The Seattle Sounders went into the offseason following the 2019 MLS Cup Final looking to fill a roughly Chad Marshall-shaped hole in the center of the defense. Since Marshall’s retirement in May of 2019 the team had largely bridged the gap through the play of Kim Kee-hee and Román Torres, while Xavier Arreaga got acclimated to the squad. Heading into preseason in 2020, Arreaga was the only centerback still on the roster. Seattle added Yeimar Gómez Andrade, a 27-year-old Colombian defender, from Union de Santa Fe using Targeted Allocation Money in February and he quickly became the stabilizing force the team had been searching for.
Gómez Andrade was a near constant in Seattle’s backline in front of Stefan Frei, making 19 starts in 19 appearances during the regular season before holding down that spot through the entire run to the MLS Cup final. In a season when Frei wasn’t quite at the gravity-defying heights he’s reached in the past, it makes sense that Gómez Andrade would claim the title of Sounder at Heart Defensive Player of the Year. Gómez Andrade earned 68.1% of the vote, followed by Frei with 16.3% and Nouhou with 13.7%.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade offers a serious physical presence at 6’2”, 200 lbs., and he uses that size to limit the impact of big-body forwards, as well as serving as a key figure in how the team handles set-piece situations on both sides of the ball — remember his goals against Real Salt Lake. He’s more than a big body, though, offering surprising mobility for a player of his size, coupled with strong passing and a willingness and ability to create opportunities with the ball at his feet. Averaging 40.5 carries per 90 minutes, Gómez Andrade trailed only João Paulo among regular contributors when it came to moving the ball toward the opponent’s goal with a dribble — 149.7 yards/90. His passing was solid, if not spectacular, with an 85.5% completion rate that remains pretty consistent at any range, completing 90.9% of passes between 15 and 30 yards and 79.9% of passes over 30 yards.
Gómez Andrade’s ability to impact the game individually is significant, but perhaps his greatest value comes from the freedom that his presence affords the players around him. When paired with Xavier Arreaga, his composure and ability to sit back allows Arreaga to move more freely, pursuing the ball to create turnovers or chasing opposing players to prevent them from getting on the ball. His own ability to accomplish those tasks also meant that Arreaga didn’t have to try to do everything, getting the best from him by letting him play within himself. Gómez Andrade’s presence made the introduction of Alex Roldan to the starting lineup at right back in Kelvin Leerdam’s absence easier, as Roldan knew that the player to his left could offer support as he learned the finer points of playing as a defender. Beyond that, Gómez Andrade’s ability to consistently play long passes and hit diagonal balls helped the team unlock defenses, release Jordan Morris in behind, and make up for what the team lacked with Gustav Svensson out of the squad.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade came to Seattle with a nickname — ‘Pastor’ — and it feels incredibly apt. Yeimar is The Shepherd, and with him in the backline the Sounders shall not want.