No established centerback duo? No problem for the Sounders

Kelvin Leerdam Sounders

Editorial (July 9, 2019) — Kelvin Leerdam smiled in the locker room after the Seattle Sounders FC defeated the Columbus Crew SC. He was just asked if not having a consistent centerback duo was detrimental to the team. Leerdam put on a smile and shook his head.

The easy answer? No.

“It’s not just with the centerbacks, but also with the guys in front of me,” Leerdam said. “Last week was [Henry] Wingo. Today was Harry [Shipp] and Alex [Roldan], and normally it’s Jordan [Morris]. It’s not easy. You need to adjust as quickly as possible. You jsut go with the flow of the game. Get yourself into the game first. And then, if it goes well, then it goes well, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Leerdam has found consistency is his spot at right back. He’s having a caliber season for the Sounders, scoring five goals already. He’s only one goal behind Raúl Ruidíaz, who has scored six goals this season and is on his way back from Copa America duties.

“You just try to fight,” Leerdam said. “It’s always fighting. It’s not as easy as it looks.”

Who do they have at CB?

The last couple months have been a major test for the Sounders and head coach Brian Schmetzer. Ever since Kim Kee-hee emerged early last season, the Sounders had a consistent centerback duo of Kim and Chad Marshall.

However, the legendary Marshall retired just a few short weeks ago.

Kim is still active with the Sounders, though. However, he missed about a month of action due to a knee injury. When he came back, against the Vancouver Whitecaps, he started the match, but alongside Saad Abdul-Salaam.

The Sounders signed Xavier Arreaga right before Marshall’s retirement, sensing something would happen. Now, it looks like Arreaga and Kim are going to be the first-choice starting pair. This could take some time to adjust to, due to the fact that they both speak different languages.

Kim has been in Seattle for over a year now, so it’s likely he’s picked up some English. However, he’s not fluent, and nobody expects him to be. Learning the English language is extremely difficult. Meanwhile, Arreaga doesn’t speak any English at all, only Spanish. However, there are plenty of Spanish-speaking teammates he can rely on for translation, including Roman Torres.

Torres is another option at centerback. He lost his starting spot to Kim last season, after a series of consistent performances from the South Korean. Torres could be a major help to the backline with Arreaga’s lack of English.

However, Torres is also just as valuable on the bench, offering advice and shouting out instructions. That’s to say that just because Kim and Arreaga don’t know the same language doesn’t mean they shouldn’t start together. In an interview with the Sounders, Kim once said that he and his teammates understand each other because soccer is a universal language.

“I didn’t speak English well at that time [when I first arrived in Seattle], but I speak soccer,” Kim said. “Soccer is one language. [My teammates] speak soccer, I speak soccer, so it’s easy to understand each other. That’s the common language.”

What does the boss say?

Schmetzer isn’t a man of long, drawn out explanations.

After the Sounders defeated the Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, Schmetzer said that he’s fortunate to not have a set pairing. He also doesn’t have any timetable for the naming of a set pairing. Right now, Schmetzer is happy that he has quality — and healthy — defenders that he can rotate with.

“We don’t have a set pairing and I’m blessed to have always had Chad, Roman and Kim and now Roman, Kim and Xavier,” Schmetzer said. “Saad played pretty well at centerback the other night, too. So, I have options.”

Another option is Jonathan Campbell.

The former Chicago Fire defender joined the Sounders this season, but his minutes have been limited. He’s one of the players that also features for the Tacoma Defiance, Seattle’s USL Championship affiliate. Campbell has started and appeared in two matches this season for the Sounders, going the full 90 minutes in both.

Schmetzer has a surplus of options on defense — and he knows how to use them. While Kim and Arreaga are likely the first-team pairing, the other options are strong enough to make their presence known to competitors.

Now, we wait and see who Schmetzer will start on Sunday against Atlanta United.

Photo of Kelvin Leerdam of the Seattle Sounders courtesy of Lindsey Wasson/Seattle Sounders FC.