Although the season ultimately ended on a sour note, the 2017 Sounders had a good run, and back-to-back finals is incredible for a franchise that hadn’t so much as won a conference championship a year and a half ago. Throughout this season I have rated each player for every match, and will be presenting them in reverse order of cumulative Realio’s Ratings rank. Please feel free to ask any questions if you want more in-depth data on these players, as I have game-by-game breakdowns, historical data for some players for up to three years, and tons of other data if you have specific questions. Please keep in mind a few things when looking at these updates:
- Ratings aren’t the only way to judge a player, and this is not any kind of official ranking. This is merely how these players came out in my view for the season. While higher ranking players are likely to be better performers, using ratings to say “x player is better than y” is an ineffective way to get value from ratings. There are tons of variables that go into ranking different players. Some players had very volatile ratings and others were very steady. Each has its positives, but ratings sometimes look a bit screwy for those players prone to big success accompanied by big failure.
- Sample size matters. A lot. Two late-game appearances where you didn’t look completely out of touch in 15 minutes of playing time may get you a cumulative 6 rating, but the guy who started and played 20 games and got a 5.9 is very unlikely to be a worse player, nor less valuable. Please keep an open mind about how much these guys are playing and realize how sample size can skew both directions.
- There was a lot of improvement at the end of the season. The entire team cumulative average raised around three-tenths of a point in the second half when compared with the first half of the regular season. Even with a crummy final, the playoffs were also high marks. Because 6 is average on this scale, it’s a bit harder to raise a bad early season mark, so take some of the players who struggled early with a grain of salt when evaluating their end-of-year ratings.
#25 Jordy Delem – 4.94 | Community – 5.02
The lowest rated Sounders player this year was Jordy Delem. His cumulative 4.94 over 16 appearances is a bit misleading though — his first 10 matches earned him a 4.4 rating with three “3” ratings really pulling his final scores down. He was a part of the early season Seattle losses, and Delem struggled with the pace of the MLS game. Jordy did not prove to be MLS-quality at right back when tried there, and that hampered the public perception of him and started his year of ratings very low.
Once he settled into the season and played a position that he was comfortable with, Delem’s play started to justify the faith the team showed in him by giving him a first team spot. His above-average touch enabled him to link well in the middle and he looked much more comfortable as the season wore on. His final four appearances in the regular season earned a 5.75 rating, and he was near MLS-average playing mostly in defensive midfield. Perhaps even more notably, Delem improved his score the second most of any Sounder in the playoffs, offering two games at MLS average (6) and increasing his performance over a full rating point when it counted the most. After struggling badly, Jordy ended the year as a dependable (if unflashy) option at defensive midfield.
Delem is a capable, very cheap depth piece, but does take up an international roster slot. He will be fighting for a spot at the end of the bench in 2018 and may also need to show some positional flexibility that he did not this year.
#24 Seyi Adekoya - 5.0 | Community – 4.4
Adekoya had a disappointing two appearances in 2017, and never seemed to get his chance to show much. Injuries stole time early in the year when there was the most opportunity. He got a respectable 5 in each match he did play in (including a start) but failed to show enough to warrant more playing time. An exciting player in preseason, Adekoya was never able to show off his best attribute (speed) but did a decent job making runs up top in his brief time in MLS games. There is some concern that he didn’t develop much this season and didn’t look dominant at S2, where he saw much more action.
Adekoya needs to work hard in the offseason to justify his senior roster spot, and if he is able to find the spark he had a few years ago, he could again be fighting for minutes off the bench. He must look better than he did for the last half of the season to have any chance of this happening.
#23 Tony Alfaro – 5.07 | Community – 5.34
Alfaro is #23 on the ratings for the season, and it was a big year for Tony. He tripled his five appearances from last year with fifteen in 2017, but struggled on more than one occasion. He was downright bad (3) in the Chicago Fire loss in Chicago (5/13) and again in the loss at Columbus a few games later (5/31). Each saw Seattle play a bit of a makeshift back line and Alfaro did not step up and show the quality necessary for MLS play. Many had high hopes for Tony to continue his solid play from last year and translate that to pushing the veterans in front of him into more rest, but when given these opportunities to start, he failed to take advantage. Like Delem, Tony really struggled early in the year, averaging 4.71 in his first seven appearances, but 5.34 in his final eight. His cumulative score of 5.07 was a full point less than he averaged last year and I am not sure if that is due to smaller sample size last season or a distinct step back, but 2018 will be another very important year for Alfaro. With Rodrigue Ele and Sam Rogers from S2 breathing down his neck, Alfaro has no time to rest, and his spot on the senior roster is shaky. He has shown the ability to be an adequate backup, and in the second half of the year fixed some errors (like going to ground constantly) but at this point in his development, I really hoped to be more confident in him replacing Marshall or Torres in spurts.
Alfaro needs to be more consistent, and show that he should be the first backup for the centerbacks. This means fighting for a spot in the 18 with younger players who may have more upside.
#22 Henry Wingo – 5.18 | Community – 5.6
Henry Wingo checks in at number 22 with a respectable number of 11 regular season and one post season appearances. Wingo was an exciting late game change of pace, often pushing the offense forward from a wing position. Against Philly, he tied for the highest grade of the team (7) which was also his best grade all season.
”Wingo was the pleasant surprise of the evening. Asked to inject pace, energy, and direct play, Henry did exactly that. While he wasn’t always disciplined, he converted 95% of his passes, including a whopping three key passes, and he was fantastic combining with others. In the 61st he instantly stole the ball from a Philly defender and pushed it forward, signaling a new effort from the Seattle attack. A minute later he was on the right wing, crossing a ball, getting a deflection and shooting direct. In the 70th he kept up the intensity, eventually leading to an open Lodeiro shot. His long throw and hustle in the 83rd created a free kick for Seattle.”
I was impressed with Wingo’s versatility, and he has the size and speed to be a dynamic player for Seattle. His scores are low mostly due to being a substitute option and struggling with decision making at the MLS level. Just as he can be fun and exciting, Henry can also disappear from games when not involved.
Wingo will look to build upon his first year as a pro and push to be a permanent fixture on the bench. He has the physical tools to mimic the improvement of Roldan, which is high praise for a young player, but he needs to be more than just a good athlete. The technical side of the game will be where he becomes an important piece or an afterthought in 2018.
#21 Oneil Fisher – 5.33 | Community – 5.28
There is no one nicer on the team than Fisher, and it’s a bit sad he appeared in only nine games. His 2017 grade is down from his 5.67 rating last season, which was also nine games, but included three important playoff matches. Fisher started out well with an above average 7 in his first match against Montreal this year, but then really struggled in May, culminating in a disastrous Columbus game (3). Oneil only played twice more in 2017, but was average in both. The right back job might have been his for the taking, but an untimely injury saw Fisher sent to the far end of the bench and forgotten. Watching him play various non-right-back positions for his home country of Jamaica, Oniel showed a versatility that the Sounders tend to enjoy on their team, but this is a guy that really needs to show something early in 2018. With the introduction of Waylon Francis to the Sounders roster, the appeal of Fisher’s ability to play left back is waning and the number of chances he will get to impress can’t be many.
There are backup right back minutes that I expect Fisher to be in the thick of challenging for, but its going to be very hard for him to make a stacked Sounders 18 on most nights in 2018.