How The Best Player You Never Heard Of Flipped MLS On Its Head

Up until two weeks ago, the Seattle Sounders were scraping the bottom of the MLS barrel. They were dangerously close to becoming a cautionary tale of how a soaring franchise can crash and burn in just a few months. But one day – more specifically, one man – changed everything.

The arrival of attacking midfielder Nico Lodeiro transformed the Sounders from a mediocre team languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference into an exciting squad on the cusp of a playoff push.

This weekend’s 3-1 trouncing of Orlando City on the road proved that the Lodeiro Effect is real.

The Sounders tied the LA Galaxy 1-1 in Lodeiro’s debut last week. Though Seattle only came away with a point in that game, it was criminal they didn’t score more goals and the fans left feeling like they’d seen their team play its best game of the season. Which they had, until this week.

The Sounders could have easily had five or six goals against Orlando. Clint Dempsey recorded his first hat trick since 2014 thanks to the unselfish play of Jordan Morris and Nico Lodeiro, the Puppetmaster.

With Jordan Morris running hard and stretching defenses and Lodeiro pulling the strings, putting the ball where it needs to be, Clint Dempsey can go back to doing what he does best: scoring goals by being in the right place at the right time.

Seattle has been one of MLS’ most exciting franchises since it became an expansion team in 2009. They set the bar for what (commercial) success in MLS looks like.

The team’s nosedive through the first 20 games of the season, catalyzed by Obafemi Martins’ unexpected transfer to China, was bad for the league and worse for the city.

When it became clear that maintaining the status quo was no longer a viable option, Seattle’s longtime coach Sigi Schmid fell on his sword, agreeing to part ways with the team.

A day later, Nico Lodeiro hopped off a plane with his buddy El Flaco (Alvaro Fernandez) and gave the Sounders – players and fans alike – a reason to believe again.

Nico’s arrival has shifted the playoff picture in the Western Conference, and by extension, the league’s complexion as a whole.