What was old was new again in 2016. Alvaro Fernandez, who the Seattle Sounders never wanted to lose and who never wanted to leave, finally made his way back to his favorite club. Since leaving Seattle he was with the Chicago Fire, Al Rayyan (Qatar), Nacional (Uruguay), and Gimnasia (Argentina). On his return, he rejoined his friends and helped bring buddy Nico Lodeiro with him. Garth Lagerwey sees Flaco as a plug-and-play option for Nico, but he lacks the penetrating passes and shot.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Alvaro Fernandez 2016
Fernandez may use a fourth dimension when in possession. His ability to keep the ball at his feet under contact is plus-plus, to borrow from baseball scouting usage. He is also a strong passer at short to medium distances. He lacks an effective cross, so when on the wing he must drive towards the box and get width from the fullbacks. Alvaro did not display the heading ability that made him great in 2011. His shot is league average for a midfielder. Can be an effective support on free kicks.
One of the things that Fernandez did improve on from his previous stay is his willingness to defend within the team’s structure. He occupies effective spaces and will press when his teammates do. Despite height, shouldn’t contribute to set-piece defense beyond being part of the wall.
There is nothing about Alvaro’s build, nor how he applies it, that says he should be a professional athlete. His nickname is “Flaco” because he’s so skinny. He is also fairly slow. He doesn’t handle contact well. He may be the antithesis of the MLS player.
Alvaro "Flaco" Fernandez came over as the much less heralded summer Uruguayan move. On paper, getting a guy who had been a DP here before with national team experience who loved the area and knew the league and could help acclimate Lodeiro was a coup. Well, the making Nico comfortable part worked perfectly, the rest was merely okay. Flaco had the usual adjustment period that many mid-season signings have, and never really got going as a Sounder in the way that I hoped.
Alvaro got on the field nine times for coach Schmetzer, and his 5.78 average was solid, while unspectacular. He wasn't prone to any very low scores, but also didn't do enough to separate himself from an often underwhelming group of choices at midfield. Flaco's skillset is a hybrid one, and he is a guy who got a bit lost early in his return to Seattle trying to fit into the system. Later in the season we saw him making backside runs (and scoring a goal) and being more effective once he figured out his role. Lots of what Fernandez did to change games came without the ball, via good runs, pressing at appropriate times, or adjusting tactically to support.
Alvaro continued this "a bit under average" play in the playoffs, garnering three more appearances and a 5.67 ratings average. He will maybe be best (or worst) remembered for being the only Sounder to miss his PK in the final, one that wasn't poorly taken but was saved by Toronto.
With an overall ratings average of 5.750 Flaco was by no means bad last season, and I think with a full offseason, he still has a lot to offer to this team. I fully expect him to be improved, and also to get on ball a bit more. There has been a nice influx of young players in the midfield this offseason and Alvaro will need to show that he hasn't been passed by. He isn't a flashy DP any more, but this is a player who makes smart, veteran plays, can help support in the middle and wide, and should be in the competition for the everyday 18.
Best Case 2017:
Flaco could be starting in the band of three. If he emulates the chance he got in 2011, the Sounders will have a potent offense with a bench that includes Shipp and Bruin, among others.