#17 Kelyn Rowe
Realio’s rating: 5.33 in 36 appearances
Community rating: 5.46
MLS App 28, Rating 5.17; CCL App 8, Rating 5.88
2022 Recap: Rowe’s ratings declined in 2022, although he continued to be a trusted player who earned the fifth most appearances in another healthy season. Some of the drop in ratings was because a majority of his time was as a substitute, earning only 14 MLS starts. A player with polarized ratings, Kelyn was capable of 7s as well as 4s. His scores dropped over the course of the year, as he was unable to support Seattle’s push for the playoffs. There were moments early in the year where Kelyn looked to be the best left fullback we had, accentuating his ability to get forward with some smart service that helped balance out the field for Seattle. Unfortunately, this skill faded and he ended the season as an inconsequential sub who struggled to impact games and made poor decisions.
Going Forward: Rowe clearly enjoys playing for the local team and doesn’t cost a lot, but 2022 was a giant drop in playing time. A majority of his underlying stats were similar to last season, and he is a known quantity at this point. Look for Kelyn to continue to be a depth player who brings leadership to the team but not much more than that, as younger guys try to assert themselves as better options.
#16 Obed Vargas
Realio’s rating: 5.55 in 20 appearances
Community rating: 5.88
MLS App 13, Rating 5.23; CCL App 7, Rating 6.14
2022 Recap: Obed burst onto the scene in the Champions League and showed incredible potential, offering high-quality midfield moments and a clear MLS starting or better level ceiling. Given a chance to play in the CCL final with a chance at immortality, Obed was ready: “When Seattle’s team MVP was carried to the locker room with a season ending-injury, Brian Schmetzer had faith in Vargas to replace him centrally, and his faith was justified. He played 60 minutes in a tournament final and showed he belonged there. This was a case where not noting him was notable, as he fit in seamlessly with the team, played his role perfectly (83 percent passing, seven duels) and got the ball to others. Not intimidated by the moment, Obed was a composed and integral part of the championship victory.” While he had spectacular moments such as this, at 17 Obed is clearly not a finished product. There were rampant inconsistencies in his play, leading to some lower than expected ratings within the league and less than impactful sub appearances. Unfortunately, the physicality of MLS resulted in poor scores and a broken back, which shuttered his year and left us wondering what could have been.
Going Forward: The sky’s the limit for Obed, who took the leap from potential prospect to potential star in 2022. This upcoming season he will need to learn how to protect his body, condition for a long season, and maintain the upward trajectory that 2022 promised. When healthy, Vargas is a starter-level MLS player, but with Seattle’s depth, he may be eased into the lineup in an effort to protect his long term development. The potential to be the best product of the Sounders system is there, with consistency being the greatest obstacle.
#15 Danny Leyva
Realio’s rating: 5.62 in 21 appearances
Community rating: 5.67
MLS App 19, Rating 5.68; CCL App 2, Rating 5.00; MOTM 1
2022 Recap: Leyva improved from last year, substantially upping his rating and showing growth year over year. He earned his first two assists as a Sounder and showed an ability to run the defensive midfield in the absence of other, more established central players. The highlight for young (still only 19) Leyva was a MOTM performance against RSL in August. Danny displayed defensive acuity, recording a handful of important actions while also getting a shot and key pass and pulling creative strings centrally. Leyva started with a number of partners in the midfield with variable success, but he noticeably lost steam later in the year. His scores were dropping as the Sounders’ playoff chances followed suit.
Going Forward: The rumor mill has mentioned interest in a transfer for Leyva from a number of outlets, and for a quality player under 20 with high upside and the possibility for dual (or even triple!) citizenship, Danny is an attractive asset. His growth as a Sounder has been steady, and if the team is as deep at central midfield as it appears, it should come as no surprise that there is a healthy market for his services and an opportunity to move if he wants to. If he remains in Seattle, Leyva needs to solidify his spot as the first defensive midfielder on the depth chart behind the starters. This would require more physical defensive work paired with a continued ability to hit the line-splitting pass forward when presented with the opportunity.
#14 Jackson Ragen
Realio’s rating: 5.76 in 29 appearances
Community rating: 5.72
MLS App 23, Rating 5.78; CCL App 6, Rating 5.67; MOTM 1
2022 Recap: Jackson was perhaps the most pleasant surprise, not only arriving new on the scene but playing 29 times for the Sounders and earning quality minutes including 14 MLS starts. Ragen immediately pushed himself into the center back discussion with a stellar performance on the biggest stage, earning an 8 on the road at Club León as part of an important 1-1 draw to send Seattle to the final. The season was not without struggles: his inexperience showed in a critical error against San Jose en route to a 4 rating during a loss to a bad team. Another disappointing result came when he picked up two quick yellows against Portland at home, getting sent off and watching a 3-0 Timbers party at Lumen Field. Ragen was another young player who tired late and had lower scores as Seattle limped to the finish line, but the fact that he earned 7s in five out of six midseason matches in a row showed his potential.
Going Forward: Ragen at times played well enough to start at center back, even over more established teammates. What held him back were his big mistakes and lack of consistency, something he will need to show rapid improvement on in 2023. The upside is Jackson has excellent passing from the back and can make line-splitting passes that others he is competing with can’t.