For Seattle Sounders fans who had put in the hard work of tracking college prospects, the name "Stefano Rijssel" probably came out of left field. Longtime draft observers are probably not surprised when later-round picks are unknowns, but Rijssel isn't coming to the Sounders from some obscure NAIA school. Rather, Rijssel impressed at MLS's first-ever Caribbean combine to earn a place in the standard MLS combine. Despite his years as a professional with W Connection - one of Trinidad & Tobago's top clubs - Rijssel is in the draft because ... MLS.
In any case, the sort of nerd fans normally need to tell them about their late-round picks is your college soccer or US Development Academy program expert. For Rijssel, you either need to have friends in Trinidad or be a diehard, inexplicably obsessed viewer of the CONCACAF Champions League. Fortunately for you, I am that sort of nerd; fortunately for me, all that lost sleep and tolerating shoddy Fox coverage is coming in handy for once.
Having seen Rijssel play a few times, I think I can paint a rough picture of the player you guys just got (much to my chagrin). In terms of style of play, Rijssel is an energetic player with good - maybe not elite, but good - speed who prefers to play a more vertical sort of game. However, he's not like many MLS wingers who put their head down and charge forward, blindly hoping that a 1v1 or space to cross will just unfold somehow. Despite his age, Rijssel seems aware that attacking players have to pick and choose the right time to take risks with the ball while avoiding predictability.
As a winger he has played pretty traditionally, trying to stay wide and stretch the field all the way out to the touchline. When used as a striker, he did his best trying to hold the ball up with his back to goal, but in my opinion he'd be better trying to run off of a target man. W Connection tried to avoid playing with two forwards in CCL play, instead preferring 4141, 4231, and 433 depending on the circumstances. Still, Rijssel didn't pout when thrust into a job for which he's not ideally suited.
Looking over my notes from watching CCL matches, Rijssel has seen more time wide than as a striker, but it's not a huge gap. In both the 2012 and 2013 group stages, Rijssel played in three of the four possible games for W Connection, who despite failing to win a game either year generally kept games close (including holding the Houston Dynamo and Chivas Guadalajara to draws in Trinidad).
Here's a brief breakdown of where he played in the CCL:
@ Chivas Guadalajara: 54' as a striker in a 4141
@ Xelaju: 15' as a right winger in a 4231
vs. Chivas Guadalajara: 24' as a right winger in a 4141
@ Arabe Unido: 90' as a right winger in a 4231
vs. Arabe Unido: 57' as a left forward in a 433
@ Houston Dynamo: 12' as a striker in a 4141 (note: When Rijssel came on, W Connection may have moved to a 442)
The minutes tell a story soccer fans have seen time and again: For W Connection, Rijssel was a very exciting young talent, but not an untouchable starter. That said, head coach Stuart Fevrier indicated his trust by finding a way to get him on the field more often than not despite being distinct underdogs every time out. It's worth noting that four of his appearances were on the road, something many coaches try not to do with young players who haven't shown enough maturity for those tough situations.
For Sounders fans, the good news is that Rijssel didn't struggle with the speed of play any more than his veteran teammates did, and three of these games took place when he wasn't even 20 years old. That's not to say he looked like a superstar against the Dynamo or Chivas, but I'd wager that there aren't too many college prospects that would have done as well as he did on that same stage.
To compare Rijssel to the field he was drafted in, I think he might have garnered a Generation Adidas offer were he a college product this year. I've seen plenty of this year's only GA forward - Maryland product Schillo Tshuma - and I think Rijssel is further along on the mental side of the game. Tshuma has more a more explosive first step and might be able to use that to buy him more space, but in 2013 teams seemed more able to contain him. Rijssel may not be as capable of the spectacular, but he's more consistent and more well-rounded at this stage thanks to the time he's spent as a professional.
Around this point, you're probably asking how Rijssel fell all the way to the back end of the third round? We may never know for sure, but it does appear that Rijssel is probably a bit more expensive than most of the other players available. Rijssel is still under contract at W Connection and if he were to make the team, the Sounders would have to bring him in on a loan with an option to buy.