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Pedro de la Vega makes quite the first impression

Sounders' newest signing looks and acts the part of a cornerstone player.

Last Updated
3 min read
Mike Fiechtner / Sounders FC Communications

RENTON, Wash. – As far as introductory press conferences go, it’s hard to imagine Pedro de la Vega making a better first impression.

The Seattle Sounders' first-ever Young Designated Player was introduced to local media on Wednesday and did just about everything you could ask. He came off humble, attentive, confident and charming, all wrapped in a package of boyish good looks.

Even though he apparently speaks very little English, he made eye contact and clearly was paying close attention whenever he was asked a question. All of them were answered thoughtfully, seemingly with an understanding that his audience was not just fans and coaches, but future teammates.

The statement that stood out most to me was when he was asked about the weight and responsibility that came with wearing the No. 10 jersey. Before answering, he gave a look to Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer, seemingly looking for permission to actually talk about it, presumably not wanting to assume anything even though he had already been photographed with it.

Despite being just 22 years old, he has been wearing the No. 10 for Lanús for most of the past five seasons. De la Vega said he was well aware of the person who wore it before him, calling Nicolás Lodeiro a "legend." The Sounders apparently gave de la Vega Lodeiro's phone number, but he "got shy" and didn't use it, although he said he fully intends to later.

"More than pressure, it’s motivation to honor the number and use it in a positive way," he said, via a translator. "I know there will be pressure. It's the same thing in Argentina. What's important is I need to focus on preparing myself and trust my own abilities."

Sounders GM Craig Waibel said he felt a connection with de la Vega the first time they met in person during a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. What started as a trip to meet a handful of potential signings, quickly morphed into one that had de la Vega at the top of the wishlist.

Of course, his personality wasn't the biggest selling point.

"One of the things that stands out in watching Pedro's tapes is his courage," Waibel said. "When we continued to watch intricately, his movements were what attracted us. This is entertainment and he's a player who's very interested in changing the scoreline."

It doesn't take long to see what Waibel meant. Watching a highlight reel of de la Vega's is to understand why people call it the "beautiful game." De la Vega loves to attack off the dribble. He has the vision and creativity to set up teammates, but also the instincts and willingness to be a finisher. He's also a willing defender, tracking back as needed and rarely shying away from a tackle.

Seeing all this, it's tempting to assume he's already a finished product, that he'll hit the ground running and start contributing to goals from the outset. He'll effectively be replacing Lodeiro on the roster and it's going to be nearly impossible to escape the expectations.

The Sounders insist that they aren't trying to put too much pressure on him right away. Historically, Young DPs have rarely produced immediately and often never pan out. They want to give him some room to settle in.

At the same time, the Sounders didn't pay around $6.5 million to wait a year or two. They also believe de la Vega isn't your average 22-year-old.

In five seasons since making his professional debut as a 17-year-old, de la Vega has already made about 125 first-team appearances and logged nearly 7,000 minutes across all competitions. His 17 goals and 13 assists may not jump off the page, but they are about three times more than Miguel Almiron had after three seasons at Lanús at almost the exact same age. If not for the ACL injury that cost him all of 2022, there's a good chance that de la Vega wouldn't have even been affordable to the Sounders.

The Sounders surely don't expect him to replace Lodeiro on a goal-for-goal basis, but that's also not what defined Lodeiro's tenure. The legacy Lodeiro left was more about silverware.

"We’d love him to have 10 goals, 10 assists - he’s certainly capable of that," Schmetzer said. "He will have some build-up into what MLS is. It’s good in the sense that he’s with a pretty experienced team, I think that will help him.

"He is young, but he’s got a lot more experience. He does work, he does put the miles in. It will be team first and then if he helps us win championships I don’t care if he scores 5 or 15 goals."