Seattle Sounders legend Nicolás Lodeiro prepares exit: "Change is inevitable"


SEATTLE – Following Seattle Sounders FC's 1-0 Western Conference Semifinal defeat to LAFC, Nicolás Lodeiro held court with assembled media at Lumen Field for likely the final time.

Seattle's Uruguayan maestro previously announced the 2023 season would be his last in Rave Green, simultaneously stating his desire to deliver another trophy before his all-but-confirmed departure.

That hope didn't come to fruition, as the Sounders bowed out of the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs to the defending champions following a first-half strike by Golden Boot presented by Audi winner Dénis Bouanga.

"I feel sad. Many years here with the club, in the city. I feel sad, first because we lost," Lodeiro, who's out of contract this winter, said in a somber postgame locker room.

"At some point, I feel sad too because it was my last game in front of the beautiful fans and in this beautiful city. I’m really sad. But that’s life."

Lodeiro's exit isn't yet official. But if the front-office decision indeed comes to fruition, it would end one of the most decorated runs an MLS Designated Player has ever produced.

Since his 2016 arrival from Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors, the 34-year-old has produced 80 assists in 191 regular-season games while adding 41 goals. Trophy-wise, Lodeiro has won two MLS Cups (2016 & '19) and a historic Concacaf Champions League (2022).

Asked about his future, Lodeiro said he fully plans on continuing his playing career elsewhere, though he didn't specify if that would be in MLS or abroad.

"I honestly have not [thought about] my legacy," Lodeiro said. "But I feel very good, very satisfied because separate from the trophies and the titles and everything, more important for me is the people I met, and [who I am] as a person.

"I tried to do my best every time on the field and outside the field and in the city. From the first moment that I come here, I felt a good relationship and chemistry with the people from Seattle. For me, [what’s] more important is my legacy as a person. I feel satisfied with my time here in Seattle and I hope you feel the same too."

Turning the page

A new era looms in Seattle, where roster turnover is expected beyond Lodeiro. That reality comes for every club eventually, head coach Brian Schmetzer said, though it doesn't make the goodbyes any easier.

"Look, it’s always going to be difficult when certain players leave the club," Schmetzer said. "And I’ll start with Zach Scott who started with me in the USL days, and then we had Kasey Keller, and then we had Clint [Dempsey], and then we had Roman [Torres], and don’t forget Ozzie [Alonso]. And now it’s Nico. There’s always going to be great players at this club that have done great things for this organization.

"And change is inevitable," Schmetzer added. "It’s pro sports, we can’t be afraid of change. We can’t be afraid of making decisions. And the club’s going to survive, the club is going to keep going. We’re going to find new, good players. Again, Craig [Waibel] and I will go take some time over the next couple of weeks and decide and make decisions and go into next year with a plan and we’ll let you guys know what we come up with."

When he thinks of the Sounders' 2023 season, Schmetzer acknowledges the looming feeling of a missed opportunity. Had the Sounders advanced past LAFC, they would have hosted the Western Conference Final against Houston Dynamo FC, who advanced 1-0 over Sporting Kansas City on their side of the bracket.

For the time being, focus turns to a crucial offseason as Seattle look to maintain their status among the league's perennial contenders.

"What I’m proud of is we changed the way we played this year," Schmetzer said. "We changed fundamentally the way we played and the coaches did a great job, and the players did a good job adapting that. And so what I would say is we were pretty close to doing something pretty special. At the end, it’s pro sports, and, again, it comes back to making plays. But we did a lot with this group, and so I’m proud of that fact. And we will continue, again, to be driven to make sure that our success continues.

"Is this season a failure? In some ways, yes it is because I think we had a big opportunity. But at the end of the day, I’m proud of the success we did have."