It took a couple matches for him to get there, but after Harry Shipp’s performance in the Sounders’ 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, the young midfielder is starting to look like the final piece to Seattle’s attacking puzzle. He put in a long shift against Montreal last week and showed some promise, but against New York his creativity and skill truly stood out. Head coach Brian Schmetzer said that Shipp was brought to the team because he fits in the “possession-based team” that the club is putting together in Seattle. The way he played in the attacking midfield trio with Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro proved that notion correct.
Shipp said that his situation in Seattle is completely ideal for him and his style, mainly because of the styles of Lodeiro and Dempsey. “Nico moves all over the place, Clint moves all over the place, that’s kind of the way I like to play. I like to pop up on the left, middle, right.” These types of players don’t always mesh well, and the chemistry that they’ve already started develop is impressive.
Dempsey and Lodeiro only managed a handful of games together in 2016 before the former’s irregular heartbeat issue kept him off the pitch for the rest of the season. So rather than have just one good creative player on the pitch, as the Sounders did for their late playoff push and Cup run, they now have three players with the ability to create something out of nothing on the pitch.
But it’s not just about the creativity—Shipp said that this Sounders squad is remarkably unselfish on the ball. “I’ve played with plenty of talented players in my years in the league, but this is the most unselfish group of creative guys I’ve ever been around.” Having multiple talented playmakers means that trust can develop between them, so that rather than rely on themselves to do everything, they know that there will be a teammate with the ability to pull of something magical will always have their backs. “Nico’s always looking for a pass, Clint’s always looking for a pass. They’re not getting it and just staying isolated and going 1v1, that’s the style I like to play.”
Another thing that has helped Shipp get going quickly with the Sounders is something that most fans might not even realize—I know I didn’t. He and Joevin Jones played together for a year in Chicago, and in the same positions that they played in Sunday’s win. Shipp said that having that chemistry already helped him tremendously, and he explains that their partnership on the left is more than ideal for him. “I like to play inside, he’s the one that creates width. For me, it’s something that’s perfect. I always know he’s going to be there and I can slip that ball in to him.”
Jones, who is quickly becoming one of the best left backs in Major League Soccer, had an incredible performance against the Red Bulls. It was his shot that Shipp redirected into the goal for Seattle’s third--and Shipp’s first Seattle goal. Schmetzer said that Shipp didn’t really want to take credit for the goal, since it didn’t really look intentional in real time. But Shipp said it was quite intentional, even if he didn’t really expect it to go anywhere. “I was trying to direct it towards goal. I opened up my foot because I was expecting the shot to go more away from me. Once I saw it coming towards me, I just figured I would try to deflect it, who knows what happens.” When asked if Jones teased him about getting credit for the goal, he said it was the other way around: “I was giving him a hard time for how bad of a shot it was.”
It’s not often you see a player fit so well into a system so quickly, but Shipp already seems like the perfect addition to a team already filled with creative, talented players. He came in with an existing chemistry and friendship with Jones, which gives him security and assurance on the left side. Now that he’s starting to get into a groove with Dempsey, Lodeiro, and even Jordan Morris, he could be well on his way to looking like the bargain signing of the 2017 season.