As we move into the top 10 rated Seattle Sounders from 2017, we start to see the big name players, the guys who scored above average in nearly every game last season. It’s exciting to know that every single Sounder from the top 10 is returning for the 2018 season to compete for minutes, and its noteworthy that even with two high-performing midseason acquisitions arriving and making their way into the top 10, this group still averaged over 29 appearances per player. Numbers 10 through 6 include three players new to SSFC in 2017, as well as two tested veteran leaders who can be counted on to rate highly every single season.
#10 Harry Shipp – 6.05 | Community – 5.87
Shipp came into the season as an exciting addition, and while he had an up and down relationship with many fans, he turned in an above average cumulative rating on the way to earning the 10th highest year end score from his performances. Shipp’s 21 appearances included three in the playoffs, where he improved his play for a 6.67 average when it counted the most. The highlight of Shipp’s regular season was a fantastic 8 grade at home against NYRB which included a goal. His versatility showed in this game as Harry started as a winger but moved into defensive midfield after Roldan was pushed into right back. I thought Shipp looked decent at defensive mid, willing to stay central and push the ball forward into the attack. Although he got hurt, Harry was prepared to come in and work hard when he returned, and he improved his connection with the stars. This was a big reason for his slow start, and something that another year on the team should be able to improve.
Shipp showed in short bursts that there may still be a special player in there — his assist to Bruin in the Houston playoff game was magic. If he can show more of this, he will be a strong candidate for continuous bench inclusion and minutes when available. He must continue to take advantage of the chances given to remain relevant in a crowded midfield corps.
#9 Osvaldo Alonso – 6.07 | Community – 6.47
I think its fair to question Alonso’s durability, with 2016 being one of the few recent years that a healthy Ozzie made it into the playoffs (and he was hurt within them to the extent he probably shouldn’t have played in the final). In 2016 his 40 appearances seem to be an anomaly when compared to the 27 managed in 2017 and 22 in 2015. Unlike some older players who show little sign of slowing down, Ozzie is consistently breaking down at the end of the year.
It is very easy to split Alonso’s season into three parts:
- His first 10 matches (before he was injured in the Chicago game) when he earned a an average of 6.4.
- He only missed one game before his next stretch of eight games where he was pretty good, earning a 6 average. However, he was hurt 17 minutes into the Colorado match and missed his next four.
- After that he tried to return, playing in eight more regular season games but earning a low 5.75 cumulative before again getting hurt (quad) and being out the last three games of the year and only appearing in the first Vancouver playoff game before reinjuring himself for a fourth or fifth time on the year and missing the rest of the playoffs.
As you can see, his rating dropped with each subsequent injury and his performance lagged each time he tried to return. Even hurt Alonso earned three MOTM awards which tied for third on the team, and when healthy, he is tremendously valuable thanks to his ability to open up the field and allow others more creative space in the middle. He still averaged very high and is capable of dominant performances.
Alonso is still a very good to great player and likely starter in most Seattle defensive midfield setups. With more cover for his position, it’s possible he could get more rest this year, but it’s hard to see Ozzie sitting if healthy. This means its possible he will play until he’s hurt, and hopefully those injuries aren’t in important games. Using his fire and desire as motivation to reclaim some of his high level play from 2016 is a good start.
#8 Kelvin Leerdam – 6.40 | Community – 6.86
Leerdam was a revelation for a beleaguered bunch of players attempting to play out of position at the right back spot while the normal guys were hurt. A massive upgrade, Leerdam immediately added class, composure, and consistency from the defensive right. His impact led directly to improved results from the players around him, and his team as a whole. His 20 matches were some of the best defensive soccer that Seattle played all year, and at times Kelvin showed an enticing ability to join the attack as well. Especially intriguing was spurts of quality dribbling and innovative angles as an attacker, attempting early service and direct entry into the box instead of relying on chunking in square crosses. It remains to be seen how much competition he will have in this role, but he showed durability and didn’t miss a single game after joining the team. With only two below average grades and 10 above (including a MOTM for the Minnesota game) Leerdam is a player who performed steadily every single match. From that MUFC match, we see a player who was comfortable on the ball and a complete player on both ends of the field:
Seattle was hugely right-sided in its possession in this game, and Leerdam had a monstrous 109 touches. He won five aerials, had five interceptions, three clearances, a key pass, and was involved in nearly every scoring opportunity. At the same time, he ran the entire right side of the field providing width, with Nico often meandering to the center and left.
Leerdam is an every day starter in 2018 who should be in the running for best in MLS right back with his combination of defensive presence and ability to join the offense. Look for him to pop up on set pieces as well, with an underrated ability to win headers in addition to possessing a deadly long throw.
#7 Gustav Svensson – 6.41 | Community – 6.36
This guy had 37 appearances! A player who was on nobody’s radar entering training, the Goose showed up with a sense of humor and a work ethic and skill level that immediately garnered him playing time on a team coming off an MLS Cup victory. He played a variety of roles and was tremendous in defensive midfield and central defense, earning the third most MOTM awards on the team. Svensson was a very steady performer as well, only scoring below average in 14% of his appearances, compared to playing above average nearly 40% of the time. Other than the final, his worst grade was 5, but he scored a stellar seven 8 grades for the season. With the MLS season being a grind, it was our new Swede who’s resiliency had him eligible to play in every match. For a large part of the year he was in the running for most valuable Sounder and an argument can easily be made for him to be on the field as much as possible.
Because of the peak potential of guys like Torres and Alonso, it’s possible that Goose is on the bench this year behind guys with lesser ratings, but he is so valuable thanks to his versatility that I personally hope he gets rotated in to help alleviate injury on a team that could play 50 games across all competitions this season. His tactical flexibility means Svensson either starts or is a likely sub every single match.
#6 Chad Marshall – 6.61 | Community – 6.62
There is no one more consistent than this guy, and again, Marshall was back near the top of the Sounders roster from my ratings. In 2017 Chad had 33 appearances and was the highest rated defender once again. I think its also important to point out that every single year he improves his grade in the postseason, and in 2017 he averaged 7.20 while being one of the only Sounders to earn an average rating in MLS Cup final. Marshall consistently raises his level of play when it counts the most and every time he’s considered too old or slow he shows up and dominates.
Chad had a few games missed to injury but was remarkably consistent. His low grade on the year was 5 (three times) and his high was 8 (seven times). You will rarely see a really bad game from Marshall and its quite easy to just take his play for granted because he is so good. Other teams tout their exciting defensive players, but from my eye, Chad played at or near the top of the league once again. One anomaly from all his success was he only earned one MOTM award (the 2-2 tie in Portland). This may be another side effect of his consistency, or being undervalued for just always doing things right. Although he missed six games this season, none of his injuries were long term or serious, and were more consistent with typical knocks picked up by anyone in soccer rather than indicative of aging or injury concerns.
Chad shows no sign of slowing down, turning in season after season of high scores on my ratings. Marshall is an every day starter and someone you can count on to do it right every time on a championship level defense.