#4 Gustav Svensson
Realio’s rating: 6.81 in 26 appearances
Community rating: 6.80
Regular Season: 6.682 in 22 appearances - Playoffs: 7.500 in 4 appearances
MOTM = 4 High = 9 Low = 5
At fourth on the countdown is Karl Gustav Johan Svensson, a player who went from almost an afterthought China pick up to one I was pleading for the team to re-sign last year. In 2019, he was one of the best players on the team and was huge in big moments. Goose being on the field (and paired with Cristian Roldan) was a recipe for Sounders wins. Svensson doesn’t always get the accolades (in his own words, he “shovels the shit”) but he was an absolutely massive defender for Seattle. His flexibility in combining with multiple teammates and positions make our friendly Swede an essential part of the Sounders defensive structure.
What I liked: In the biggest game of the year the best player on the field was Gustav Svensson, and he was undeniably dominant. MLS Cup 2019 will likely be remembered for Víctor Rodríguez changing the match or Raúl Ruidíaz sealing it, but it was the Goose who kept Seattle on the front foot for much of the match. Svensson was spectacular, eliciting this praise in the game ratings:
This was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen Svensson play. He was everywhere on the field. He easily led the match with seven tackles and three interceptions and had a massive 20 defensive actions across the entire pitch. Whenever Toronto broke through one line, Goose was there to offer a crunching tackle and escort them back to midfield. He was a pure force of destruction, rivaling any midfield performance we have seen this season. Gustav was so inside Pozuelo’s head he has to change his name from Alejandro to HONKKKK. While the Toronto “forward” had a strong game in midfield, he was never able to enact change in the match going towards goal because there was a motivated Swedish bird constantly shutting him down. He did it all, from defending strong all match and holding Toronto to few quality chances as well as pushing into the attack and supporting the game-breaking plays with his offensive pressure and positioning.
Svensson only had two below-average matches all year, both in games where Seattle was struggling to put a cohesive roster together, and was incredibly consistent for Seattle wherever they needed him to play.
What I didn’t like: Due to call ups and a few minor injuries, Gustav only played in 22 regular season games. With Seattle’s fixture congestion in 2020 it will be essential to get their best group together as often as possible. I missed seeing Svensson blasting goals from well outside the area, and I think there is room for him to develop an attacking rhythm within the Sounders’ system.
Moving forward: Svensson is back in 2020 and there is no reason to think his level of performance will drop. The ability to groom young players like Danny Leyva with this consummate professional and full Swedish international is the kind of opportunity few MLS teams have. With Gustav taking an increased leadership role in the back since Chad Marshall’s retirement, Seattle will remain a veteran-led team, and having that consistency through the spine of the team will help with the increased number of games.
#3 Jordan Morris
Realio’s rating: 6.83 in 30 appearances
Community rating: 6.93
Regular Season: 6.769 in 26 appearances - Playoffs: 7.250 in 4 appearances
MOTM = 4 High = 9 Low = 5
Coming off an ACL reconstruction, there was naturally some question about Morris’ return. He blew any concerns out of the water with a 9 rating in his first MLS match and carried that form through much of the season, including another 9 in the first round of the playoffs. When Jordan got cooking late in the season, he rated an 8 in six out of eight matches. He played at such a high level that long forgotten were his finishing struggles or imperfect off foot. 2019 saw a new, reborn Jordan Morris who showcased the entire soccer package: game breaking offense, defensive steadfastness, and everything in between.
What I liked: When Morris gets into space he is absolutely devastating and simply cannot be defended. His mixture of power, speed, and athleticism allows him to physically dominate nearly any player he is matched up against, and he has fewer and fewer weaknesses on the field. In 2019 he showcased pure winger skills, including a suddenly dominant off foot and incisive, game-breaking movement off ball. His finishing was hugely improved, and the tactical side of the game is now another strength he understands well. Perhaps the best part of Jordan’s skillset is his tremendous ability to break a match individually. Whether this is by dominating a wing with pace that no one can match and a pinpoint crossing touch, outjumping or refusing to be knocked off the ball in possession or defensively, or stretching the field so completely that opponents can’t mark all the space he’s created, Morris is the definition of a game changer and an absolute joy to watch.
What I didn’t like: Part of being the best American player this year included a number of international matches, and Jordan missed eight Sounders games. As good as Seattle was when he was on the field, they weren’t great when he was missing, and the absence of his speed and explosiveness often left Seattle struggling to find space when Morris was away. A number of times, Jordan was a bit too passive in matches, almost as if he doesn’t understand just how incredible he is. Morris is already a tremendously difficult player to defend, and sometimes Seattle needed Jordan to just demand the ball and allow him to create via a physical mismatch. Being more goal direct and cutting in to his right foot would make him nearly impossible to defend.
Moving forward: Morris signed a multi-year extension prior to 2019 in a fantastic move by the Sounders. He continues to improve and has developed an unstoppable array of moves and abilities. It will be a test in 2020, starting with CCL, as teams focus on stopping the dynamic winger. I think he has more to offer, especially when it comes to those game-breaking plays we saw him produce in spurts this year. Morris is better than nearly everyone else, and once he realizes that, he’s likely to completely dominate. He has made a home on the left side and will look to improve on his strong 2019 season.