One of the biggest questions surrounding the Seattle Sounders this offseason was the health of Nicolás Lodeiro. The midfielder was limited to just four starts in 2021 and played fewer than 500 minutes after undergoing two separate arthroscopic surgeries to repair his injured right knee.
Although Lodeiro has previously dealt with knee injuries, this was by far the most time he’s missed. Considering he’ll be turning 33 this year, there are open questions about how much of a lingering issue this might be.
The Sounders are apparently inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and are expecting Lodeiro to make his 2022 preseason debut on Tuesday against the Colorado Rapids. He did not play in the Sounders’ first preseason game after missing the first segment of training camp while in health and safety protocols, which was unrelated to his knee.
“There are no lingering knee issues,” Brian Schmetzer recently told the Seattle Times. “We’re just trying to be prudent and careful and just hope that he stays healthy.”
While the Sounders still managed to claim 60 points without Lodeiro for most of the 2021 season, there was an undeniable sense that their ceiling was somewhat limited. With virtually every important player from that team back in 2022, plus the addition of Designated Player Albert Rusnák and the prospect of a full season from Jordan Morris, the Sounders’ might not need Lodeiro to return all the way to the form that saw him named MLS Best XI in 2020. But, if they are to realize their full potential, Lodeiro is surely part of that.
As dynamic as Rusnák is and as good of a job as João Paulo did in dictating tempo for the Sounders, Lodeiro at his best is quite unlike anyone else in MLS. No one else has the combination of ground coverage, passing volume and instinct for the killer pass of Lodeiro.
While the Sounders’ first competitive match is only about two weeks after the Rapids game, they should be able to manage a result at Motagua even without a fully fit Lodeiro. If it was up to me, I’d target his first start for the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals that start on March 8-10 and if it needs to be pushed back farther than that, so be it. The goal should be having Lodeiro for as many important games as possible, not just quickly.