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Sounders may have signed their long-sought defensive midfielder

Reports out of Brazil say the Sounders have agreed to a loan for Joao Paulo.

Flamengo v Botafogo - Copa do Brasil Semi-Finals 2017 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

UPDATE: We’ve now apparently reached the point of this where Botafogo teammates are being asked to react to Joao Paulo’s potential departure. Kanu called Joao Paulo “an important player” and said his teammates are under the impression the transfer is currently being negotiated.

It looks like the Seattle Sounders may have signed the defensive midfielder they’ve apparently been trying to sign most of the offseason. Reports out of Brazil — which are apparently coming from the club — suggest they’re close to finalizing a move for Botafogo’s Joao Paulo, a player they’ve been linked with since at least December.

The reports also seem to indicate the deal is being structured in a way that would potentially allow Joao Paolo to not count as a Designated Player. The Sounders would pay about $1.25 million spread out over two loan payments in 2020 and then be obligated to complete the purchase for another similarly structured payment in 2021. While that doesn’t leave a ton of room to avoid DP status under current rules — $1.53 million in cap hit per year — this may suggest some changes to the way the CBA handles those economics.

Joao Paulo, it should be said, is not a prototypical defensive midfielder. He’s usually played farther up the pitch, but has strong defensive numbers. The 28-year-old is coming off a season in which he averaged 2.5 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game. That’s somewhere between the averages of Gustav Svensson (2.8 and 1.3) and Cristian Roldan (2.1 and .8).

He does that while still offering strong offensive numbers. Joao Paulo logged 1.2 key passes on about 47.4 passes per game, while scoring three goals with two assists in 36 top flight appearances. Both Svensson and Roldan averaged about 52 passes. Svensson averaged about .6 key passes and Roldan averaged 1.2. Notably, half of Roldan’s six goals came in just seven starts on right wing.

The plan, it would seem, would be for Joao Paulo to be paired with Svensson in the defensive midfield and move Roldan to the wing. If the move is completed soon, Joao Paulo would likely join the Sounders while they are in Southern California. That would leave centerback as the main position of need at this point.

This story originally published on Jan. 19. It was updated on Jan. 21.

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