You couldn't tell the players without a program, and your program was useless unless you arrived at the park early enough to hear the squad announced. That was the first lesson learned upon attending a British football match some 30 years ago. It was a brisk spring evening in Scotland, with dust swirling in a windswept, dilapidated ground of Stirling Albion (don't ask).
There were no programs and not a lot of spectators either. Although Scottish in heritage this visitor didn't speak the language. But I'm pretty sure the ol' man in tweed a few yards away was suggesting I keep an eye on the No. 10. And ain't that always the case?
Since the height of Pelé's reign, the No. 10 shirt has been football's most prized. In theory, it should be issued to a player of quality (at least compared to the rest of the squad). Ideally, it would be worn by an attacking player with a creative, cunning mind to go along with a quiver of skills for surgically dismembering a defense.
Enter Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle's new No. 10 and most recently of Boca Juniors. Talk about the pressure and expectation of wearing that number, at La Bombonera Lodeiro was tracing the footsteps of both a demigod (Maradona) and a recently retired legend (Riquelme). And Nico handled it with aplomb, settling in soon after his arrival and leading Boca to the domestic double.
In Seattle, while there is hope that Lodeiro will again quickly acclimatize and, in short order, reverse the Sounders' fortunes, in the near term fans will settle for inventiveness and a fair share of industry. Win the crowd, then build from there.
While lifting a cup can go a long way toward earning one the status of legend, awards, stats and heroics can also drive the argument.
Clearly, more than a few Seattle 10s have made their mark over the last 42 years.
10 Top Feats of Seattle 10s
MVP: Peter Hattrup, Mark Baena (both A-League)
Newcomer of the Year: Mauro Rosales (MLS)
Best XI: Hattrup, Baena, Mike Gailey (A-League); Freddie Ljungberg (MLS)
Best XI, second team: Hank Liotart, Steve Daley (twice, NASL)
4-goal game: Derek Smethurst (NASL), Baena,
10-goal season: Smethurst, Daley, Hattrup, Gailey, Baena (twice)
20-goal season: Baena (twice)
10-assist season: Daley (twice), Ljungberg, Rosales (twice)
A-League final-winning goal: Joey Leonetti (A-League)
Supporters Shield-winning goal: Marco Pappa (MLS)
All but one of the aforementioned were older than Lodeiro as he begins his Sounders shift. In other words, whereas they had peaked, Nico is likely on the cusp of his prime, which bodes well for all concerned.
For Lodeiro to propel himself from DP signing to two-pole to tifo status among the Seattle supporters, he must either deliver an MLS Cup, earn his share of major awards and honors or, better yet, both.
Which of these standards will Lodeiro first meet or surpass?
Frank MacDonald is a Seattle soccer journalist and historian. This story first appeared on his website and has been republished here with his permission.