As it turns out, Nicolas Lodeiro is pretty good at soccer and his arrival cannot come a moment too soon for the Seattle Sounders. The Boca Juniors import made his debut for Seattle on Sunday and the early indications are that the Uruguayan is the real deal.
According to data from Opta, Lodeiro had 124 touches on the ball in his debut, good enough for the fourth-highest across all of MLS this season and a team-high for Seattle. A stat like that isolated alone doesn't mean much, but it certainly backs up the eye test: Lodeiro was all over the pitch, creating threatening moments along the way, and he did it against the second-best defense in all of MLS.
Here is his heat map:
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Sounders fans are probably breathing a big sigh of relief. After all, the Sounders have been having a pretty awful season so far and they went so far as to fire their coach five days ago. High-priced Designated Players don't always succeed in MLS -- the league's parity and grueling physicality can be a tough adjustment for newcomers, making every signing a wait-and-see endeavor.
Expectations were high for the 27-year-old coming into Sunday, though. Lodeiro didn't come cheap for the Sounders at a transfer fee reportedly of around $6 million and a salary of around the same amount over 3.5 years. They made it clear they were hoping to do more of this, but in Seattle:
It's early goings, but his distribution and knack for combining looked like just what Seattle has been missing. It was Lodeiro who created some of the best chances for the Sounders on Sunday and nearly scored on an effort he took himself that sailed just wide.
That said, Lodeiro cannot single-handedly save the Sounders who sit well out of playoff position, as Sunday's game proved. They settled for a 1-1 draw to the L.A. Galaxy, despite dominating in possession, shots, crosses, total passes and passing accuracy. The Sounders were just the better team, in large part to Lodeiro's efforts, but again could not finish their chances.
With a whopping 18 shots, there was at least one that Seattle fans will feel rookie Jordan Morris should've scored, if only he had used his left foot. That's been a common theme this season and something the U.S. national team prospect told Fox Sports he is working on, but it's really only a piece of a larger problem the Sounders have had with finishing. Clint Dempsey alone had five shots on Sunday with no goals. The Sounders have had the lowest shot conversion rate in all of MLS at around 6 percent.
The reasons for that are probably varied, related both to the Sounders' ability to finish and the quality of chances they are taking -- but there's hope Lodeiro can help with the latter. Early indications are that he will have the effect of changing the way the team around him plays. Now, players can make runs knowing that an inch-perfect, well-timed pass at their feet is a very real possibility and a clear chance on goal is a reasonable outcome.
It remains to be seen if the insertion of Lodeiro (plus a coaching change) will be enough to help the ninth-place Sounders turn things around this season. But given the team's unraveling lately, progress may mean more than immediate results and, with Lodeiro in the line-up, they certainly made progress on Sunday.
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