Photo credit: sports.mynorthwest.com
The headline to this article may seem like hyperbole, but Nico Lodiero is on the short list for the best players in the MLS. Recent rumors have pointed to Nico considering moving back to South America and possibly playing for his old squad Boca Juniors. South American news outlets have reported that Nico has even lobbied for a return (from Nahitan Nandez, currently playing for Boca) to his old team possibly; this comes on the heels of his recent Gold Cup run with his native Uruguay national team.
“Nahitan knows I want to come back, whenever we are called into national-team duty I tell him, and he always does his part, but they do not take me,” said Lodeiro. “I do not know if he has such power.”
Nico Lodeiro is here to play. What a goalpic.twitter.com/tX3dDODQ5r
— Billy M (@Wideoverload) June 16, 2019
The Sounders cannot afford to lose Lodiero, since his arrival in 2016, Nico has scored 28 goals, compiled 46 assists in 101 games. He has been the leading force in getting the Sounders to 2 MLS Cups—winning one in 2016. Sounders GM Gareth Lagerway addressed the possible loss of the best midfielder in the MLS on KJR 950 radio.
A quick start for Seattle!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 21, 2018
“I think certainly this is a road we’ve been down before. I have a ton of respect for Nico and when you’re a player of his caliber, you’re going to have a lot of teams that want you, and this is an example of that,” he told host Jackson Felts. “We know Nico had a great experience at Boca and so it doesn’t surprise me that someday he might want to go back there. So I think there’s actually not a ton of drama here.”
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 5, 2017
The Sounders GM can claim that losing Nico is no big deal; however, there is no small coincidence that his arrival to the Sounders led to an instant championship. There is no small coincidence that his being involved in the Gold Cup has led to a couple losses by a Sounders squad that simply cannot replace him. The Sounders have lost 3 of their last 4 games without him in the lineup.
Similar to Russell Wilson or a Felix Hernandez (in his prime), the Sounders do not have anyone on the bench who can command the team and will them to victory. The Rave Green have plenty of good players, but Nico is a star and a true “captain” whose heart and determination put the Sounders in the “elite” of the MLS. We saw that in the first 2 months of the season where Seattle went on hot streak of 7 wins and 5 ties to just 1 loss.
Even with his absence, he leads the team in assists with 8 and his absence would put them a step closer to average. The Sounders should not delude themselves into thinking they can make an impact without him. As good as Kelvin Leerdam and Christian Roldan are, they are not at the level of “superstar” which is what Nico is. If you feel a sense of panic, that is because that sense is real right now. Hopefully, the Sounders can change his mind for this season, otherwise, we may as well just try to get to the playoffs and play for next year.