There’s a reasonably well established soccer pipeline between the United States and the Netherlands. At least 19 Americans have played in the Eredivisie, most notably the likes of USMNT stalwarts like Peter Vermes, Earnie Stewart, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.
For the most part, though, the pipeline only goes one way.
The Seattle Sounders’ signing of Kelvin Leerdam bucks that trend. While there have been plenty of examples of players moving from the Eredivisie to MLS, they’ve usually been Americans returning home, older players trying to hang on or Europeans desperately looking for a place to play .
Rarely, if ever, have they had the resume of Leerdam, a nine-year veteran coming off a season in which he was a regular starter for one of the league’s top teams and still just 27 years old.
The Sounders seem genuinely excited about the signing, which had been in the works for about six months. Beyond whatever they could see with their own eyes, their decision was bolstered by reports Director of Performance Dave Tenney received from his extensive contacts in the Netherlands.
And yet, the reaction to Leerdam’s signing seems somewhat muted. Why? A lot of it probably has to do with the simple fact that this was announced on the Saturday of what many are treating like a four-day Fourth of July weekend that has the Sounders playing a road game.
There’s also the reality that so few of us have actually seen Leerdam play. The Eredivisie is not carried by any Americans rights holder and we rarely even seen highlights on a regular basis.
That said, Realio went to Saturday’s training session and offered these notes:
- He’s a lithe player, skinny but average height (5’10-ish) – Similar height to Oneil Fisher but skinnier
- Very quick feet. Uses both well, noticed no outside-of-the-foot passes to avoid using his off foot etc.
- Held his own in tight spaces drills, looked calm and confident with ball on feet under pressure.
- Vocal. Not scared to have his voice heard, even on the first day of practice. Similar to Nico in that aspect.
- Very clean feet, his touch is strong and he wants to run and push the ball forward. VERY attack minded fullback.
- Defending looks just OK. Not a shut-down defender from first glance and might struggle when forced to defend consistently for long periods of time, definitely more of a Jones-type than a Leo-type who stayed home and locked it down. A bit prone to stabbing in but good instincts and smart recovery movement.
- Physically may be overpowered by the more tankier Dwyer type forwards or teams with target wingers
- Really wants to overlap and demands service, using this as both offensive pressure and defensive relief
- Highlight of practice from him was a sprint up the wing past Fisher defending on the other team, receiving an over the shoulder pass to him and first time inch perfect cross to Kovar far post —- WOW moment.
Believe it or not, there was also a Sounder at Heart reader (athfngl) who counts themselves a serious Vitesse fan. They offered this insight in the comments:
Steady, level-headed, confident on the ball.
Good at weighing risk/reward on bombing forward.
Good decision-making on whether to cross or cut in – the latter usually doesn’t occur often or yield much.
Recovers well on turnovers and positions himself well for clearances/blocks.
Wins duels often and is good with his head.
Doesn’t get yellow often, and I don’t remember him ever seeing red with Vitesse.
He’s a Joevin type, but wouldn’t do well on the wings unlike Jones.
Can play on both sides very well, but wouldn’t make a good center back.
He had a rough spot last season and was demoted to Jong (young) Vitesse in January due to underperforming and "bad energy" but that’s not a testament to his personality – I think he just butted heads with Rob Maas, their interim manager at the time. Got along with with Bosz and Fraser who are more player managers like Schmetzer, and they really brought out the best in him.
Vitesse are going through some big changes this offseason and I was super bummed that Kelvin was out of contract with nothing on the table. Now I’m stupid excited because he’s all ours. I see nothing but good things coming from this and think he will thrive under Schmetzer’s style and personality.
Another reader (Moohead) dug through Vitesse’s highlight videos and picked out some of Leerdam’s best goals. Only looking at goals is going to make virtually any player look pretty good, but Leerdam had a couple that were particularly impressive.
This one came against PSV and shows some impressive speed as creates a turnover and then finishes the chance at the other end:
This was against ADO Den Haag and was quite the blast while charging forward on a counter:
While this is all encouraging, all that will really matter is how he plays once he officially suits up for the Sounders. That could come as soon as July 19, when the Sounders return from the Gold Cup break.