- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SEATTLE (AP) - Swiss striker Blaise Nkufo and the Seattle Sounders FC surprisingly cut ties on Tuesday just hours before Seattle hosted Los Angeles to begin the 16th season of Major League Soccer.

Seattle announced the move in a release handed out less than 90 minutes before the opener against Los Angeles.

“We want to thank Blaise for his contributions to the team last season,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said in a statement “Blaise is a quality person and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The release from the team stated the two sides have “mutually agreed to end the Swiss forward’s association with the club.” The details of Nkufo’s status are being negotiated between the team, the player’s representatives and the MLS.

Nkufo was signed as Seattle’s second designated player and joined the club following the 2010 World Cup. He had five goals in his first season and it was expected that 2011 would be his final season playing professionally.

He’d spent the previous seven seasons with FC Twente in Holland and left Twente as the club’s career leader in goals scored. Seattle was the 11th different club and was expected to be his last.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid let slip last month that Nkfuo was planning to make this season his last after his 18-month contract with the Sounders expired. He is the second European designated player to eventually cut ties with the Sounders after Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg was traded last summer from Seattle to Chicago as the relationship between Ljungberg and the club deteriorated.

The 35-year-old Nkufo made $480,000 in his first season with the Sounders.

“This move improves our flexibility with regard to the salary cap,” Hanauer said.