Yeimar calling last year one filled with ups and downs, is a gigantic understatement to say the least. From a team aspect, the Seattle Sounders collectively went from looking unstoppable early in 2022, crowning themselves kings of Concacaf, to looking bleak and at times uninspired during the final games of the regular season. Underwhelming play which ultimately resulted in Seattle missing the playoffs for the first time since joining MLS.
Individually, over the last two seasons the Tado, Colombia native has been so dependable and consistent that this campaign in which he started 26 games of 34 games in league play, felt well below his standard. The defender struggled with a few injuries that although did not keep him out for long periods of time, did seem to impact his reaction time, close-down speed and hinder some of his overall defending.
“I am just not used to being injured even if it is by a player accidentally falling on the back of my leg,” said Yeimar with a half smile as he seemed amused at his own dry humor.
“Getting hurt in that LA Galaxy game just a few games into the [MLS] season made it challenging for me to stay in top form, it took a few months to just get right and twice as long to feel back at 100%.”
Putting his body of work under the microscope, one can say that there were some matches of the regular season when Yeimar did not look his best. Several of those uncharacteristic performances from one of the highest-rated defenders in the league were a result of lingering pains and discomfort, which the Colombian had to play through.
Unlike last season, “El Tanque” was not selected for All-Star Game, he was not in the final ballot for MLS Defender of the Year and he was not called up by the Colombian National team in any of their last friendlies or training camps. All recognitions that even though might not be defining objectives, could make many player that had so much immediate success, feel like a slight setback in their career.
Ironically, even while battling the uncharted waters of injuries, Yeimar managed to once again lead the league in interceptions and ranked top 10 in defensive clearances. Undeniably huge merit to his phenomenal athleticism, talent, as well as the commitment to the Rave Green.
It is that commitment that pushed Yeimar to put his body on the line in order to play the historic two-legged Concacaf Champions League final. The effort came with just a handful of training sessions and clearly not completely recovered from his injury, Yeimar was crucial in both games that ultimately earned Sounders their most illustrious and transcendent title.
Being part of that championship team trumps any additional success or individual accolades he could have gained in the MLS regular season.
“That dominant win over Pumas was the greatest night of my life as a professional soccer player,” said Yeimar as he looked across the room where his CCL medal was still hanging.
“That final spell in ‘Conca-Champions’ really put in display what this team is capable of, when we all play to our potential and everyone is healthy. I could not be any prouder of what we were able to accomplish and the joy we brought our fans by lifting an international cup in their own stadium.”
That said, the Sounders centerback would not commit to calling the year an overall success, simply because as a team they did not achieve all the objectives. Although he did clarify that 2022 couldn’t be considered a failure either, when the one goal reached historic significance like becoming the first club in a league’s existence to win the biggest tournament in the continent.
In other words, it sounded like Yeimar felt that this year was the equivalent of a “push” on the blackjack table, a conclusion many would find reasonable all things considered even if he wished more had been accomplished. That is perhaps the main reason he appeared to consistently steer the conversation toward what was ahead rather than the past which was the topic on hand.
“It was a year full of monumental highs, frustrating lows but I have trust in this club and our group of players to achieve great things in 2023,” is how Yeimar described the last nine months.
There is no doubt this year will be an exciting one for the Rave Green but also an extremely challenging one. Sounders will have to prepare to compete in two additional major tournaments; Leagues Cup under a brand new format and the highly-anticipated World Club where the club will represent CONCACAF.
That responsibility is one this talented group will take head-on and will need every single player on their roster to contribute throughout 2023 in one way or another when rotations are necessary, Yeimar said. Whether or not new players boost this current squad remains to be seen, depending on how the January transfer window manifests itself. Nevertheless, for now the defender is embracing the moment and shared his initial thoughts on what facing the top clubs in the sport mean to him.
“There are no words to describe how important playing in the Club World Cup will be,” Yeimar said. “It will be a special moment for all of us.
“Just watching the [UEFA] Champions League final felt different this year. As soon as Real Madrid beat Liverpool, all I could think about at my chance to maybe face a legendary club like Real with a trophy on the line.”
Aside from fulfilling the childhood dream of anyone who grew up loving the beautiful game, hearing Yeimar go on about his desire to do anything humanly possible to help put the Sounders on an even higher pedestal at an international spectrum sounded ambitious but genuine and from a place of love for the crest he‘s been defending now for three seasons.
If something is certain, it is that the 30-year-old is determined to be in the best physical shape of his career for a season that will provide a global stage unlike any MLS club has ever had. Yeimar hopes his team can use this stage to display the brand of soccer that has made Seattle one of the most successful teams in North America over the last decade.
It is because of that devotion to the club that it was so important for Yeimar Gómez Andrade that the Rave Green reciprocated that interest by giving him a contract extension through 2024 with two additional years of club options.
“The club putting their trust in me with an extension fuels me to stride even harder toward being the best defender in this league and help bring more titles home,” he said about the new deal.
Yeimar has been the Sounders’ most consistent and effective defender since the heyday of Chad Marshall. That alone makes securing “El Tanque” for additional seasons an absolute no-brainer but it is the way he has connected with the Sounders’ culture and club’s identity that makes it a pivotal piece in the future build of the roster.
“I couldn’t be happier to know that I’ll be defending this jersey for years to come,” he said. “Winning the first major title of my career here, has now made my bond with this club an this fan base unbreakable.”
Hearing YGA share how transcendent his time with the Sounders has been, it is easy to hear the sincerity behind his words and how excited he is to continue defending the Rave Green colors for seasons to come. Even with major changes within the organization like the departure of Garth Lagerwey, Yeimar’s belief in the club and how far his team can go this year remains intact.
“In my time here, I’ve seen Gonzo, Djimi [Traore] and other important people around the club go but this organization remains strong, keeps winning trophies,” the Sounders defender said.
He did not dismiss the reality that Lagerwey would be missed, though, not just because he was good at his job but also because his former General Manager always seemed to truly believe in Yeimar’s abilities, and always looked forward to seeing him on the field.
“Garth was great, good guy too, I do wish him the best,” Yeimar said. “But Craig has been here for a while and the type of respect he has around club I know is earned, respect that usually comes from excelling at what you do.”
Regardless of new challenges this year, changes in the front office and even new teammates, Yeimar ended 2022 on a high enought note that he feels like he could take on absolutely anything. Interestingly enough, that high note was on a personal level but one which he feels will keep its momentum into 2023.
Yeimar was referring to welcoming his second son, Tiziano, into the world in early December. Not only has Gómez Andrade been spending his offseason at the gym, preparing for this upcoming season but he feels that the new addition to his family will bring the positive vibes in fortune that have him feeling like this will be a memorable season.