Major League Soccer, was to ever become available, he'd spring to the front of the line. Lagerwey's four-year extension at RSL expired on Dec. 31 of last year, and he became a free agent.

The Sounders snagged him. The summer months made for a speedy trial for the new guy, too. After a typical bright start to the season, Seattle lost nine of 10 games across all competitions. In two months, the club managed a total of three goals. The former RSL architect, now at a new club with deep pockets, went shopping.

His cellphone operated on European and South American times for most of the summer. The calls and texts would die down about 3 or 4 p.m. each day, then light back up when 10 p.m. rolled around.

"It was like being back at the law firm and living the dream again," said Lagerwey, who left a job at a Washington law firm to join RSL in 2007. "Sleep a couple hours a night."

In all, the Sounders signed six players since the start of June. Lagerwey added a new designated player in Paraguayan forward and World Cup veteran Nelson Valdez, signed Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz and brought back Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg. Then last week, Seattle signed hulking Panamanian center back Roman Torres.

Each open checkbox that seemed glaring during the dismal parts of June, July and early August was slowly checked off by Lagerwey and the Seattle front office. Newly implemented targeted-allocation money — a league-wide fiscal infusion to help clubs bring in more high-profile players — helped, too.

"I think the thing that we really got right was we just had unity and purpose from ownership through the front office down to the coaches," he said. "We all agreed on what to do, and we went out and spent."

Four of the six summer signings had a hand in each of Seattle's goals in the 4-0 trouncing of Orlando City on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. It's likely most of the new Sounders will be on display Saturday night in Sandy, when RSL and Seattle meet for the first time in 2015.

The Sounders and the Lagerweys arrive in Utah on Friday. The former RSL GM is bringing wife Hilary and sons Bennett and Finn out for the weekend for the first visit since relocating to the Pacific Northwest in February. While he's no longer part of RSL, he still vouches for Salt Lake City as an "underrated, cool community" and a place that is dear to him. It's where he and Hilary married and started a family and eventually moved into the house on Capitol Hill.

"When you leave a job, you don't leave all the people you care about," he said. "There's a ton of people there that I worked with for a very long time and players that played for me for a really long time that you're still connected to."

As coincidence would have it, RSL is chasing Seattle for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. A win over the Sounders on Saturday brings RSL within shouting distance. A loss will likely bury RSL's shot at an eighth straight postseason appearance.

Lagerwey tuned in Saturday to watch RSL's match against the Portland Timbers. He saw former RSL center back Nat Borchers bury a header in the 95th minute to aid the Timbers in escaping with a 1-0 win. In his post-game interview, Borchers — who, like Lagerwey, was an integral part of the success cultivated in Utah and was part of an exodus last offseason — was overcome with emotion.

"As Nat's reaction showed, I don't think it goes away," Lagerwey said. "I think that's just the normal human emotion. You spend a lot of time somewhere ... I was in a place where it was very special to me. It always will be."


Twitter: @chriskamrani

Garth Lagerwey, center, the new general manager of the Seattle Sounders MLS soccer team, talks on the sideline as he observes MLS soccer training, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in Tukwila, Wash. The signing of Andres Correa to the Sounders was announced Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Garth Lagerwey, center, the new general manager of the Seattle Sounders MLS soccer team, stands with Sounders minority owner and former general manager Adrian Hanauer, right, as they observe MLS soccer training, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in Tukwila, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey, right, talks with former general manager and current Sounders minority owner Adrian Hanauer, left, before an MLS soccer match against Orlando City, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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