Playing in Argentina for Boca Juniors (previously with Botafogo and Corinthians in Brazil, Ajax in The Netherlands and Nacional in Uruguay) means that Nicolas Lodeiro is not a household name in English-language Seattle soccer homes. But the Uruguay National Team player is just 27, has played in two World Cups, two (soon to be three) Copa Americas and has an Olympics under his belt. At the club level, he's participated in Copa Libertadores four times, UEFA Champions League once and Europa League once.
This building story makes it seem as though Seattle Sounders FC are close to signing the creative player. Unlike Clint Dempsey, Freddie Ljungberg and, to a lesser extent, Obafemi Martins, Lodeiro is not someone Sounders fans already know.
Conor Dowley is one of SB Nation's soccer writers, manager of The Siren's Song and a Seattle Sounders fan. He watches the Copa Libertadores whenever possible. We asked him about his impressions of Lodeiro.
Dave: If Lodeiro was heading to Europe what kind of team and role would he have?
Conor: I'd imagine we'd see him landing with a good Europa League team, or maybe a decent-but-not-competitive Champions League side. Lodeiro is a midfield playmaker, not quite a true number 10 but very good at floating between the lines to find gaps to exploit for his teammates' benefit. He's also got a solid defensive workrate, capable and willing of pressing high off the ball to try to force mistakes and make things happen.
Dave: Is there an MLS player that has a similar skill set?
Conor: That's a bit of a tough one. The closest fit I can think of offhand of Darlington Nagbe, but with some of Nagbe's speed traded off for a bit more power.
Dave: A quick perusal makes it look like outside Luis Saurez and Edinson Cavani, Lodeiro could be Uruguay's third best player. Is Seattle really getting Uruguay's third best attacking player?
Conor: I'm not sure you could call him the clear-cut third best attacker, but he's at least in the conversation. There's a few other Uruguay players who are around his level of quality, but they all have different skill-sets and rarely play together, so it's hard to judge for a certainty. But Uruguay are definitely better and more dangerous going forward with him in the lineup, even though he's often forced to come off the bench because of a defensive preference by their manager.
Dave: What's his best skill?
Conor: This is perhaps a bit nebulous, but Lodeiro just knows where to be. He frequently pops up in just the perfect spot to pick up the ball and link it to another attacker, or picks out the right spot in the defense to run through with the ball, or finds just the right place in front of goal that will force a defender to hesitate as the ball goes past him to a teammate at the far post. That kind of instinct is invaluable.
Dave: Where does he need work?
Conor: He could stand to be a bit more ruthless at times, but really his biggest thing is consistency. He's had a few injury issues in his career that robbed him of regular playing time -- including recent surgery to repair his meniscus -- so he sometimes struggles to maintain his form from one match to the next. If he can figure out how to be the player he is every match, it will be a huge development for his career.
Dave: On a scale of 1-Giovinco what should the hype meter be on this?
Conor: You should be "Sounders beating Portland in the Western Conference Final" levels of hype. OK, maybe that's just because I want to see that happen, but you should still be really hyped for Lodeiro. He's a very good player in his prime, and he can still get a little better. You still don't see a lot of transfers like that into MLS, so the fact that the Sounders are getting a player like that and one who fills a clear position of need is very, very exciting.