Nico Lodeiro on ball vs. Chicago
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Relentless work rate makes Seattle's Nico Lodeiro special

TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders are 5-0-1 and, once again, Nicolas Lodeiro is right in the middle of the team’s success.

Lodeiro might not quite receive the same early-season MVP hype as LAFC counterpart Carlos Vela, who he’ll take on in a massive clash at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday (7 pm ET | FS1, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), but the Uruguayan is just as pivotal to his team’s success.

Seattle are 20-2-3 since last July 4, a torrid run that has coincided with a stretch of stellar form from Lodeiro. Coming off his eight-goal, 16 assist campaign of last season, Lodeiro has picked up where he left off, scoring twice and dishing out four assists in six games so far in 2019.

But his impact extends beyond the stat sheet. Lodeiro’s relentless work rate and ability to run and buzz around the field with seemingly limitless energy has become the stuff of legends among his Sounders teammates.

“He’s a very, very hard worker, blessed with that ability to be able to run all game,” Sounders winger Jordan Morris said on Wednesday. “It’s great because you see him working and you want to follow that work ethic. For us, having a guy like that, obviously has been great, both going forward and defensively.”

Sounders high performance director Damien Roden came to Seattle from Stoke City and said some of the work-rate data on Lodeiro is comparable, if not better, than many players he’s worked with during his time in Europe.

“When you look at his stats in the league and on our team, he’s right up there as one of the highest,” Roden told MLSsoccer.com. “When you compare him to guys I’ve worked with in the past in European leagues, certainly on distance covered, he’s one of the highest.”

Lodeiro, 30, doesn’t look to be slowing down. But Roden said the club is still working to refine his approach, not by scaling back the relentless style that makes him so effective. Rather, it's finding ways to ensure he’s channeling that energy with maximum efficiency.

“We’ve just been trying to get him to think about conserving energy and moving faster,” Roden said. “Rather than run the whole game at 85 percent, we want him to sprint, recover, sprint, recover.

“So, it was just being smarter a little bit, really," Roden continued. "He already had that work rate and in every training session, he applies himself in the same way. There are times in the game where you really, really, want to work hard and work at maximum intensity and then get your recovery so you can do it again, again and again. And he’s really responded well to that.”

The hope is this will preserve Lodeiro’s longevity and allow him to remain one of the league’s most dynamic attacking threats well into his 30s. If anyone has the combination of technical skill and physical fitness to do so, the Sounders think it might just be their Designated Player.

“As his body gets older, and the more games he accumulates, particularly on turf, his body will start to respond differently,” Roden said. “He needs to understand he needs to listen to his body and give his body a chance to fully recover, so we’ve encouraged that as he gets older, that he does pay attention to that recovery and then we’ll manage his load within that week leading to a game.

“It’s for us to manage what he does on a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday or a Friday,” Roden added. “So, knowing that he applies himself fully we can make sure he’s always fresh going into a game.”


LIVE YOUR COLORS: Download the free MLS app - The official MLS app gets a major update for 2019, making it easier than ever to keep up with your favorite club, check standings, watch videos and much more.