#20 Román Torres
Realio’s rating: 5.20 in 5 appearances
Community rating: 5.63
Regular Season: 5.33 in 3 appearances — Playoffs: 5.00 in 2 appearances
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Román Torres returned to the Sounders and, we thought, would strengthen the Seattle center back depth. In actuality, he struggled to find consistent playing time, only showing up late in matches to help hold leads.
What I liked: The coaches had the confidence to insert Torres into the center of a back-five lineup on a number of occasions and he showed great aerial and physical presence.
What I didn’t like: Maybe he didn’t practice well, but Román had a number of chances to earn starting minutes next to Yeimar Gómez Andrade and never managed to do so.
Moving forward: Even playing fairly well each time he was inserted, Román never earned a start and looked to be stuck as the fourth center back. Knowing he was on a big salary number last season makes a return this year only a possibility with a substantial pay cut.
#19 Jimmy Medranda
Realio’s rating: 5.33 in 3 appearances
Community rating: 5.25
Regular Season: 5.00 in 2 appearances — Playoffs: 6.00 in 1 appearance
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Medranda came over deep in the season and saw a few late appearances on the left. Playing mainly midfield, he joined an overloaded unit that split very few minutes between them. His skill in link up play was suited to connect immediately with the intricate central passing from the Sounders and he didn’t look out of place with Seattle.
What I liked: Medranda looked solid in the Final, not intimidated and one of the few players that played well and made consistent decisions. His talent showed an ability to combine well through the middle and be a facilitator.
What I didn’t like: Having only three appearances was a disappointment. For all his natural passing ability, he didn’t create anything directly toward goal in any of his time on the field for the Sounders, and Seattle needs chance creators, not more possession guys.
Moving forward: His appearance in the last match of the year definitely showed a strong level of tactical efficiency and hinted at him being a quality piece for the Sounders if he can find a consistent role.
#18 Shandon Hopeau
Realio’s rating: 5.33 in 6 appearances
Community rating: 5.10
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 4
Hopeau earned 84 minutes this season and a start, with varied results in his first year as an MLS Sounder. At times he showed dynamic speed and creation from a wide area, and other times he was just another body on the field to take up space.
What I liked: Shandon earned a start after a great sub appearance against San Jose early. In this match against the Earthquakes he showed instant offense, creating a few chances and showing enough to get penciled in on the right in the next match.
What I didn’t like: In his only start of the season, Hopeau only lasted a half and while not “bad,” he was ineffective and failed to help the offense in a loss to the Fire. That was his chance to follow up the momentum of the previous game and he was not up to the task, subsequently lost into the depths of the bench for the remainder of the year.
Moving forward: Hopeau’s emergence makes the departures of Henry Wingo and Handwalla Bwana more manageable, as his on-field role and skillset are similar to those older players. Although he didn’t get many minutes in 2020, there is a huge opportunity for Shandon to get on the field next year, especially with Seattle remaining weak on the outside right.
#17 Jordy Delem
Realio’s rating: 5.39 in 18 appearances
Community rating: 5.54
Regular Season: 5.41 in 16 appearances — Playoffs: 5.00 in 2 appearances
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Delem was very consistent in 2020, showing a high floor but average ceiling. He did everything that Seattle asked of him, which was to come onto the field, play strong positional defense, and push the ball to the skilled players further up the field. His play was consistent over nine starts and seven sub appearances during the regular season, giving the Sounders a dependable player in the middle who was going to be an enforcer, enabling others in front of him.
What I liked: Being able to play Delem in front of the fullbacks opened up the field for the other defensive midfielder to help overload the offensive third. This polarized the defensive midfield position, something that was very effective in spurts.
What I didn’t like: Jordy never scored higher than a 6 from me on the ratings scale this year, and didn’t show an ability to be a difference maker for the Sounders. At some point, Seattle should expect a higher upside out of every position on the field and while his consistent good play is something the coaches can depend on, having younger and/or more dynamic options in this position will necessitate a higher level of play from Delem.
Moving forward: Jordy Delem is a known quantity and the coaches on the Sounders feel comfortable with a solid, defensive-minded veteran backup. Until the young guys show more consistency, Jordy should remain as exactly that.
#16 Handwalla Bwana
Realio’s rating: 5.40 in 5 appearances
Community rating: 5.41
MOTM = 0 High = 7 Low = 4
To be honest, I had forgotten that Bwana started this season for the Sounders before ending up at Nashville. A once promising player, he never found consistent playing time in Seattle, ending his tenure here with two starts and only 178 minutes played in 2020. While flashes of his potential showed (like on his single goal this year), Handwalla never found his spot on the squad and was traded mid-season. The team didn’t seem to miss him, which says something about his impact level.
What I liked: Bwana’s best performance came in his first appearance for the Sounders — and their first loss. This match was a 2-1 victory by Chicago in the MLS Is Back tournament, and Handwalla arrived in the 58th minute and scored the lone Seattle goal. This score showed his ability to read the game, as he correctly ran off a Jordan Morris run, cut to the back post, beat a defender to the ball and scored. This attacking instinct combined with his above average 1-v-1 dribbling skills are the building blocks he will make or break his MLS career on. He has the ability to produce above-average MLS plays, which is not all that common.
What I didn’t like: The consistency wasn’t there for Bwana at any time in his Sounders tenure, and 2020 summarized his inability to follow up a promising appearance with repeated success. After a goal in his first appearance, he was ineffective in each of his remaining matches. His last start of the year came on the road against RSL and in 56 ineffective minutes he only had 17 touches with a miserable 54 percent pass completion rate. When Handwalla doesn’t have the right climate around him, he is unable to contribute and becomes less than a replacement level player.
Moving forward: Bwana needs specific game states to allow his dribbling and off-ball direct movement shine, and his output as a luxury player was disproportionate to his talent level. Perhaps he’ll blossom into something more in Nashville (he’s still only 21!), but Seattle wasn’t the place for him to get consistent time to develop. This trade helped both parties. While it seems unlikely based on his growth curve in Seattle, I hope he does great and becomes a star against everyone except the Sounders.