#16 Jonathan Campbell
Realio’s rating: 6.00 in 4 appearances
Community rating: 5.00
MOTM = 1 High = 6 Low = 6
Seattle was familiar with Campbell from their U-23 squad, and when given the chance to trade Chicago a paperclip for his rights, the Sounders signed him. Campbell was exactly what he seemed when he was brought in: a middle-tier defender to provide depth to a veteran group of central defenders, and with a small upside and cheap salary should he develop into something more.
What I liked: If nothing else, Jonathan was consistent. He rated a 6 every match, a sterling compliment as a number of his appearances came with depleted lineups. A late season loss to RSL couldn’t be pinned on Campbell, whose ability to play in a five-man back line effectively earned him MOTM. This was a 0-3 loss for the Sounders, but Campbell did his part, missing only two passes all night and filling up a solid stat sheet of defensive measures.
What I didn’t like: Although he didn’t have any howlers, there wasn’t much to get excited about watching Campbell. With a low MLS ceiling that he seems to have firmly run into, this is the player he is and that player is okay, not great. He had opportunities to play himself into a more permanent role, but did not do so.
Moving forward: Campbell never became more than a depth piece for Seattle, but every time he showed up, he played MLS-average and did his job. The team released him at the end of the season likely thinking that they could replace his ability with another player with a higher upside, lower cost, or younger age.
#15 Danny Leyva
Realio’s rating: 6.00 in 6 appearances
Community rating: 5.80
MOTM = 0 High = 7 Low = 5
Wow, what a fun time to watch the growth of Leyva, who came from seemingly nowhere to earn a first team contract at the ripe old age of 15. Poised and talented, Danny started out the preseason rooming with first-teamers and looked impressive. He has a high upside talent with good vision, excellent touch, and great demeanor on the soccer field.
What I liked: Against Vancouver he earned a 7 grade for his part in a 1-0 win. Starting his first-ever match for Seattle, Danny combined excellently with Gustav Svensson in the defensive midfield and put in a strong shift on both sides of the ball. His 10 defensive actions were combined with an 87% completion rate in a match where this first-time starter and 16-year-old consistently outplayed proven MLS veterans. Oh, and he scored an absolutely brilliant goal from long range that was absurdly called back by the referee. His poise and calm execution in a very contentious match were amazing.
What I didn’t like: Danny has a very high ceiling, but there is a crowd in front of him at defensive midfielder, and I don’t get the feeling the team is completely sold on where he should be playing. That is fine for a teenager, but one downside of winning MLS Cups and having such a deep team is there isn’t as much time for the youth to get quality minutes. Leyva has some issues with going to ground too much and plenty to learn about concise attacking play, and it will be a challenge to get him the minutes to improve for the full MLS side.
Moving forward: Leyva’s growth curve this season was fantastic. If he keeps this up, he should be a consistent member of the first team’s plans for the immediate future. Now he has to build on his great 2019 by pushing for reliable minutes on a team that will have plenty to go around. I think his position and improvement are something to closely watch heading into 2020, as at his age and development speed, big things are possible.
#14 Brad Smith
Realio’s rating: 6.03 in 29 appearances
Community rating: 6.61
Regular Season: 5.92 in 25 appearances - Playoffs: 6.75 in 4 appearances
MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 4
Smith improved this year from last, taking hold of the starting left back position and looking much more comfortable with the physicality and speed of the league. His pace might have been the best on the team, as he charged forward with abandon and rewarded Seattle with six assists and countless attacking sequences borne from his movement.
What I liked: When he matched up with Víctor Rodríguez on the left, Seattle was absolutely dominant. Brad’s ability to overlap and tactical smarts to move to the correct spots blended perfectly with V-Rod’s creativity and passing expertise. Early in the year, Seattle created attacks that were rightfully and heavily skewed towards Smith’s wide side.
What I didn’t like: Although dominant up the wing offensively, Smith had some poor defensive efforts as teams with inverted right wingers exposed his lack of ability. Teams like LAFC, SKC, and Portland found a weakness in Smith and attacked that space until they scored, and then kept attacking.
Moving forward: Smith’s loan deal is up, and it’s unlikely that Seattle can compete with the EPL for the price to retain his services. Maybe the Sounders can get Brad back on another loan deal or similar, and I think most fans would be pleased if that happens. But if they can’t make the right deal and he goes, his loss can be somewhat mitigated thanks to the current depth at left back.
#13 Harry Shipp
Realio’s rating: 6.08 in 25 appearances
Community rating: 5.78
MOTM = 4 High = 8 Low = 5
Shipp had an up and down year from a playing standpoint, but was consistently good to very good when surrounded by starting level players. Harry is a very cerebral player, and at times his athleticism can’t keep up with how his sophisticated soccer brain works, but when he puts it together, he does nearly everything tactically right.
What I liked: When given a chance, even with depleted rosters, Shipp stepped up every time. He earned a massive four MOTMs which tied him for second most on the entire team during the regular season. Harry’s best outings were in a win against Vancouver when he had four key passes, five shots, and eight defensive actions, and a massive two-goal outing to help Seattle tie the New England Revolution late in the season.
What I didn’t like: Shipp had those MOTMs, but only one of them came in a win. Playing “slightly better than other guys in a loss” isn’t a great thing. By the end of the season he had somehow fallen off the rotation, with Jones, Delem, Silva, and others getting minutes that Harry could have been selected for.
Moving forward: Five goals and three assists is a nice stat line for a bench player, which looks to be how Seattle sees Harry. It was a huge boost to the depth of the team when he was recently re-signed. Shipp can slot in at any of the attacking band and is also able to drop deeper centrally and distribute, a skill set that should help Seattle immensely with fixture congestion upcoming.
#12 Chad Marshall
Realio’s rating: 6.13 in 8 appearances
Community rating: 6.55
MOTM = 0 High = 7 Low = 5
Everyone knows who Chad Marshall is and how important he has been to this team and to this league over his career. Coming into 2019, he had a lingering knee issue which kept him from the end of the 2018 playoffs, but the severity of this injury was underestimated. At first, it seemed like a minor tweak in a playoff match, and he returned to the lineup to start in eight of the first 10 matches of the season. His retirement mid-year seemed to take much of the soccer community by surprise, but anyone who has seen him limp around in the months since will understand why this injury ultimately ended his career.
What I liked: Right up to his retirement, Marshall on one leg was substantially better than MLS average. This is a testament to exactly how dominant Chad was over his career. In games that Chad played in this year, Seattle won five times and tied three.
What I didn’t like: It was a damn shame Marshall’s career ended midseason like it did. He deserved to hold the MLS Cup aloft after the final at home, but that game deserved a healthy, in-form Chad Marshall to dominate as well and go out on top.
Moving forward: Chad was visibly limping at MLS Cup and this is one of the souvenirs he will take forward from his illustrious career as the best defender in league history. He has moved, expanded his family, and I wish him the very best wherever life leads him.