#21 Emmanuel Cecchini
Realio’s rating: 5.50 in 4 appearances
Community rating: 5.50
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Cecchini came to Seattle as somewhat of a mystery, ostensibly to play defensive midfielder for the future. On a loan deal, the Sounders had the second half of the season to check him out and the results of that small sample weren’t great, especially for a player with his ability.
What I liked: The talent is definitely there. Smooth on the ball, Cecchini has great touch and attacking instincts. When pushing forward he made plays more like a 10 than an 8 or 6, exhibiting an ability to attack from deep areas with flair that was intriguing.
What I didn’t like: Emmanuel never seemed to fit into what Schmetzer and crew wanted from him as a substitute. Whether that was not enough defense, or getting a bit out of position, Cecchini never got a chance to play a full match and show what he could do. For what he was being paid, his production was nonexistent, and he didn’t show he deserved to even be on the bench for the playoffs.
Moving forward: Cecchini has been compared to Magnus Wolff Eikrem, and it’s easy to see why: they were imports who came in at TAM prices and were expected (by fans) to have much bigger roles than they were ultimately given. Both were played in positions that didn’t support their skillset, and both struggled to make an impact in their short time, with defense being an issue. Emmanuel doesn’t appear to be in the Sounders’ long-term plans, but if he gets a chance to return, he should first define what position he’s best at, and then show his talent there.
#20 Will Bruin
Realio’s rating: 5.56 in 9 appearances
Community rating: 5.92
MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 4
Bruin is a player whose absence was clearly felt any time Raúl Ruidíaz couldn’t be on the field, which was often in 2019. The incumbent backup forward, Will has a clearly defined skill set and playstyle that offer a unique look and target in the front, as well as proven goalscoring ability.
What I liked: Bruin kicks the ball into the net. Consistently. He carried the offense in the first meeting of MLS Cup Final teams at Century Link in April, scoring twice. This was the epitome of his game: he consistently got into the box and relied on the playmakers around him to get the ball into dangerous areas. Unlike some of the other depth pieces, Will knows how to slam it home when given the chance and has reliable production and consistency.
What I didn’t like: Who knows what this year had in store for Bruin prior to blowing out his knee? His injury in practice removed any chance to help a team missing Ruidíaz for six games after Will was hurt. When Bruin tries to make the game fancy and interlink with the little technical guys, his average touch and slow pace can slog down an attack that is currently wired for quick, decisive movement.
Moving forward: Bruin has achieved a bit of cult status with the fanbase, being exceptionally personable and available to the public. This is great for podcasting, but he also has been rehabbing hard to try to get back ASAP from his injury. There isn’t a ton of competition for the backup striker role as the roster currently sits, but coming off an ACL tear, Will is likely to miss the start of the 2020 season. Seattle will need to fill his role at least for CCL and the start of MLS, which will force him to reassert his claim to the backup striker position upon anticipated return to full speed.
#19 Justin Dhillon
Realio’s rating: 5.800 in 5 appearances
Community rating: 5.12
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Immediately following Bruin on the rankings list is a guy whose game is most similar to Will’s. Both are big guys who excel at crashing the box and whose play styles are different from Ruidiaz’. Dhillon was moved up to the first team and into five matches for the Sounders due to his excellent goalscoring ability in Tacoma. A guy who doesn’t do a ton fancy but consistently finds the back of the net, Justin forced his way into the discussion with 12 goals and two assists for the Defiance.
What I liked: Dhillon makes excellent runs, and in multiple matches for Seattle displayed tremendous tactical ability to not just get into good spots but also produce space for others with smart off-ball runs. Although he didn’t score, every indication from his movement is promising.
What I didn’t like: It is unclear whether Dhillon’s excellent scoring at the USL level will translate to full MLS play. It’s great to make the right runs, but strikers need to produce tangible goals and assists for the team. Notably slow, Justin might not be a great fit for a team that defined their MLS Cup-winning run with fast, agile counter attacking and the ability to convert transition opportunities.
Moving forward: Still only 24, Dhillon compares well physically with Bruin, at more than five years younger and near $300k less in salary, but has none of the proven MLS ability. If he wants to stay on this team, he will have a short window before Will returns from injury to prove he deserves time over younger attacking options. Justin will need to impress to show that he is more than a USL+ player.
Realio’s rating: 5.83 in 24 appearances
Community rating: 5.83
Regular Season: 5.77 in 22 appearances - Playoffs: 6.50 in 2 appearances
MOTM = 1 High = 7 Low = 5
It seems like the mercurial Nouhou has been around for a long time, yet he is still just 22 years old. Full of energy and definite physical gifts, his challenge at the MLS level has been the technical side of the game, at times struggling to understand tactics and fit into a system that asks much more than being a tremendous 1-v-1 defender. This year he continued to improve in small stints, with steady improvements. Although his highs weren’t as high as last year, he had no stinkers like he was prone to in the past.
What I liked: All the tools and athleticism to be a lock-down defensive player are there, and we saw real growth from Nouhou this season. His temperament on the field seemed more mature, and his game followed. It’s clear he is also working on offensive learning, and although he has a long way to go, is slowly improving his offensive movement and connections.
What I didn’t like: Nouhou actually had six fewer appearances than last season; adding Joevin Jones in the summer meant Nouhou’s role on the left was reduced. Seattle clearly desires attacking wide defenders, and so they keep Nouhou firmly ensconced behind those without his defensive ability but who offer more going forward. I still wish he had scored against LAFC.
Moving forward: Jones is back, Smith is somewhat in the air. The staff will likely evaluate those other options before deciding what to do with Nouhou, which means more uncertainty. The best opportunity for the young left back is if Smith stays in England and Jones starts at right wing. Then Nouhou could take the left back job for the beginning of the season with a chance to write his name as a starter in pen.
#17 Jordy Delem
Realio’s rating: 5.85 in 27 appearances
Community rating: 5.70
Regular Season: 5.91 in 23 appearances - Playoffs: 5.50 in 4 appearances
MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 5
Delem came from S2 and immediately gained a poor reputation due to some lousy performances at fullback. When moved back to the center of the field, Jordy’s play and confidence improved all year, culminating in an essential support role in every playoff match.
What I liked: In 2018 Delem turned in 3 and 4 level performances. In 2019 his lowest was 5, which is very good for a reserve player. Against Houston he earned his first ever MOTM from me on the back of a monster statline: five recoveries, two tackles, an interception, three clearances and 86% passing.
What I didn’t like: Delem is a limited player who can be exposed when you ask him to get out of his comfort zone. This usually entails forcing Jordy to do more in possession, which is not his strength. Prone to mistakes when dribbling, Jordy needs to improve on distribution if he truly wants to be a viable option for years to come.
Moving forward: Seattle protected him in the expansion drafts for good reason: Delem is a very solid, defense-first midfielder who could slot in to most any team in this league and be effective. The rest of his game is steadily improving, and at his attractive salary number and age, he is a valuable asset to any team like the Sounders who are hella greedy for trophies.