Nicolas Lodeiro helped reinvent the Seattle Sounders attack. It is potent and multi-faceted, often running through the Uruguayan playmaker’s feet. He won the Newcomer of the Year because of his success converting to MLS play and the surge in the standings when the Sounders became his and Brian Schmetzer’s team. FC Dallas fell to the power of Lodeiro. Now the Colorado Rapids think they know how to stop him.
“He’s been fantastic for them all season at finding little gaps,” [Rapids captain Sam] Cronin said. “We need to get as close as possible to him and minimize his space and time on the ball and push him backward and wide. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a lot of success.”
But, when Lodeiro is wide he’s an effective crosser, at third best in the league for accurate crosses per game. That would put him into different spaces, less effective spaces, but not into spaces where he cannot succeed. Pushing him further back may prevent the throughball, but Nico’s quite good at long passes too. He is third among attacking players with 10 or more starts for completed long passes.
Plus, even neutering Lodeiro’s offense does not eliminate his effectiveness as a player.
“The lynchpin to their whole attack is Lodeiro,” [Rapids coach Pablo] Mastroeni said. “But also, transition defending, he’s been fantastic and he gets in great positions to break plays up.”
Lodeiro is a ball winner as much as a distributor. His contributions in defense are nearly as important as those in the attack. He is the one that determines when and how the Sounders press.
Stopping Lodeiro through some kind of double-bracket that forces him back and wide will reduce his effectiveness, but it also means that Roldan and Alonso can take higher spaces centrally while wide mids (some selection of Morris, Evans, Ivanschitz, Fernandez, Friberg, Kovar, Gomez) can dive into central spaces to force the Colorado backline into crooked shapes.
That should be fine for Seattle. It allows them to maintain their standard style of play with their preferred routes to goal.