Ever since the Seattle Sounders first entered MLS, they’ve proven themselves particularly adept at foreign signings. In their first year alone, that included guys like Fredy Montero, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Leo Gonzalez, all of whom would go on to make significant contributions to the team’s early success.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Sounders feature as prominently as any MLS team in Matt Doyle’s rather exhaustive look at the best foreign imports of all-time. In fact, with eight players on Doyle’s rather exhaustive list of 94 players, the Sounders appear to be tied with the LA Galaxy for the most representation of any MLS team. During his interview with Sounder at Heart explaining his list, Doyle stopped short of saying the Sounders were the best team at making foreign signings — he gave that honor to “teams coached by Bruce Arena” — but he clearly recognized their achievements.
Doyle also suggested that two more Sounders almost made the list, but that he ultimately didn’t feel like Victor Rodriguez or Kim Kee-hee did quite enough to make it. As big of a fan as I am of them, I can’t really fault his decision.
Doyle originally set out to make a list of 50 players, then realized he needed to expand it to at least 75 before settling on his final number. Rather than ranking them one-by-one, he grouped them into three different tiers that had sub-categories by era.
The Sounders were most heavily represented in the “Savvy Transfer Move That Brings Trophies/Quality” tier, where they had four players: Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Gustav Svensson and Kelvin Leerdam.
Doyle was probably most impressed by Svensson, about whom he said, “He’s been unsung outside Seattle, and given his age (33) he’s unlikely to have a long enough career to move too far up this list when it’s all said and done. But the Sounders will have a Hall of Fame or a Ring of Honor or something like that, and Svensson will be prominently featured.”
The Sounders were also well represented in the next category, “Expensive Transfer Move That Brings Trophies/Quality,” where Nicolas Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz were two of the 17 players listed. Doyle calls Lodeiro “easily one of the 10 best imports in league history.”
Although no Sounders were listed in Doyle’s third category, “Savvy Transfer Move That Brings Quality & A Fee” — in part because no one they’ve ever signed really fits into that category — they did have a third of the players listed among the smallest category on his list. Fredy Montero and Obafemi Martins both make the six-person class of “Expensive Transfer Move That Brings Both Quality & A Fee.”
Notably, Doyle didn’t include any goalkeepers, and the only one he said he even seriously considered was Jimmy Nielsen. If there’s one quibble I had with his list, it might be there. Michael Gspurning only played two seasons with the Sounders — which maybe disqualifies him — but one of those seasons still ranks among the best all-time for MLS goalkeepers and he did help lead them to a U.S. Open Cup final that year. Gspurning’s .73 goals against average in 2012 still ranks as the fourth lowest all-time and is notably the lowest ever for foreign-born goalkeeper.