#7 Stefan Frei
Realio’s rating: 6.49 in 38 appearances
Community rating: 6.89
Regular Season: 6.38 in 34 appearances - Playoffs: 7.25 in 4 appearances
MOTM = 4 High = 8 Low = 5
Ranking 7 is low for Frei, who had a bit of a down year for him. A “down year” for Stefan Frei is still massively over league average and he ties for the second-most MOTM awards on the team. He also played every single game for this team in the regular season and playoffs, giving backup Bryan Meredith a comfortable view from the sideline in every match.
What I liked: As always, Frei stepped up in big games. The playoffs saw Stefan increase his average score nearly a full point, and other than a late header, he nearly had a deserved shut out in the MLS Cup Final. With a fluctuating defense in front of him, Stefan adjusted well and continued to show he is one of the very best goalies in the league. His hard work and leadership were readily apparent throughout the year.
What I didn’t like: There was a time during the year when Frei collected the ball out of the back of the net three times per match. It wasn’t always his fault, but a couple of games saw teams like Portland score three in five shots, or Johnny Russell score a hattrick, etc. Stef would likely be the first to admit he has to do better in those moments.
Moving forward: Frei looks capable of being the starting keeper in Seattle for the foreseeable future, and at 33 has hopefully a long career ahead of him. It is a compliment to the work he and Tom Dutra do on a daily basis that Meredith and Tyler Miller were picked in the last two expansion drafts. Frei works hard to improve, and there’s nothing preventing him from having another GKOY season in 2020.
#6 Víctor Rodríguez
Realio’s rating: 6.53 in 20 appearances
Community rating: 6.45
Regular Season: 6.35 in 17 appearances - Playoffs: 7.33 in 3 appearances
MOTM = 2 High = 9 Low = 5
Rodríguez only played 20 times, but when he did, he was magic. Seeing him link up with Nicolás Lodeiro or Raúl Ruidíaz or Jordan Morris running full speed was a joy to watch. His technical aptitude was some of the highest the Sounders have ever had in a player, and he’s a great example of the kind of player Seattle can get when they scout effectively.
What I liked: V-Rod bookended this season with “9” ratings. In the first game of the year he was the engine of the counter attack, linking up with teammates and showing a tactical ability to partner with Raúl and Brad and Nico, etc. and just absolutely dominate a team. In MLS Cup he again came up huge, entering the game and changing everything with his movement and exceptional skill. Perhaps most impressive about his play was that, amidst a breakneck counterattack with the ball pinging around from teammate to teammate, Rodríguez nearly always completed the right pass and supported it with fantastic movement.
What I didn’t like: Víctor got hurt midseason and missed 16 matches. With how dominant Seattle was when he was healthy, missing nearly half the season due to myriad injuries was excruciating for all involved. Going to practice and seeing him diligently rehab only to be injured again was torture.
Moving forward: I was so happy to see him go out on top with a successful MLS Cup appearance, as Víctor left showing the dominant, tactically impressive, technically mind-boggling player that he is. The stigma of consistent injury will likely follow him, and we can only play the “what might have been” game for him and his Sounders career, but he went out on a high note and left us with plenty of good memories. I wish him all the best.
#5 Cristian Roldan
Realio’s rating: 6.79 in 33 appearances
Community rating: 6.82
Regular Season: 6.76 in 29 appearances - Playoffs: 7.00 in 4 appearances
MOTM = 4 High = 8 Low = 5
With 33 appearances, near-7 average throughout, and only a SINGLE below average match all season – Cristian Roldan was a bit under the radar in 2019 but had a phenomenal season. He continues to be a highly rated, resilient player who plays in 30-plus matches and ranks in the top five on the team ratings every year. Whether he plays his usual defensive midfielder position or switches out wide to support on a wing or in the defense, Cristian succeeds anywhere on the field.
What I liked: Roldan does it all, and continues to improve while he does it. With six goals and four assists, 2019 was his best statistical season so far and he did it in five fewer matches than his previous high. Cristian averaged 2.1 tackles, 85% passing, was second on the team in dribbles, and even chipped in a clear and a half per match. He’s turning into a complete midfielder, the kind of player who consistently dominates his role while also having multiple fantastic games where he won MOTM. He did exactly that after being reinstated for a terrible red card call against LAFC, winning MOTM in his matchup with Ozzie Alonso on the 4th of May, scoring Seattle’s only goal and playing phenomenally in the middle. He followed this up with back-to-back MOTM awards while scoring again in the very next match, with his goal being the game winner in a 1-0 match against Houston.
What I didn’t like: Cristian’s lowest grade (and the only “5” of the year) came in his red card-shortened match against LAFC in Seattle in late April. It’s hard to fault him for a card that was later rescinded, but a win in that match could have changed the entire narrative of the season. Roldan rarely had poor matches, but he sometimes took a quiet role when the team was struggling, forcing the ball and putting less skilled teammates in vulnerable positions.
Moving forward: Looking at his stats and gameplay, it’s safe to say that Roldan outperformed Ozzie Alonso this year and is only getting better. Adding the offensive talent to an already highly proficient defensive skillset has made Roldan effective all over the field. His ability to cover huge amounts of area defensively while pushing into the attack to score and assist has made him a popular player to fill holes as weaknesses crop up for Seattle. I believe he can be successful nearly anywhere on the field, but his best matches have come when he and Gustav Svensson dominated the midfield and pushed Seattle to an MLS Cup win. Although he is very proficient at playing in the attacking band or at outside back in a pinch, his central movement provides so much cover and support for everyone around him. Seeing Cristian get pushed wide and succeed is great, but having him lock down the spine of the field is the future.