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Sounders trade for back-up goalkeeper

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Former Chicago Fire ‘keeper Stefan Cleveland swaps the Midwest for Seattle.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Chicago Fire - Friendly Match Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

The Seattle Sounders made a trade to fill the vacancy left by Bryan Meredith’s departure for Inter Miami, acquiring goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland from the Chicago Fire. Cleveland was the 26th pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, and went on to make five starts with the MLS team. He spent the 2019 season on loan with Lansing Ignite FC of USL League 1, where he made 22 starts and earned Player of the Month in June.

The Sounders traded their first round pick in the 2020 SuperDraft, the 26th pick overall, to the Fire for Cleveland and the Fire’s second round pick, the 35th pick overall. Cleveland experienced relative success with Lansing, posting seven clean-sheets and only three losses. He’s still young, especially for a ‘keeper, at 25 years-old. The trade is a rather low-risk proposition for a player with three years of professional experience whose primary responsibility will be to help push Stefan Frei and Trey Muse in training, serving as the back-up for Frei on game days, and hopefully being one of the sharpest dressed players on the team as is tradition for Sounders back-up ‘keepers. The 26th pick in the Superdraft has yielded exactly zero players who are still in MLS in the last six drafts, so the team gave up little in value to acquire Cleveland. The value of the pick is likely even lower for Seattle, who are more likely to give an opportunity to an academy player who has already been tested with Tacoma Defiance than to have an older college player make the first team.

Cleveland has a good frame for a goalkeeper, coming in at 6’2” and weighing 185 lbs. His numbers don’t exactly jump off the page from his time in the third tier of the US soccer landscape, but he did manage a 72% save success rate, including two save penalties last season. After playing in college with Dartmouth and then Louisville for his senior year, and three years of professional soccer where he made appearances in MLS and USL Championship before his season with Lansing, Cleveland is headed to an ideal situation for a young goalkeeper. He’ll have little pressure playing behind the best ‘keeper in MLS, and will get to train alongside and learn from Stefan Frei and Trey Muse all under the tutelage of goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra. If you’re unsure of the value of that experience, look at the two most recent players the Sounders have lost in Expansion Drafts: Tyler Miller and Bryan Meredith. The impact of learning from Tom Dutra is clearly recognized by the rest of the league, and hopefully we’ll get to see that growth play out for Cleveland.

This marks the first player acquisition of the off-season for Seattle, with more surely to come. What do you think of this move? What other activity do you expect to see in the coming weeks?