TUKWILA, Wash. -- Even though it was teased earlier this week when the paperwork had yet to go through, the Seattle Sounders officially signed Spanish winger Victor Rodriguez on Wednesday. The newest Sounder spoke to the media after the training session through a translator. About the move, Rodriguez said “I was very happy and hopeful. I didn’t have to think about it twice. As soon as I found out about the opportunity, I was excited to come.”
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said on Monday that Rodriguez has been on the club’s radar for nearly two years, but it wasn’t in the cards until now. Rodriguez was a free transfer from Spanish club Sporting Gijon, which was relegated at the end of the 2016-17 season. When asked why a move to the Sounders appealed to him, Rodriguez said that it was perfect for his career. “I’m very interested in winning titles, so coming to Seattle, to a team that’s very competitive, was very high up my list.”
Rodriguez also said that the city itself was important to his decision. When asked what he knew about Seattle, he jokingly replied in English: “Space Needle.” But what really drew him was that he’d heard great things about the culture and people in Seattle. “ It’s a very nice city, people are very open here,” Rodriguez said. “It’s pretty easy to just talk to strangers and make friends.”
Despite the Sounders’ tracking of Rodriguez for so long, his arrival has happened pretty quickly—before he was able to sort out the details to have his family join him. Rodriguez said his wife is still in Spain, and that they’re expecting a daughter; he hopes she can join him as soon as possible. “I am expecting a daughter...for now I’m just trying to keep the family around and excited to have them over here.”
Once all the outside details were ironed out, Rodriguez was pleased to find out that the Sounders were a great fit for him and his career. “I saw a lot of the highlights of the team and their playing style,” Rodriguez said. “It was very encouraging to see the style the Sounders play, it’s very possession-based, which helps my style of play.” He noted that throughout his career he’s played in multiple attacking roles, and that he is equally comfortable on the right, left, or center of the attack. “I feel pretty comfortable in all of them,” Rodriguez said, “and at the end of the day it’s down to the coach to see where he wants me to play.”
While he doesn’t want to praise himself too much for his play on the field and wants fans to see him for themselves, Rodriguez humbly mentioned a few areas that he considers to be his strengths. “Generally I consider myself pretty easy on the ball, I like to have the ball and I believe that I can bring a lot of assists to the team and hopefully a few goals as well.” Lagerwey said on Monday that Rodriguez was signed to compete for the position on the left of the attacking midfield band of three, and that his passing and technical abilities played a key role in why the Sounders were attracted to him.
Rodriguez was also quick to acknowledge weak areas of his game, but pledged to work hard at improving those areas whenever possible. He said he’s not always the most defensive of players due to his size, but he’s not afraid to tackle and intercept whenever called upon to do so. “Obviously [defending is] not my strong suit - I’m a small guy - but I don’t shy away from tackles; if what I need to do is be there and get into 50/50 tackles, that’s fine by me.” Some of his past clubs and coaches didn’t require him to defend much, but that doesn’t mean he’s not willing to learn and improve. “I think [my teammates] that are strong defensively can help me in my weaknesses defending and I’ll be practicing a lot of that to be an asset for the team on that side as well.”
That seems to be a hallmark of Rodriguez’s personality; he’s willing to learn and improve on areas that he’s weak in or that he wasn’t required to use in the past. “I’m 28 years old right now, which on one side says I have the experience to know where my strengths and weaknesses lie, but I’m still young enough that I can improve on those things.” Rodriguez seems to see joining Seattle as an excellent chance to do two things: win trophies, and improve as a soccer player. Head coach Brian Schmetzer praised Rodriguez’s willingness to do new things with the Sounders, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. “It’s an opportunity for him to come here and add a few pieces to his game that might obviously help us but also help him in the future as well.”
Even though he’s only been with the group a couple of days, Rodriguez said he’s already getting used to his new team. He credited some of the Spanish-speaking players with helping him acclimate to everything, especially Nicolas Lodeiro, Osvaldo Alonso, and Roman Torres. Schmetzer wasn’t surprised to hear that his players were helping their new teammate get settled. “They’re good pros, and they’re good people. I think this club has always done a good job, a decent job of incorporating new people.”
Schmetzer assured that Rodriguez wouldn’t be rushed into action for the Sounders, that the squad’s chemistry and form is good enough that they don’t need a quick fix like they did when Lodeiro arrived last July. “...He’s coming into a good squad, so I don’t want to put any undue pressure on the kid,” Schmetzer said. “Let him grow within the group and see where his strengths are and see where we can use him and go from there.” The Sounders coach stressed that they don’t want to change Rodriguez’s style or personality as a player, but rather adapt him to a league that’s quite different from what he’s used to.
Lagerwey also said there wasn’t a rush to get him on the pitch, and that giving Rodriguez time to get match fit and comfortable was more important now. “I will also say there are team side factors with [his availability] too in terms of fitness and conditioning.”
Rodriguez sat in on the Sounders’ post-LA film session, and the team’s technical staff was sure to focus on some of the harder tackles and fouls that were inflicted on the team to show the new player what the league can be like. This has long been a point of struggle for technical players coming into the league, and the team is looking to set him up for long-term success. Schmetzer mentioned the video department is putting together a special compilation for Rodriguez, “...of Diaz, Morales, other technical players that have come from other places and had success in our league, and we will show him and educate him.”
As for this weekend, Lagerwey reiterated his statement from Monday he likely wouldn’t be available for Saturday’s match at Minnesota United. The Sounders GM said Rodriguez’s “visa and his ITC are still pending“.
While the Sounders may not be done in this transfer window, it seems like they’ve at least found a great fit in Rodriguez — especially considering Lagerwey’s assertion on Monday that the left side of midfield was a key hole that needed filling. He is a versatile, experienced winger that is eager to do whatever it takes for his team. “At the end of the day what I want to do is improve on my abilities and my career,” Rodriguez said. “I think I am in the right place to do that, with the right team and with the right teammates.”