As the confetti, smoke and streamers begin to settle after a citywide celebration, there is now time to reflect upon the greatness of those protagonists who gave the Seattle Sounders their second MLS Cup just a week ago.
The 2016 and 2019 championship teams both had a core group of veteran players which have taken the success of this franchise to another level, beginning what could potentially turn into a genuine MLS dynasty. Clint Dempsey, Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso and Stefan Frei are all players who would be in consideration to be part of a Mount Rushmore of legends who brought titles to the franchise.
However, there is one player who clearly marked the start of this new era of monumental achievements with his arrival, turning this club from consistent contender to elite. I am referring to Nicolas Lodeiro, a player whose individual talent catapulted Seattle into winning their first MLS Cup in 2016 after arriving during the second half of that season.
Aside from his relentlessness and leadership, the attacking midfielder’s quality is reflected in his individual stats. The most telling numbers are those earned in the post-season, as big-time players are judged on their performances on big -time games. Despite only having four years defending Sounders colors Lodeiro is already the all-time leader in postseason minutes (1,610), starts (17), assists (8) and tied with Raul Ruidiaz in goals (7).
Stats are simply one dimension of how crucial Nico has been during his time in Seattle, leading the team to three league finals and winning two of them. His intangibles have an immeasurable influence in the locker room, beyond his lead-by-example approach, the current team captain’s ability to make those around him better and work with young talents like Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan have been key to the consistency Sounders has displayed since his arrival.
Nonetheless, there is always a certain emotional connection to organization variable which must be considered when declaring someone the greatest player in club history; the relationship between city, fans and individual always tends to play a significant role.
Between Lodeiro’s skill on the field, trophies won, remarkable attitude and adorable son, he is not just a fan favorite but has clearly become a face of the franchise. The charrua has always felt the link with the city and its people but now has also embraced Seattle as a city of his own.
“Seattle Sounders is and will always be in my heart,” is what Nicolas Lodeiro told me as he described his affection for this organization compared to others where his played throughout his career.
“I have a daughter who was born here, no one will ever take that away, it is something I’ll never forget. I had the fortune to help give them their first star and now I give them another one.” The Uruguayan went on to say while pointing and grabbing the star over the shield of his kit.
There was so much emotion to his statement that it genuinely showed his love and appreciation not just for the team but for the city.
“This state, this city, the people here will always have a place in my heart, I am proud to be here and I would like to thank them because if today I am as happy as I am, it is because of the love they have shown me in the streets making me feel as If I was in my hometown”.
When it comes down to choosing one player in the history of a club arguments could be infinite and opinions can vary. That said, to me Lodeiro checks every single box, in every single category, making him at the very least the front runner in this conversation.
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