TORONTO– When the Seattle Sounders declared serious interest in signing Kelvin Leerdam, a familiar face to American soccer fans helped put in a good word about the defending MLS Cup champions.
The 27-year-old joined the Sounders from Dutch side Vitesse in July and has settled into a role in the starting lineup. The signing process started with some advice from Leerdam’s former teammate at Vitesse, Matt Miazga.
“I knew a lot about (MLS) because I spoke a lot with Matt Miazga at my former club,” Leerdam told SBI. “He’s from New York Red Bulls and he always thought Seattle was one of the biggest teams in the league so when they came I had a little bit of information from him.
“I knew it was a big team in the US and I still had to think about it because I had other options in Europe, but in the end I went with my feeling and I’m happy to be with this club,” Leerdam said. “If you play on a big team, it’s easy to play for the cup.”
Since arriving in Seattle, Leerdam has started 18 games in a row and provided the Sounders defense with a much-needed stability at right back.
Leerdam will feature in one of the top matchups of MLS Cup on the flank against Toronto FC’s pair of quality full backs in Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour.
“Kelvin has brought a steady influence to our team,” Sounders manager Brian Schmetzer said. “He’s played at a high level and the statistics bare a lot of good things, but it wasn’t all Kelvin. I thought he was just the right guy in the right moment and they’ve done well and certainly one of the matchups between Beitashour and Morrow and whoever we play on the left and the right it’ll be an interesting matchup to see who gets the best out of the flank areas.”
The other focus of Leerdam and the Seattle defense will be to keep the ball off the feet of Toronto’s dangerous attackers, especially in the middle of the park.
“Of course we watch how Toronto plays,” Leerdam said. “They deserve to be in the final and I think we both deserve to be in the final. We fought through a very hard season to be where we are now. I think you have to watch yourself, of course you’re going to analyze them, but in the end if we can control the game, they have to think about us.”
“We’re going to try as much as possible to make them work to be thinking about us than worried about them,” Leerdam said. “They have a lot of quality with Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Victor Vazquez so you have to limit them and make them play through the outside and see how we can counter that.”
Unlike most midseason acquisitions in MLS, Leerdam knew exactly how to handle the start of his time in Seattle, with his focus solely dedicated to on-the-field actions. His time growing up in the Feyenoord system also helped him prepare mentally for the transition.
“One of their guys reached out to me and from then I came here and when I came here I tried to make it as easy as possible for me,” Leerdam said. “The club took things outside of the pitch off my hands so I could focus on soccer and that helped a lot and of course I’m already 27 years old so I know what they would ask of me because performance on the pitch is the most important. Feyenoord is a very good team in Europe and I’ve played there eight years so I was used to pressure already.”
With a win on Saturday, Leerdam could have the rare distinction of being a champion in two different countries in the same calendar year. He captured the KNVB Cup with Vitesse on April 30 alongside Miazga in the Vitesse back line.
“Then I can say 2017 was a productive year for me,” Leerdam said. “It’s going to be a nice ending of the year for me if I win a cup in Holland and be the champion in MLS. I can’t wish for anything better. You come into a team and everything you do is try to win cups and that’s most important for an athlete. If I can win the cup, it would be great.”