The first two rotationals were loved companions from an old club in a minor league. The French Connection was the Sounders connection between old and new. One has been taken from us. But these two are a Peter and a Patrick. One constantly derided on forums, and the other seen as surprisingly protected over a loved MLS Sounder - James Riley.
But Vagenas and Ianni are also the connection between the Sounders and the League in which they compete. They are some of the strong attachment to the League's past, and its future. Each was also adequate as an infrequent starter on a good club, but their futures are very different.
Peter Vagenas - Long valued by Sigi Schmid, Vagenas is the classic connector. He is no longer agile, nor a threat on offense. His defense is primarily based in what is in his head, and not in his physical talents. He's a solid lateral passer, a short passer. He will not start the counter and his vision of the upcoming play is not part of "Sigi's Game" if that is defined by the rapid counter.
What he does do though is calm the team down. He starts processes, not attacks. His vision is of a calm game - both in speed and in the attitude of the team on the pitch. As a Central Midfielder he is a decent defender. Vagenas disrupts the long passes through the central third, and he blocks the primary lane of the opponents attack. He will never be glamorous and with his current physical skillset he is no longer a true box-to-box man, but purely a central third man. At a time when the offense was struggling, Peter Vagenas' defense in that third enabled Osvaldo Alonso to get forward a bit more often and enter the attack. It was a skill that was necessary and useful. When Freddie Ljungberg received a hard foul that was uncalled it was Vagenas who became the enforcer. In practices when there was a question of tactics or technique it was Vagenas who assisted the coaching staff.
Vagenas is the perfect example of a player who is all about leadership and attitude. He is about clubhouse and coaches favorites, and yet, those skills also manifested in small ways on the pitch. Sure he's overpriced, but sometimes a young team needs a man who has been around, who has seen the battles, and who has survived.
Peter Vagenas had a +5 in his 740 minutes of league play (0.61 per 90) but only 1 Clean Sheet (min 60 minutes played). This was actually the highest of the 3 players who started matches at the Central Mid (Alonso and Evans). He assisted on two goals (1 on a set play) in league play, nothing in non-league, for a 0.24 in league and a 0.18 in non-league.
Short Term Peak -Vagenas is already a past-peak player but will likely start all CCL matches next season, and late round US Open Cup. While he should be healthier he will likely not be a threat to get more playing time. Within two years expect him to become an assistant and a good one.
Patrick Ianni - A solid young centerback is hard to find. Hard enough that Houston picked him 8th overall. But breaking into their starting lineup is difficult, and Ianni lost his GA status. Houston's loss, was Seattle's gain. Ianni has over two dozen caps with the U-20, and received the call with the U-23s. Priced appropriately his future in MLS is solid.
Normally offensive skills of a Centerback are ignored, but Ianni is one who gets forward both in run of play and in set-play situations. Skillful at winning the offensive header on the set, and being a decent passback target during the switch Ianni in that final third can provide that 8th man that overloads the opposition. His footwork and passing are good enough that he won't be the source of the turnover that starts the counter. His speed will let him be one of the first back on defense.
Ianni is not the best defender in one on one situations (Hurtado). Nor is he the best at winning that first ball in the air (Marshall). He does not see the build-up of the play best on the team (Graham). Patrick Ianni though is probably the second best in all of those, and still young. He can become the best as he continues to get playing time, and especially while coached by Sigi the Educator. There is likely not another player on the team who will wind up playing in the league another 10 years besides Patrick Ianni. He earned 4 Clean Sheets in his 10 starts and 6 significant appearances, and had a +4 in 1102 minutes (0.33 per 90). He scored 1 goal and earned 2 assists for a 0.33 in League play and 0.26 in non-league play.
Short Term Peak - Starting Centerback in 20 or so matches. Regular starter in non-league play. Possible future All-Star if his learning path is maximized.
Past player recaps/expectations are here
Thoughts on Vagenas and Ianni's past season and what we can expect from either within the next two years?