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Seattle Sounders vs. 2020: End-of-season player ratings, #1

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Who else but the captain at #1?

#1 Nicolas Lodeiro

Realio’s rating: 7.04 in 25 appearances

Community rating: 7.02

Regular Season: 7.00 in 21 appearances — Playoffs: 7.25 in 4 appearances

MOTM = 3 High = 8 Low = 6

It should come as no surprise that Nico Lodeiro wins the team’s highest rating again this season from Realio’s Ratings. He has come in at the top spot in four of his five years as a Sounder, and he’s maintained a massive 7.04 cumulative rating over those five years. This is the all-time highest rating of any Seattle player, and in 2020 he was again stellar. He had seven goals and 10 assists during the regular season, and then added a goal and three assists in the playoffs. If his mates could finish better, he might have had another handful of assists, as he constantly dialed up teammates with a dazzling variety of through balls, link up play, and crosses. Nico had a cumulative completion rate of more than 75 percent on the most passing attempts in the league. He averaged three key passes per game for the entire year, and his tireless work rate is unmatched in the league, averaging nearly 100 touches every match. He can’t be marked or game-planned out of a game. Nico is truly the engine of the Sounders, and he leads by example with full effort and immense production.

What I liked: The true mark of a team MVP, Nico never played a match below MLS average, even when Seattle struggled. Nico doesn’t have bad games, just slightly less effective ones. There were 16 matches where he rated above average, with a massive eleven in which he rated an 8. He was excellent every time out and consistently produced both for himself and his team. He also stepped up in big games, raising his play even higher in the playoffs (+.25) and earned a well deserved MOTM in a huge win over LAFC:Looking at stats, you might think that Nico struggled against LAFC. He was “limited” to 86 touches, had only 74 percent passing and didn’t complete a single pass into the opponent penalty area all night ... This match saw Nico score, create time and time again, while being fouled mercilessly by an opponent who had no answer to his movement and distribution.” This was a masterclass in positive game influence, with Lodeiro driving repeatedly into space, finding teammates, attacking and probing, finding weakness, and then pouncing on it, either through goals or assists. A quality LAFC team was reduced to chasing, hacking, and kicking at Lodeiro, who literally ran circles around them. Nico is the complete player, who defends as hard as he attacks and can often be found disrupting play through the middle as often as creating it.

What I didn’t like: It’s hard to find many problems with Nico’s play, but the one thing that stuck out was he only earned three MOTM awards in 25 appearances. Some of that might be writer error, and Lodeiro pumped out a ton of high marks, but while he was steadily good, he didn’t have the absolute dominant match where he earned a 9 or 10 and blew up the stat sheet. There were times when other members on his team absolutely stomped a game and were completely unstoppable, but Lodeiro, while consistently great, never did this. He wasn’t bad in the final, but it was a place to stand up and show the league that you are MVP caliber, and he was just okay. As a captain and natural leader, there was room for him to dictate the momentum of the match better. Sometimes his impact on individual matches seemed to fade at the worst possible time. We have seen Nico’s incredibly amazing matches in previous years, but when he played his best this year, there was usually a teammate or two who was also stellar.

Moving forward: It’s easy to pencil Nico Lodeiro into the best XI in the league. He has shown incredible production and durability over his Sounders tenure, and he remains willing and able to play hard for 90 minutes and produce on both sides of the field. His Sounders championship window may only be open a few more years, but he didn’t slow down in 2020. Lodeiro does need skilled players around him who can play off his creative abilities, and Seattle will need to surround him with teammates who can utilize his unique vision and creation style. If done well, he will produce absurd numbers, and the Sounders will compete for every trophy.

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This wraps up my ratings series for the 2020 season. If there is any further analysis, stats, or historical comparison you are interested in please don’t hesitate to ask below or reach out directly, I am happy to share as best as I can.

Thanks all of you for reading throughout the year, as well as to everyone who contributed or supported. Special appreciation to Diane Perry and Charlie Caldwell for editing and making my silly soccer scribbles coherent thoughts - you guys are the best <3.