#10 Nico Lodeiro – 6.00 in 37 appearances in 2023
Community rating – 6.01
MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 5
This year, Nicolás Lodeiro ended with a decent 1g/10a line, while leading the team with 58 key passes — very good for limited minutes. That key pass number is a little misleading, however, as while he put players in areas to take shots, the quality of those shots often suffered and made his numbers drop. Once a true game-changer, Lodeiro earned but a single MOTM award, and that came in a 4-1 loss in Portland. The highs were still there (6.9 average in his first 10 matches) but he faded (5.8 average in the next 10 and 5.5 over his last 17 appearances, many of which came as a substitute).
What I liked: Even having a down year, Nico was clearly not done. He entered the season with incredible fitness and put up reasonable numbers. When he was “on” and the team coalesced around him, there were spurts of that old magic where you thought he might single-handedly carry the team to wins. For a glorious 10 minutes there was Leagues Cup hope against Monterrey as Nico hit a fantastic free kick and seemed to have regained his dominance over Mexican teams. He earned an 8 against SKC as he dropped an assist, two shots, four tackles defensively, and was an integral part of the big comeback. He had an assist on the only goal in Minnesota for a result immediately after the Atlanta debacle, and he followed it up with another assist in Austin that helped jump start the late season undefeated run. The things that Nico does so well still periodically showed up in his play for the rest of the season, and he transitioned to a bench role but still gave his usual high energy.
What I didn’t like: It was clear this season that the Sounders were moving in another direction, one without Nico Lodeiro as a focal point. It was troubling to see lineups with Nico on the bench, but it was impossible to argue with the results. The team went on a great run without relying on Nico to do it all, and while that might be a good thing for Seattle’s continued success, it was a harsh reminder to fans that even the best age out. There was a long stretch where Lodeiro simply was not impactful, not producing assists or scoring goals. His roaming style and need to be on the ball constantly only worked as long as Nico was producing. Instead of building specifically around his playstyle, the team asked him to change to what was working for the rest of the players, and it wasn’t a great fit. For a player as prideful and legendary as Nico, that was the beginning of the end. You can't have a designated player in this league who is playing just “okay.”
Moving forward: Seattle and Nico have decided to part ways, without him as the centerpiece of the team for the first time since he arrived in the summer of 2016, and that's scary and exciting for all. For a long time the team’s success has been entwined with his meandering and deadly creative playstyle, and Seattle will have to discover their identity without Lodeiro’s magic as a key ingredient. Clearly convinced of his ability to keep playing, there is a high likelihood he’ll wear an opposing jersey in the future, and that will be hard to see.
Realio’s recap: Loving Lodeiro
Nico Lodeiro, the player we’ll remember as the Sounders #10, ends the year at number ten in the yearly rankings. But that ranking doesn’t do justice to what this great player has contributed over the past eight years. The quintessential “10” led the team through a ball-dominant style, and his talent, energy, and leadership changed Seattle into a title-winning team, a contender for every trophy.
Since he arrived in 2016, I’ve rated Nico 224 times over eight years, and he’s earned an amazing 6.74 cumulative average. This is the third-highest since I started rating, and likely best all time, considering sample sizes. He's earned 34 Man of the Match awards. There is no other player I have written more words about for Sounder at Heart, and he deserves every paragraph, critique, and accolade. Words can’t do justice to the beauty and joy that Lodeiro brought to this organization; no one else has contributed as much or been as responsible for the trophies and success the Seattle Sounders have enjoyed for the past decade.
The first year he arrived, Lodeiro was a revelation, earning an incredible 7.52 average in his 19 appearances, spurring the team to and ultimately winning MLS Cup. He earned MOTM and rated a 9 for his original Sounders match against the LA Galaxy, and the team went on a magical run from there, where Nico didn’t rate below 7 the rest of the season. In fact, it wasn’t until mid-June in 2017 that Lodeiro earned a below-average score.
In 2018 he had a dominant nine MOTM awards over 29 matches, being literally the best player on the field in one third of his games. He followed that up with two of his best rated years in 2019 and 2020 where he scored even higher, and was a perennial top performer who put in long hours, stayed healthy, and most importantly, produced at a high level. His only below-average year was his injury-shortened 2021, and even then he earned a respectable 5.7 over his 10 matches.
In eight years he had a single 4 rating. He has earned eleven 9s. To encapsulate how important Lodeiro has been to this team, here are his rankings by year, compared to his Sounders teammates:
2016 #1, 2017 #3, 2018 #2, 2019 #1, 2020 #1, 2021 #18, 2022 #5.
Players came and went around him, big stars with names like Dempsey or Marshall, and other impact players like Svensson, Rodríguez, etc., but none had the length and breadth of quality play for Seattle that Nico has had.
This perennial superstar led his team on and off the field, bled for the colors he wore and the city he loved, and delivered perhaps more than any other Designated Player in the history of the league, and definitely in the history of the team. At times, his penchant for roaming around and his incessant need to touch the ball and be impactful likely frustrated his teammates, but the end result was a magical player creating a beautiful game with incredible consistency. You want your highest paid players to be your best players, and Nico Lodeiro delivered again and again for the Sounders. He has set a perhaps unrealistic bar for DPs to obtain, but his legacy and the memories of his play will no doubt shape this team into the future.
Goodbye, Nico. It has been an honor.