With the Tacoma Defiance’s move from the USL Championship to MLS Next Pro, there were bound to be some changes to the way the Seattle Sounders handle their development pipeline. One of those changes promises to be when the organization chooses to loan, sell or trade players.
In the past, the two most common moves have been loaning first-team players or trading Defiance players somewhere they can get an MLS contract. With the move to MLS Next Pro, we may start seeing a wider variety of moves.
Ray Serrano’s move to Louisville City could be the first of those “new” types of moves. Sounder at Heart has confirmed that Serrano will be heading to Louisville City, but it was not entirely clear if it was to be a loan or a more permanent move. Niko Moreno had first reported it as a loan, but a source suggested that it could be structured as a free transfer that allows the Sounders to retain sell-on and MLS rights. Louisville City later confirmed that it was “not a loan.”
Serrano, 19, enjoyed a bit of a breakout season in 2021 and seemed to excel with a move to right wingback. His 4 goals, 6 assists and about 1,800 minutes were more than he had accumulated in his three previous seasons with the Defiance.
The problem for Serrano is that it’s still not quite clear what position he’d play at the MLS level. As promising as he looked at right wingback, it’s uncertain if the Sounders will continue to feature that role. In a four-back set, it’s not yet clear if he has the defensive chops to play as a right-back or the offensive skills needed to be a winger.
This move should give us more insight into that. Louisville City head coach Danny Cruz, who played and coached for Craig Waibel in the Real Salt Lake organization, has mostly utilized a 4-3-3, but has apparently also expressed a fondness for three-back formations. Despite having a veteran-heavy roster, Cruz still was willing to give 29 appearances to 18-year-old left back Jonathan Gomez, who parlayed that into a move to Spain’s Real Sociedad B.
Louisville City has been one of the USL’s best teams since first entering as a third-division team in 2015 and then moving to the Championship in 2017. They’ve never missed the playoffs, won back-to-back Division II titles in 2017-18 and finished with the second-most points in the Eastern Conference last year. Serrano enters a highly competitive environment in which he’ll be competing against veterans every day.
- In an unrelated but similar move, Sounder at Heart has also learned that Defiance left wingback Alex Villanueva is on trial with LAFC. Villanueva had previously been on trial with the Columbus Crew.
Several edits were made to this story after discovering that it might not be structured as a traditional loan.