Tyrone Mears’ first half of his debut MLS season left many suggesting he was the best right back in the league; by the midpoint of his second MLS season, opinions had dramatically changed. Mears closed out the season playing sound defense and was a key component of the Seattle Sounders’ first-ever MLS Cup, only to have his contract option declined only hours after.
Either way, the roller-coaster is apparently over as Mears effectively announced his departure from the Sounders on Friday. At the time of publication, it was unclear what the 33-year-old has planned next. (UPDATE: It looks like he may end up playing for Atlanta United.)
Big thank you to the sounders fans for your awesome support these last 2 years. Glad it ended with the cup. Great memories pic.twitter.com/usud4bp8YR— Tye Mears (@TyeMears) January 20, 2017
At his best, Mears was a sound defender who cleverly picked his spots to get forward and made the most of them. His three assists during 2015 were the second most ever for a Sounders full back. But he was also prone to mental lapses, inexplicably losing marks or failing to take advantage of open space in the attack. After being benched at halftime of the Sounders’ 4-2 loss to the Portland Timbers, though, Mears seemed to rediscover himself as more of a stay-at-home fullback. He provided solid defense down the stretch and played the full 90 in the Sounders’ final 14 matches, including all six playoff games. He also had what proved to be one of the pivotal plays of the Sounders’ season, when his pressure on FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman forced a turnover and his cross to Nicolas Lodeiro set up a clinching road goal during the Western Conference semifinals.
Mears’ departure leaves Brad Evans and Oniel Fisher as the most obvious replacements at right back, assuming the Sounders don’t bring in another from outside. Although Evans only has a few appearances at right back for the Sounders, at one point he started there in five World Cup qualifiers for the United States national team. He also started at right back in historic wins over Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2013. Fisher, meanwhile, has mostly played as a left back for the Sounders, but is a more natural right-sided player.