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Nicolás Lodeiro was everything we want a Sounders star to be

Nicolas Lodeiro leaves a legacy that will likely never be matched.

Last Updated
4 min read
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

It is hard to overstate just how impactful of a signing Nicolás Lodeiro turned out to be for the Seattle Sounders. As successful as the team had been during their first seven years in MLS, it really wasn't until Lodeiro joined them in the summer of 2016 that they truly ascended to an elite level.

During his eight seasons, the Sounders won their first two MLS Cups, claimed four Western Conference trophies and became the first MLS team to win Concacaf Champions League. The Sounders only missed the playoffs once during that time, and won 15 playoff series after having only won four in their first seven seasons.

Nicolás Lodeiro goes out with head held high
The Uruguayan was as gracious as ever when meeting with the Seattle press likely for the last time.

If there was a knock on the Sounders over that stretch, it was that their "system" could often be described as "let Lodeiro cook." The ball was constantly on his foot, and when it wasn't, he was roaming the field looking for it. Lodeiro averaged about 85 touches per 90 minutes from 2018-2023, a rather astounding number for a primarily offensive player over such an extended period, especially when you consider it doesn't include two seasons where he probably touched the ball even more (FBref doesn't have that data before 2018). The Uruguayan responded with 58 goals and 62 primary assists in 231 all-competition appearances for the Sounders.

Lodeiro was the rare combination of being highly skilled while still willing to outwork almost every opponent. He would routinely cover more ground than anyone else on the pitch, but could still place a pinpoint pass. Throughout his first five seasons in Seattle, Lodeiro was consistently one of the best players in the league. He averaged 7.25 goals and 12 assists over his first four full seasons in MLS, yet somehow only made one MLS Best XI (2020). Even after a relatively unproductive 2023, Lodeiro still finishes his Sounders career averaging a goal or primary assist every other game (.52 g+a per 90).

He was also seemingly unflappable under pressure, perhaps most notably when he converted a pair of penalties at Estadio Olímpico Universitario in the driving rain during the first leg of the CCL finals. He followed that up with one of the most iconic goals in Sounders history – which may have also been a near perfect encapsulation of his time here – converting off a rebound in the home leg to effectively clinch the title while fans were holding up their phone lights. He immediately celebrated by ripping off his shirt, whipping it over his head and running straight to the supporters' section where he embraced the fans.

Beyond the field, he was a consistent locker-room leader, someone who clearly loved his relationship with fans and embraced the Seattle soccer community in a way few have. One of the last things Lodeiro did this year was film himself and his wife riding bikes around Seattle and, honestly, I don't think I could possibly find him more endearing.

One of the first things he did upon his arrival was to immediately assert his place in the team hierarchy, famously turning off the pregame music before his debut. Even in a locker room that included big personalities like Román Torres, Nelson Valdez and Clint Dempsey, Lodeiro was unflinching in his command.

Part of that was due to the resume he brought to Seattle. At 27, he had already played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, helped lead Boca Juniors on a deep run in Copa Libertadores, and appeared in two World Cups.

But he was also someone who commanded respect through his work ethic. Lodeiro was routinely one of the last players to leave the training pitch and would often come in on off-days, something usually reserved for younger players just trying to log extra reps.

True to his personal ethos, Lodeiro effectively gave up the captain's armband when he could tell he was no longer the leader of the team. For all his accomplishments and despite an engine that appears to have plenty of miles left on it, the reality was that Lodeiro was no longer performing at the level he was accustomed to. Although he bristled at the idea of being asked to play a different kind of role, I suspect part of him understands even if he wasn't quite ready to admit it. As great as it would have been for him and the Sounders to see eye-to-eye on an ongoing role within the team, I don't blame him for wanting to be somewhere he's still allowed to be himself.

Whoever replaces Lodeiro will have some almost impossibly big shoes to fill. In fact, it's probably a bit unrealistic to expect one player to check all of these boxes. I don't know how many players out there can combine all of these attributes, let alone be expected to stick around as long as Lodeiro did. Simply put, there probably won't be another Nicolás Lodeiro.

Editor's note: This story originally published on Dec. 1, 2023 and was updated on Dec. 12, 2023.