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Seattle Sounders vs. 2020: End-of-season player ratings, #2

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The new arrival at centerback played like he’d been here for years.

#2 Yeimar Gómez Andrade

Realio’s rating: 6.74 in 23 appearances

Community rating: 6.78

Regular Season: 6.68 in 19 appearances — Playoffs: 7.00 in 4 appearances

MOTM = 2 High = 8 Low = 5

Another first-year Sounder who came in under the radar but was fantastic in 2020. He put together one of the best defensive seasons I have ever rated for a centerback (#2 behind Chad Marshall 2015 – 6.97). Yeimar had only a single match under MLS average while turning in 16 above average games. He was solidly above average in the playoffs as well, upping his performance in the games that counted the most (one of only two Sounders to be 7 or higher in each playoff match). Yeimar’s best attribute is similar to Marshall’s: solid defense that doesn’t need to be flashy, no huge slide tackles or highlight plays; he just outplays his opponents every single game with strong instincts and positioning. He leverages incredible size and speed to physically dominate players. YGA is the total defensive package, but he also passes the ball well. He distributed excellently, 86 percent on the year including a stellar 80 percent on long balls. He tackled well and led the team in interceptions, clearances and successful pressures. He played cleanly, doing his job admirably in every single match and making things predictable for Stefan Frei behind him.

What I liked: YGA came into Seattle and immediately changed the way the Sounders could defend. His mixture of size and pace made him a nightmare for opponents. He was able to bang with the strikers who tried to hold up the ball, using his balance and weight to push them physically away from goal. He could match any striker with pace, shutting down through balls and tracking diagonal runs with equal (or more) pace than the opponent. This speed was also helpful when paired with positionally- or movement-impaired teammates, allowing Gómez Andrade to recover and cut down angles behind teammates or chase down breakaways. Yeimar was always matched up with the premier striker on the opposing team and a number of times he just erased these big-name opponents from the match. When RSL came to town: “… he once again put a DP striker in his pocket and dominated him so badly that Sam Johnson was the first RSL player subbed off the field midway through the second half. YGA held Johnson to a single completed attacking pass in the entire match, and only 19 total touches. On the flip side Andrade’s 86 touches were the second highest in the match, he completed 86 percent of them, added a baker’s dozen of defensive actions, and scored the game-winning goal.” When it wasn’t Sam Johnson it was Gyasi Zardes, or Cristian Pavon, or Kevin Molino, or Bradley Wright-Phillips or Lucas Cavallini — all big-name players who got walked out the door by Yeimar after ineffective matches. While he only ended the year with two goals, he was a consistent force in the box on set pieces both offensively and defensively.

What I didn’t like: Not much was disappointing, but Yeimar was lucky not to be punished on a number of occasions. Nearly every match, he’d get forward and make a terrible pass, showing a lack of precision that belied his overall completion numbers. Often this pass would be directly to an opponent, and Seattle was lucky not to have a number of these hurt the team. Sometimes the passes weren’t the only problem, more the decision making with Yeimar trying passes across the middle that had a huge risk and very little (if any) reward. He will need to cut these errors down in order to take the next step as a defender.

Moving forward: Yeimar can be in the discussion for MLS Defender of the Year next season. With the right pieces around him, Seattle could have a very strong defense, and his ability to eliminate the top scorer from the other team is phenomenal. The Marshall comparisons are legitimate for the consistency of his play. However, Yeimar is clearly faster but he doesn’t yet have the decision-making that put Dad into best-ever discussion. It may be overzealous to talk about YGA in the same breath as best-ever, but the talent is there to be a dominant defensive presence who also positively impacts the team on set pieces and distributes nearly flawlessly to teammates.