#16 Román Torres
Realio’s rating: 5.533 in 15 appearances
Community rating: 5.90
Rankinator ranking: #15
MOTM = 0 High = 7 Low = 4
If anyone had said Torres would only play in 15 matches this year, you’d assume he was hurt. And he was for a time (and also came into camp out of shape, again). He actually lost his starting job because of the World Cup break, as Kim and Marshall played so well together it didn’t make sense to split them up.
What I liked: He had his highest ratings of the entire year in the playoffs, and he had the team’s third highest increase from regular season to playoff grades. So, despite the relatively low marks early, he was up for the biggest games. The guy hadn’t played in five matches but did his job well even when he likely wasn’t happy to have been sitting.
What I didn’t like: Román was awful early in the season, looking old and slow after coming in out of shape. When given chances later in the season for spot minutes, he did nothing to earn his starting position back.
Moving forward: Torres provides the kind of depth any coach would dream of having for the backline, with three top talents vying for two spots and giving the opportunity to rotate and rest. Unfortunately, this team got in “play-the-hot-hand” mode and that rest never happened. The big question with Román will be his high salary, and the fact that he’s clearly the third best centerback on the team, perhaps making him expendable with the emergence of younger, cheaper talents in the pipeline more willing to accept a backup role.
#15 Brad Smith
Realio’s rating: 5.667 in six appearances
Community rating: 6.18
Rankinator ranking: #18
MOTM = 0 High =7 Low = 3
Smith was ostensibly brought in to be the starting left fullback, and came with a decent pedigree of Premier league teams — Liverpool academy product that never made it onto the first team, five appearances in two years for Bournemouth — as well as the skills that got him there. Much of what I stated in his initial scouting report held.
What I liked: The offensive upside was clearly there. Smith consistently used great instincts going forward to accentuate the attack by providing strong left-sided width and accurate crossing. This culminated in a beautiful play against SKC in Seattle in September, with Brad using his speed to get into the attack before dropping a perfect cross to the waiting Raúl Ruidíaz for a tap in. That dynamic width is exciting.
What I didn’t like: Smith never seemed to get the hang of the league’s referees and physical play, and to say he struggled defensively may be putting it nicely. He had an absolutely disastrous outing in LA in what ended up being his last appearance for Seattle, exhibiting terrible play on both sides of the ball including giving up a penalty before leaving hurt after only playing 17 minutes.
Moving forward: Smith showed a varying display of great upside and terrible downside, all in just a small group of games. I don’t know the team’s plan for this oddball loan situation with Smith, but before debating who should start at left back it might be best to even see if this guy can stay healthy. I still believe he is a quality player to have on your roster, who offers a (literal) change of pace that allows good flexibility on the outside.
#14 Jordy Delem
Realio’s rating: 5.688 in 16 appearances
Community rating: 5.67
Rankinator ranking: #14
MOTM = 1 High = 7 Low = 3
Last year Delem was the lowest rated Sounder with a cumulative rating of 4.938 in the same number of appearances. His effort and play have hugely changed his ratings (and the fans’ perception of his worth). This was a great improvement, and at age 25 there is still more room for him to grow and develop. Although he didn’t get a lot of playing time later in the season, there were multiple times I thought he should have been on the field, including in playoff matches.
What I liked: If you had Jordy Delem earning a MOTM this year, collect your winnings. That was earned by marking Miguel Almiron out of the match in Atlanta, consistently stuffing any attacks from the star player and forcing other players to beat Seattle. (Spoiler: they didn’t.) This shows exactly what Delem gives you: a consistent, strong defensive player who can play his role well, combine with others, and offer you great coverage at a cheap price.
What I didn’t like: Especially earlier in the season, Delem struggled to connect forward at all, being merely a defensive enforcer. Although he improved on this some as the season progressed, he needs to be more than just a man-marking specialist. There were times when he could have taken advantage of space and didn’t, instead settling for safe possession.
Moving forward: Delem is another player who is on a friendly deal and can give you cover at a few different positions. If he gets his green card it would be a plus, and he is the right age, flexibility, and temperament to continue to be a solid presence fighting daily for time in the 18.
#13 Kelvin Leerdam
Realio’s rating: 5.714 in 28 appearances
Community rating: 6.07
Rankinator ranking: #12
MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 3
Leerdam had a pretty big step back this season, from 6.4 overall in 2017. He seemed to be carrying a knock, as his play and subbing patterns were similar to the way Morris was played (injured) for much of 2017. There were bursts of high-quality play surrounded by many appearances that left much to be desired. His two “5” scores in the playoff series against Portland were disappointing.
What I liked: When he was on, Leerdam was his usual great self. His MOTM performance against LAFC showed him completely outplaying Diego Rossi on the defensive end before arriving consistently into the offensive third and leading the team with three key passes. This is the type of two-way dominance we saw much more consistently last season.
What I didn’t like: Kelvin blatantly slapped a guy and got carded off in a loss to Montreal. He was asked to play right mid against RSL before playing so badly the coaches brought in Neagle to replace him. I blame him for the first but not the second. In the last half of the season he never looked comfortable, often subbing out early and frequently appearing hobbled in some fashion.
Moving forward: Leerdam is a TAM outside back who didn’t often play like it this year. I hope it is just a nagging injury that the extra time off will fix, as Kelvin can be a huge asset to the team on both sides of the ball. If the drop in his play wasn’t due to injury, then right back is once again a position that Seattle will want to reinforce before the season begins.
#12 Osvaldo Alonso
Realio’s rating: 5.741 in 27 appearances
Community rating: 6.34
Rankinator ranking: #8
MOTM = 0 High = 8 Low = 3
The season didn’t start off well for the Sounders legend, who missed MLS cup in 2017 due to injury after a season where he clearly showed signs of declining from previous MVP-level form. This injury kept him from playing in CCL and seven of the first 11 matches on the year. When he returned, his range was severely diminished, and he was much more prone to errors than in the past.
What I liked: After getting situated in the team and benefiting from absolutely fantastic play by those around him, Alonso ripped off five straight “7” ratings to end the season. His best match of the year, however, was Seattle’s win in Portland midseason, where the “Alonso of old” returned briefly to dominate a rivalry game. He completely outperformed every other match of the season with massive stats and clear desire, and he reminded us how dominant he used to be.
What I didn’t like: A completely dreadful match against the Chicago Fire where Alonso was by far the worst player on the field came amidst a five-match run where he averaged 4.4 and looked to be done as an MLS-level player. Even when he played well, his range was limited and he faded late consistently. I wish Delem had been brought in for him on multiple occasions, which says a lot.
Moving forward: As the ratings show, there is still a decent to good MLS player in there, but he isn’t the dominant force he once was. His DP play behind him, Alonso puts Seattle in the tough position of negotiating with a known petulant player where the options are likely: 1) return at a vastly reduced salary and role, or 2) leave the team he’s given 10 years to. I don’t see how the Sounders can bring him back at a number he’ll accept, and after seeing him play poorly in the playoffs, I’m prepared for him to move on.