It took a little bit longer than most of us would have preferred, but the Seattle Sounders have made their first significant signing of the offseason. Brazilian midfielder João Paulo was officially announced on Friday. He’ll begin training with the Sounders immediately and should be eligible to play by the time they play their first competitive match on Feb. 20 against CD Olimpia in Concacaf Champions League.
“João is a tactically excellent player who solves problems on the pitch, while his passing and set-piece service will help us be even more goal dangerous,” said Vice President of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson said in a press release. “I had the opportunity to meet João in Brazil and witness first-hand his professionalism and character, which fit exactly what we stand for in Seattle. On top of that, he’s a former captain who brings experience and leadership to our squad.”
João Paulo will occupy a Designated Player spot, and barring any significant changes to the CBA won’t be eligible to be bought down. Reports out of Brazil suggested the Sounders will pay a $1.25 million loan fee now and then have the option to make the transfer permanent by making an equivalent payment at the end of the year. That would put him outside the TAM range for 2020, but leaves open the possibility of bringing in another DP for 2021 when the rules are clear. At least for now, the Sounders will have three “true” DPs for the first time since at least 2016. Xavier Arreaga was bought down below the DP threshold with TAM to make room for João Paulo.
On the field, the Sounders have a player who looks like he’ll be a solid contributor in the midfield. During his last couple seasons with Brazil’s Botafogo, João Paulo was often paired with a more defensive-minded midfielder in the central midfield and showed himself to be a solid two-way contributor. His statistical profile suggests similarities to both Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan in terms of passing volume and defensive actions. His highlight reel shows a player comfortable dribbling in tight spaces and capable of hitting a line-splitting pass.
WATCH: João Paulo Highlights ⬇⬇⬇ pic.twitter.com/9khAuL070U— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) January 31, 2020
That sort of tactical versatility will present Brian Schmetzer with lots of options. The most likely one seems to be slotting in next to Gustav Svensson while Cristian Roldan moves up to the right wing. But don’t be at all surprised to see him playing any of the five midfield spots.
The Sounders are also working on finalizing the transfer for centerback Yeimar Gomez Andrade, who would likely occupy a TAM spot on the roster. Yeimar’s Argentinian team, Union de Sante Fe, announced the transfer last week.