When Nicolas Lodeiro joined the Seattle Sounders, the team was in a tail spin. Part of why he joined was because his Boca Juniors coach played under Sigi Schmid in Columbus, but Sigi had just been fired. Part of why he joined was because Seattle was a perennial title contender, even though it seemed like an impossibility in July 2016. Then Nico happened (other things happened too, but this is Nico’s story). Poseidon took over on the right of the attacking band and later in the middle, flourishing wherever Brian Schmetzer asked him to play. At 27, Lodeiro is not an aging star, but rather a regular MVP candidate at the peak of his career that a team can build around for years.
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.
Lodeiro is likely the most complete attacking player to wear Rave Green. His off-ball runs open space for teammates, and put him into areas where he can receive the pass. His vision is incredible and he has the ability to complete passes of which mortals merely conceive. Nico is goal hungry as well, able to score from distance or position himself for simple tap-in goals. He is a talent that defines an entire team. Quality service on indirect kicks and a great shooter when a more direct approach is necessary, but his corner service could be the only average ability in his extraordinary attacking tool belt.
Most attacking players in MLS do not play defense. Lodeiro is not most attacking players. It is Nico who decides when the Sounders will press, and when they do it is his movement that destroys the opposition. He is also a solid ball-winner and tackler in one-on-one situations. He should start counters rather than defend in set-piece situations.
Nico has a slight build and often goes down under contact to try to draw fouls, but he’s also shown excellent balance when slicing through defenders. He’s quick, but not a sprinter. Should not be involved in aerial challenges, as he is only 5’ 8”. His endurance and work rate are among the best the league has ever seen.
To say Nicolas Lodeiro was a revelation in the second half of 2016 would be a huge understatement. Nico came into the team in the late summer and proceeded to dominate every single game he played in. The numbers just don’t do him justice, the amount of his supremacy over any other performer on the team and his enormous impact is hard to quantify purely by ratings.
The marks for Lodeiro are mind boggling: he immediately started and played in 13 out of 14 games for Coach Schmetzer while earning a rating between 7 and 9 for every single game. This averaged out to an enormous 7.46 average in the regular season, well over a half point higher than anyone else on the team, and he received 4 MOTM awards along the way. Nico did everything, from scoring goals, setting up teammates, playing defense, and putting a beleaguered team on his back and carrying them to the postseason via sheer will. His winning attitude and ability and league-readiness rarely found in a midseason acquisition combined with his massive skill to create a supernova of achievement that carried the Sounders up the team ranks and into the playoffs.
There was just no denying Lodeiro in 2016, and his statistics are eye popping: he played 19/20 possible games, with 6 MOTM awards on the way to a total cumulative average rating of 7.526, (a full half point over anyone else on the roster) and was just a complete revelation for a team needing exactly what he brought. He impressively never earned even so much as an “average” rating, receiving above average 7 or higher every single time he stepped on the field.
I may be running out of superlatives, but somehow, inexplicably, Lodeiro was BETTER in the postseason than the regular season, raising his already absurd rating mark to a 7.67 average in the playoffs. He played all 6 games, again earned from 7-9 in each game’s ratings, earned 2 MOTM awards, chipped in 4 goals, and was completely exceptional.
I am sure teams will catch on to some of the things he does, and he will need to adjust to their adjustments. But it is still a tall ask for opponents, as one of the main reasons Lodeiro is so effective is that his massive work rate makes him nearly impossible to contain. It remains to be seen how the Sounders will integrate other pieces into the 2017 puzzle, but the instructions should be “get open and have faith Nico will find you”. He will.
Best Case 2017: