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Underrated Sounders: The brilliance of Andreas Ivanschitz

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The “Austrian Beckham” might not have quite lived up to that nickname, but he was still a key contributor to Seattle’s success.

SOCCER: DEC 10 MLS Cup - Sounders at Toronto FC Photograph by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

During this sad and sudden MLS break, we’ve decided to start a rainy day mini-series highlighting some of our favorite unsung Sounders heroes. Our hope is to fill the rave green void in our hearts with enough fond memories to get ourselves, and hopefully some of you, to the other side.

The criteria is simple and also completely subjective: any player we feel is either underappreciated or overlooked in Sounders lore. Next up: Andreas Ivanschitz.

Role

Andreas Ivanschitz came to the Sounders with an impressive pedigree. At one point, he was considered Austria’s top offensive talent and had spent most of his career as a solid contributor in leagues like the Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga. He’d been on the Sounders’ radar for at least a couple years, but he still had plenty to offer as a 31-year-old. Ivanschitz’s left foot was particularly deadly and he served in some amazing balls on set pieces, while still being a solid contributor in the run of play. The Sounders had seemingly envisioned him as someone in the Mauro Rosales mold, a veteran with big-game experience who could help provide some leadership.

Playing style

Ivanschitz was not necessarily a highlight-reel type of player, but boy could he hit a wonderful left-footed ball. Whether it was from the run of play or on a set piece, it seemed like he could do whatever he wanted when given time and space. Ivanschitz wasn’t going to run by anyone, but he pitched in on defense and had much better feet than you’d probably expect from a player with his physical stature (he was 6 feet tall with a solid build). He did have a tendency to disappear at times and wasn’t someone who was going to beat guys off the dribble or create a ton of chances for himself.

Highlights and trophies

The Sounders weren’t necessarily the steadiest team during Ivanschitz’s tenure, which was marked by a run so good it resulted in a MLS Cup and a slump so bad that it got Sigi Schmid fired. Ivanschitz, too, could run a bit hot and cold. Among his four goals with the Sounders were a glorious chip, a perfect free kick and, for me, one of the great individual goals in team history. I know I said earlier that he didn’t necessarily create a ton for himself, but the goal he scored against FC Dallas in the 2015 playoffs was all him as he made a clever defensive play to create the turnover, then dribbled through several defenders before uncorking a perfectly struck left-footed shot that beat the goalkeeper from about 20 yards out.

Seriously, goals just don’t get much better than that.

But Ivanschitz was probably better remembered for his passing. He finished his Sounders career averaging .31 primary assists per 90 minutes, which is not too far off from Nicolas Lodeiro, who averages .34. Among his most memorable assists is the pass to Jordan Morris that set up his first professional goal.

Why he’s underrated

Ivanschitz arrived during a crucial point in Sounders history. It was the summer of 2015 and a once-promising season had started to spiral out of control. On the day he was signed, the Sounders were four games into a five-game losing streak, had already lost 8 of 10 games and were in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Injuries kept Ivanschitz from making his debut until a little more than a month later, but he played at least 45 minutes in all nine games (including playoffs) he was available for that year, starting eight of them. The Sounders went 4-1-3 in his starts and were a penalty shootout away from advancing to the Western Conference finals. He followed that up with a three-goal, eight-assist campaign in 2016 while helping lead the Sounders to their first-ever MLS Cup. Just for good measure, Ivanschitz converted his penalty in the shootout.

The main reason I suspect he’s underrated is that he simply wasn’t here very long. Even including the playoffs, he only played in 40 matches and logged fewer than 3,000 minutes for the Sounders. Among the host of players the Sounders decided not to bring back in 2017, I think Ivanschitz was probably the one who would have been the most useful. The Sounders ended up using a rotating cast of players who weren’t ideally suited to play his role — Harry Shipp, Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro all spent time there before Victor Rodriguez was signed at midseason — and none of them were particularly productive while playing that position. Even if Ivanschitz was just an offensive weapon off the bench, he would have been a good one to have.