#13 Fredy Montero
Realio’s rating: 5.82 in 33 appearances
Community rating: 5.86
MLS App 26, Rating 5.85; CCL App 5, Rating 5.71; MOTM 3
2022 Recap: After 30 appearances in 2021, Montero returned to the Sounders and showed up 33 times in 2022. Starting off the season right, he contributed three goals during Champions League which tied him for second highest on the team. Two came in a massive 3-0 win against Club León at Lumen Field, and the third was an away goal that catapulted Seattle past their first Mexican opponent on the way to the title. Fredy was a serviceable MLS substitute, who in small doses contributed both as a striker and playmaker (11 key passes on the year), but he missed a few chances we are used to seeing him finish and was used more as a creator than a pure finisher. Montero’s ability to drop centrally and facilitate helped an at times overwhelmed midfield. In one of his MOTM appearances, he started as an attacking midfielder behind a lone forward and received the following praise: “Everything positive had Fredy involved. In the first half that meant getting out of their own half — often due to a ‘kick it toward Montero’ plan. In the second half that meant being both the playmaker and the most goal-dangerous attacker, leading to a fantastic 58th minute goal that gave Seattle a chance.” With above average passing, Montero is able to drop into pockets and slip others through on goal which was helpful as Seattle searched for attacking identity.
Going Forward: Dropping from 7g6a to 4g2a is a substantial loss, and although the CCL goals were hugely important, Fredy is on the back end of his career. He had to find spots within sub appearances to impact the season. Having Montero be the primary replacement for Raúl Ruidíaz was never the goal, but that scenario was forced too much in 2022 and their disparate attacking styles led to some formational mismatches when Fredy played. Getting more depth up front should allow Fredy to be a spot sub in attacking positions and should keep him sharp and effective. Montero remains on a low salary and has settled into his role as a veteran leader and sub brought in to help facilitate others. This is likely the last year for Montero who, at 35, is here to get an MLS Cup.
#12 Alex Roldan
Realio’s rating: 6.00 in 40 appearances
Community rating: 5.90
MLS App 32, Rating 5.88; CCL App 8, Rating 6.50; MOTM 1
2022 Recap: Alex started out 2022 with a bang, showing well in all eight CCL matches, earning average or above ratings in those games while displaying consistency and durability. Although he missed a few matches to international duty, Roldan played in nearly every MLS match, earning solid marks. Increasing his statistical output was necessary for his growth and he did that, going from three to seven assists on the year, further developing consistent, deadly service from wide areas when pushing forward. He also greatly improved his duel percentage, which was part of an increased defensive workload that he met head on. Roldan turned into a two-way strength on the right of the back line. Even in a loss to rival Portland, I was impressed on 8/26: “Alex was almost the entire offense for Seattle, creating the best chances for himself and others, adding in a massive defensive output as well. He led the team with five tackles, four interceptions, three key passes, two shots and had the only assist. Roldan was the team: one of the few players who was up to the task of playing hard and well against a rival on the road.” This was just one example of how when he plays up to his best, Alex can be the key to unlocking opponents who are trying to stop the Sounders’ attacking superstars.
Going Forward: Maintaining consistency with a revolving door of players in front of him was hard in 2022, and in 2023 Alex will need to be better with people other than his brother. The Roldans were often dynamic together, but as the team shifted formation and tactics, Alex often faded from relevance when he wasn’t paired with his brother on the right. As Seattle pushed to try to return to the playoffs, transition defense was often the culprit in inexplicable losses. Yeimar and Alex are both high on the league interception leaderboard and this aggressiveness can win a ton of possession. But the now-veteran starter Alex Roldan must be a lock-down defender who doesn’t get caught forward watching a counterattack goal behind him.
#11 Stefan Cleveland
Realio’s rating: 6.29 in 7 appearances
Community rating: 6.46
2022 Recap: Cleveland remains one of the best backup goalies in the league, and he started off his season with a MOTM performance away to Austin in March. He’s able to start and give Stefan Frei a rest without dropping the level of play too far. Cleveland has averaged about one goal allowed in his Sounders career, and while he isn’t a backup who shuts out every opponent, he is solid at keeping his team in the match and giving them an opportunity for points when he’s on the lineup card. For great teams, this is enough, but Seattle in 2022 within MLS was only a good team. This meant that in matches Stefan Cleveland started, Seattle went 1W-4L-2D. Cleveland kept his team in every match and displayed both quality shot-stopping and slick distribution from the back. He earned average or above for nearly every outing, but didn’t have any particularly standout performances in which he stood on his head and willed his team to earn points.
Going Forward: Stefan is a great fit for a team that has a well established starter and needs consistency from his backup. He will want to improve upon his results record from 2022. While that can’t all be pinned on Cleveland, it does explain why he is firmly a backup at this point and not pushing at Frei’s minutes with any urgency. Cleveland has above average feet and solid shot-blocking ability that any team would want in the 18 every match.
#10 Jordan Morris
Realio’s rating: 6.30 in 37 appearances
Community rating: 6.10
MLS App 29, Rating 6.10; CCL App 8, Rating 7.00; MOTM 4
2022 Recap: Bursting back into the Sounders lineup after missing the 2021 season with another ACL tear, Morris dropped three goals and an assist on the Champions League title run, showing everyone he was back and as strong as ever. His MOTM effort in the home leg of the NYCFC match put Seattle in a powerful position that led to their finals appearance. Jordan followed this up with an MLS season that saw 7g4a as he returned to full strength and even improved upon his career numbers in minutes and shots. As quick as ever, Jordan remained a counter-attacking, field-stretching menace who was adept at getting to the end line and crossing into dangerous areas seemingly at will. Three shots, three key passes, a goal, and an assist from George Morris against the hated Sporks in a 3-0 shelling at home remains a defining moment of my sons’ soccer fandom.
Going Forward: Morris remains a complementary piece to the strong Sounders lineup, but he can struggle to get involved in matches when teammates aren’t feeding him and opponents aren’t allowing space behind. At times he faded from matches and was more of an observer while others tried to break through the now-familiar bunkering posture of many teams. Jordan should continue to develop his ability to invert and shoot from distance, as well as be a backside aerial threat in addition to his stellar wing and direct play. Now in his prime and healthy, Jordan needs to be higher on this list at the end of 2023.