#22 Kelyn Rowe – 5.20 in 10 appearances
Community rating – 5.28
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 4
In the 2023 season, Rowe scored almost exactly the same as he did last year (5.18) but there were two big differences: in 2022, Kelyn appeared in 28 matches, nearly three times as often; and he registered a number of above average 7 scores. In 2023, Kelyn was hampered by injuries at multiple points of the year, and he fell behind younger teammates for the few substitute minutes that were available.
What I liked: Kelyn can play a number of positions, and he did exactly that in the past season. Mostly playing at fullback, he was able to support at central and wide midfield spots as well. His best trait in 2023 was bringing some direct offensive impetus. Used multiple times as a replacement for a fullback, Rowe tried to push the offense forward.
What I didn’t like: Age has caught up with Rowe, and he struggled to find playing time as his skills deteriorated. When he did play, he unfortunately got re-injured multiple times, further limiting his opportunities. Especially obvious was his lack of speed, and while his brain continued to make smart soccer decisions, his body failed to come along at the pace of the game. Some of this may be due to injury rust, but Rowe doesn’t fit on the team as a viable midfield player any more, and he didn’t offer enough upside as a second-half game changer in any matches in 2023.
Moving forward: By all accounts, Rowe is a Washington-loving local legend who practices hard and leads by example from veteran experience. On the field, however, he hasn’t made an impact for quite some time, and there are younger, potentially more skilled players who have pushed him into an afterthought. It’s unlikely that Kelyn has an automatic spot, and he’s fast approaching the end of his career and may be someone who is a better fit in an ambassador role.
#21 Dylan Teves – 5.23 in 13 appearances
Community rating – 5.17
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Dylan Teves’ ratings increased from 5.16 to 5.23 and he went from six to 13 appearances from 2022 to 2023. This growth included three starts, and overall he played about four times as much this year. Unfortunately, it's hard to remember many notable moments because he didn’t see the field after mid-July.
What I liked: In a stretch from late April through midsummer, Dylan was featured in eight straight matches, of which Seattle won three and tied another. In a 1-0 win against NYRB, Teves had perhaps his best appearance of the season. Immediately after scoring in the 22nd minute, Jordan Morris was forced off the field with an injury, and it was Dylan Teves who was called in for long relief. Although he was thrust into the match early and cold, Dylan did a solid job combining with teammates and managed two shots in a difficult substitution appearance.
What I didn’t like: Much of what Teves does well is similar to some other, more prominent players. He makes smart runs and clearly has a nose for soccer tactics, but he hasn’t contributed like other teammates. Dylan has a very high floor due to his understanding of movement and game flow, but his ceiling appears low due to the lack of high impact plays. This year he didn’t have a single standout moment that illustrated the kind of impact he can have. His completion percentage was pretty low (74 percent) and while that may be partially due to trying dynamic passes, he didn’t translate those into big chances and often turned the ball over.
Moving forward: Being in the right place is only half the equation, and whether it's a lack of pace, touch, finesse, agility, or something completely intangible, Teves hasn’t put together the impact he seems capable of. In 2023, he was moved down (and eventually off) the bench as other players made more impact. Those other players were vying for similar time, and Dylan didn’t have that standout moment where you said, “oh yeah, that’s why this guy is around.” He still makes decisions similar to another UW kid we got a few years back, so it’s not time to shut the door on his career, but in 2024 Teves will need to show everyone that there’s room for him on this roster.
#20 Paul Rothrock – 5.25 in 4 appearances
Community rating – 5.41
MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 5
Rothrock burst onto the MLS scene via a number of hardship call ups and fixture congestion, and he took advantage of that to earn a first team contract after showing well and scoring goals in external tournaments. His play was not defined by athletic dominance but instead by cerebral positioning and being a “right place, right time guy.” His MLS play was limited, and Paul ended up only appearing four times for a total of 44 minutes. He acquitted himself well in that time, even scoring a goal. However, other players got healthy and took any further minutes he might have earned.
What I liked: Sometimes the best way to force yourself into the coach’s vision is to score goals, and Paul did that. He scored multiple times for different iterations of the Sounders by being in the right place and having a pure finishing touch. His highlight came when he scored his first (and only) MLS goal four minutes after being subbed on late against Houston in what ended up being a game-winning goal in a 1-0 road win. This earned him a full contract, as one of the younger players who got chances purely by putting up results you couldn’t ignore.
What I didn’t like: While it's hard to argue against goals, when given MLS time, Rothrock didn’t seem particularly dynamic or exciting. Without others creating for him to be opportunistic in the box, Paul didn’t show any game-breaking ability or something to set him apart from other options on the wing. The big upside/high ceiling-type moves didn’t make an appearance. And while beating Houston in Houston is a big deal, his game-winning goal came after Seattle went up a man in the 21st minute and up two men in the 78th minute.
Moving forward: Rothrock as a player is hard to forecast. Is he a hard-nosed, opportunistic goalscorer who makes things happen by force of will and great soccer IQ, is he just a guy who Toronto drafted in the third round and is an end-of-the-roster filler, or is he something else altogether? There are some tools there that are intriguing, but it's hard to define his game-breaking talent, and you can’t be successful on a deep Sounders roster if you’re just okay at a lot of stuff. He will be 25 for the 2024 season and will need to show more to play a role on this team.
#19 Reed Baker-Whiting – 5.30 in 20 appearances
Community rating – 5.60
MOTM = 2 High = 7 Low = 4
Reed has shown glimpses of talent for a few years now (somehow he's still only 18!) but in 2023 he took a big leap forward in his progression as a serious, elite Sounders talent. Having grown in size, RBW developed into a fast, strong, insistent wide player who can play in a number of outside positions and is a consistent forward-pressing force. His vast soccer talent is being realized quickly; in 2023 he burst into the Sounders organization as a wide defender who could offer service from either foot as well as go direct on goal.
What I liked: In a six-game spurt from mid-September to mid-October Reed was fantastic, and so were the Sounders. The team won three of those matches and tied the other three, and it was RBW who picked up MOTM both at Dallas and at Nashville. Each time he showcased dynamic attacking talent, tireless aggression, and good defending. From the Dallas match “He was both a solid defender and an integral part of the offense who made good choices in the offensive third. He had the Sounders’ second-most touches (91) and 91 percent completion, both incredible numbers that he supplemented with two tackles, five clearances, a shot, and two key passes including a beautiful assist to Alex Roldan after bossing Paul Arriola.” Getting MOTM performances multiple times from such a young player means the “sky’s the limit” for him.
What I didn’t like: Injuries cut long stretches from his time, and he was pushing for legitimate starting minutes at outside back. Hopefully he isn’t injury-prone. While the upside is very high for Reed, he has a lot to learn defensively, as although he’s physically big and fast, his positioning is still a work in progress. He may not be particularly interested in playing defense, which is at odds with how the coaches tend to lean, but he can work on or adjust for that.
Moving forward: Baker-Whiting had fantastic outings in the past but didn’t seem able to put it all together as a central attacking player. This year’s move to the outside of the field seems to have unlocked his potential in a very exciting way. His ability to cut inside and shoot with either foot combines fantastically with his endurance and two-way effort. If he can refine his service from overlapping positions, there is suddenly a lot of depth across the outside backs, and he can push forward into an outside midfield position in a pinch. If Reed can progress next year like he did in 2023 and can stay healthy, we might see him displace another player on the team, or perhaps be sold to another team.