#3 Gustav Svensson
Realio’s rating: 6.731 in 26 appearances
Community rating: 6.75
Rankinator ranking: #7
MOTM = 2 High = 8 Low = 6
Svensson again showed amazing consistency, scoring from good to great in all 24 regular season appearances. He never had an outing below MLS average, which is spectacular. His hustle and desire were in evidence every match, and with Osvaldo Alonso showing diminishing range, it was often up to the Goose to compensate — and he did. Gustav was better than last year’s 6.405, combining well with whoever was inserted into defensive midfield next to him, and providing stellar play in a variety of fullback positions when needed. Continually understated, Svensson was a model player who brought quality every time he stepped on to the field, before and after a deserved trip to the World Cup.
What I liked: Most of what Svensson did as a player was subtle. Unless you paid attention, you might not notice how much running he did. After Nicolás Lodeiro, Goose covered the most ground on the team, and it was this range that was key to the success of many players around him. Guys like Alonso, Nouhou, Kim Kee-hee, Nico, etc. all hugely benefited from Gustav’s ability to drop into places and cover for their movement (or lack thereof). His intelligent progression directly helped the defense, with his ability to seamlessly drop into the back line. His defensive midfield plays continually stifled opponents in the center of the field and made the other team more predictable while shielding the center of the pitch. When pushing forward, Svensson made smart, useful runs to support others. I was continually impressed with his over-the-top passing that often created great chances in transition and should be even more effective with the pace of Jordan Morris on the field. The Goose was a constant menace on set pieces, getting his head to the ball and flicking far post or just finishing cleanly when open, and he showed a refined offensive game that is a huge plus from his position. There’s also this from the NYCFC match: “If you sleep on the Goose offensively, he will sneak up field and kick a ball through your goalie into the net. Nothing fancy, just kick the absolute friggin’ stuffing out of the ball first time on frame and then go eat tacos.”
Svensson helped the team from back to front and was a huge reason for their success, anchoring the midfield solidly. His game sheets were littered with lines like this one “This was another monstrous game from the Goose. He had six tackles, two clearances, a shot on target, a key pass, a scoreless cameo at center back,” and this: “I thought Gustav was the best player in this game. Defensively he was everywhere, leading the team with a massive five interceptions, adding three tackles and holding the middle together well. Offensively, he added a shot on goal and a key pass, and he did all this with a sparkling 94% passing completion rate to lead the Sounders.” These quotes illustrate a player who is doing it on both sides of the ball, at a high rate, for entire matches.
What I didn’t like: Svensson had a number of rather embarrassing “stabs” at the ball where he completely whiffed which were usually cleaned up by the defenders behind him but without the recovery speed of many midfielders, he has to be smarter about not committing too hard to tackles. There’s not much to dislike from Gustav; at his worst he was around league average for a defensive midfielder. He rarely had bad matches but on the flip side he only earned a single 8 on the year, and that lack of ability to absolutely take over a game may be the only true problem I could find. Some of that might have been the need to cover for Alonso and there were times where these two didn’t mesh very well in the middle, but ultimately Seattle may look to add someone with a different skill set at the end of Goose’s contract.
Moving forward: His two MOTM performances both came in losses, and showed me a lot about his character. It didn’t matter how bad the team or players around him were playing, he came to work, he busted his ass, and he played harder when the team needed a bit more from him. That really impressed me. I started a “sign this guy” campaign mid-season when it was clear he was playing at a high level in the defensive midfield and we need him to return. I hope that doesn’t mean just the one option year. This guy played well at the World Cup, is likely looking to cash in on that success, and deserves more than a year. Svensson adds value to the team in so many ways and is clearly a must start any time he is healthy. He is the kind of guy you pencil into the starting lineup and forget about, because he is calmly going to do the right thing for 90+ minutes.