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Seattle Sounders vs. 2022: End-of-season player ratings, #9-#7

Two stellar defenders and one new guy (who spent most of the year probably playing a line too deep).

#9 Nouhou

Realio’s rating: 6.30 in 37 appearances

Community rating: 6.13

MLS App 30, Rating 6.23; CCL App 7, Rating 6.60; MOTM 1

2022 Recap: Much maligned Nouhou clocks in at #9 on the Realio Ratings, showing well above average MLS talent as the mercurial Cameroonian took a broad step forward in minutes played, matches started, and consistency. Nouhou didn’t have a clear platoon partner for the first time in years, and responded by being his usual lockdown defensive self, rarely beat in 1-v-1 situations, and offering solid passing numbers as a clean distributor into safe areas and teammates. The passing was his biggest criticism, as Seattle was missing offense for long stretches of the year and there were often opportunities for the left side to get into attacking positions. Nouhou struggled to find the final pass or unlock teammates offensively when he got into advanced areas; however, he did score his first MLS goal to go with three assists (and a fourth in CCL) in a small sign of improvement.

Going Forward: An elite center back in a three-man backline, Nouhou is not a dynamic attacking fullback in a four-man defense in the mold of Alex Roldan, and his service from wide areas is limited to end line crosses. If Seattle is trying to make him that style of player, they are setting themselves up for disappointment unless he can take a huge (and unlikely) developmental leap. If the expectation is a lock down wide defensive player who can cover giant swaths of real estate while unlocking higher paid offensive stars to do the bulk of the scoring, a team set up to utilize that will reap the benefits. There are definitely places where improved distribution and more incisive crosses from the left back are essential in the Seattle offense, and Nouhou will need to continue his slow improvement in both decision-making and execution on the offensive side of the ball. Looking at perhaps his last chance to find another league transfer, Nouhou needs to build upon his strong international play if he is to find any interest from outside MLS.

#8 Yeimar

Realio’s rating: 6.30 in 33 appearances

Community rating: 6.14

MLS App 28, Rating 6.25; CCL App 5, Rating 6.60; MOTM 1

2022 Recap: A perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate since arriving in 2020, Yeimar took a step back in average ratings this year as part of a teamwide decline, culminating in the Sounders missing the MLS playoffs for the first time. A big part of Yeimar’s personal struggles was a lack of cohesion from the defensive midfield position in front of him, and Yeimar attempted to push forward to fill gaps with varying success. When it worked, he was again the MLS leader in interceptions, for the second year in a row. His ability to jump passing lanes is incredible, using anticipation and a lethal combination of speed and strength to beat opponents to the ball. Without a consistent central release option, however, Yeimar was often caught in possession without an obvious next move after making a great defensive play, and was trapped. This led to some costly turnovers, as his passing choices forward didn’t build appropriately on his stellar defensive play. He was sometimes overly aggressive in attempting to make these plays, and again, without consistent central cover, was susceptible to counter attacks.

Going Forward: The physical skill to be the best in the league is still on display every match, and Yeimar just needs to clean up some of his distribution to earn that title. Having a consistent outlet centrally and more dynamic forward options should limit the number of times Yeimar has to attempt lower percentage passes. At his best, he is an impossible obstacle to get around, utilizing better size, strength, speed, and agility than any opponent he matches up against. Consistency from the team around him will let him concentrate on his elite defensive ability. Always close on set pieces, it would be a pleasant surprise for him to help Seattle on dead ball situations, where they struggled as a unit in 2022.

#7 Albert Rusnák

Realio’s rating: 6.48 in 40 appearances

Community rating: 6.25

MLS App 32, Rating 6.34; CCL App 8, Rating 7.00; MOTM 1

2022 Recap: Rusnák’s first season as a Sounder must be considered a success, as he helped Seattle become the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League. Arriving in the winter, he immediately slotted in as a great team player, moving around to where he was needed and fitting the team culture well. His 3g2a in MLS were fewer than expected (1g1a in CCL). He was played often as a defensive midfielder, satisfactorily slotting in a line behind where he likely expected to play. With the injury to João Paulo early in the season, Albert had an up and down year in the central defensive areas, sometimes showcasing incredible control and distribution, but also lacking the physicality and defensive acumen of players with more consistency playing there. When moved forward, Rusnák had a lot of success connecting with teammates and controlling possession, but he struggled to get into creative spaces or find direct play on goal for himself. When Seattle struggled down the stretch, Rusnák moved around the field looking for success and found it as an offensive midfielder against Vancouver late in the year, with a massive five key passes and two shots on 88 percent passing to earn his lone MOTM of the season. This performance hinted at what he could offer if played in a position that best fit his abilities, rather than exactly what the Sounders needed.

Going Forward: In 2022 Albert was often the pass before the pass that led to success for the Sounders, due to his deep starting position. The anticipated return of multiple defensive midfielders should improve the depth there and allow Rusnák into a more comfortable role that is more goal-facing, with more opportunities to create directly. Albert has incredible control, which allows him to transition quickly through attacking zones from almost any service. His ability to shoot from distance is excellent and fits the spaces that he should find within the tactical setup of the Sounders, and his ability to link up and create for teammates should turn his role into a more direct creator and assist provider. Look for Rusnák to improve his stats as he and his surrounding teammates return to health and gain familiarity.

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