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, a move that was a few days in the works and appeared to be based around the potential Nkufo could be facing a reduced role with the Sounders.
"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," Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer said after Seattle's 1-0 season-opening loss to Los Angeles.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid met with Nkufo a few days before the opener where both sides realized a split was probably best for each. Hanauer said the move needed to be made before the season began, otherwise $335,000 of Nkufo's salary would have counted against Seattle's salary cap.
Hanauer emphasized a number of times after Seattle's 1-0 season-opening loss to Los Angeles that the sides parted on amicable terms and that the details of his status within the league are being worked out. Asked if he believed Nkufo wanted to continue playing, Hanauer said, "I don't know."
Nkufo, 35, 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.
Schmid let slip last month that Nkfuo was planning to make this season his last after his 18-month contract with the Sounders expired. His family has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia while Nkufo was playing for the Sounders.
"We went over different things and it was just a mutual decision that it was probably good to move on at this stage," Schmid said. "It wasn't working in terms of his situation, our situation, but it was very mutual. There were no problems, there were no issues, there was no problem with professionalism. He's a very professional player and a quality player, but after we met we realized it was probably best to move on."
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.