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Scouting Report: Jalil Anibaba

You know a trade is well-conceived at a very basic level when both sides feel they've won; by that rubric, today's swap of Chicago's Jalil Anibaba for Seattle's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni scores very highly indeed. But what have the Sounders actually acquired in Anibaba - a starting right back? A young, seasoned center back? Affordable depth?

See thee rise - Anibaba up over Alonso, JKH as Scott and Rose stare
See thee rise - Anibaba up over Alonso, JKH as Scott and Rose stare
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Say this: Jalil is an absolutely fantastic athlete - quick, durable and strong. He's started 92 games in his three seasons in Fire red, including every game this season, and I can't say that he's ever looked as if he could use a break. He's also, by all accounts, a quality teammate, committed without being overbearing, loose without being disruptive.

What he hasn't been, unfortunately, is well handled by his coaches. After Anibaba's strong rookie season, the Fire drafted the guy who was supposed to be his partner in the middle, Austin Berry. The two looked the part - Berry the stopper, Anibaba the cover guy, both young and very athletic. Then Arne Friedrich fell into the Fire's laps, and the plan changed.

Anibaba got moved outside for 2012, and instead of spending rep after rep honing his already-solid centerback instincts, every session was spent with other matters - overlapping; crosses; playing in combination. It showed when, late in ‘12, his crosses began finding teammates, rather than floating about aimlessly. It also showed when, early in ‘13, Jalil was moved back to the middle of defense and wandered about as if recently concussed. What you are getting is a very gifted player, still only 25, who is at something of a crossroads professionally.

He is absolutely a better center back than a right back. At right back, he's serviceable; he's athletic and has worked hard on his crossing, but he sees the game better and has better anticipation when he's in the middle. Jalil's more of a cover back than a stopper, but his communication skills are good enough that he plays well in a flatter backline playing the offside trap.

In terms of weaknesses, well, Anibaba is not a leader-type in the back line. When things go poorly, he turns inward. And he's not going to kick-start attacks with his incisive passing from the back - he connects well on shorter passes, but his longer attempts are wayward enough to appear random. He's decent in the air, but it's not his focus - he's more likely to spoil an opponent's header than win one cleanly himself.

If I was to compare his game to a Sounder, ironically, it'd be Jhon Kennedy Hurtado - but he's four years younger, a bit cheaper, and a whole lot less pugnacious in the locker room. The feeling here is that Seattle is going to like Jalil Anibaba.

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