In 78 career starts in MLS and 106 across all competitions in his first four seasons with the Sounders FC, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado played with three center back partners. In a matter of five days in the 2013 season, he started with two more as the 28-year-old Colombian continues to show the qualities of a top defender.
“Kennedy, one-on-one, is a very good defender. He’s got good athleticism,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s just been a very consistent, solid player for us and that’s what you want from a defender. You know that when you put him on the field, this is the kind of performance you’re going to get and there aren’t a lot of deviations from that.”
With Tyrone Marshall, Hurtado enjoyed plenty of success in Seattle’s first two seasons in MLS, totaling a 12-8-11 record in all competitions while Hurtado earned MLS Defender of the Year finalist recognition in 2009. Another frequent partner was Jeff Parke, as that duo combined to go 16-9-9 in MLS and 26-12-10 overall in all competitions. And with Patrick Ianni, who remains with the Sounders but is recovering from a foot fracture, Seattle went 8-5-4 in MLS and 15-6-6 overall.
Much of the sheer number of games played with Ianni, Parke and Marshall is credit to the center backs that Seattle has had in the first four years of the club, allowing Schmid to use a rotation of players during deep runs in the US Open Cup and in the additional games in Champions League.
“We’ve had quality center backs who have been able to rotate a bit and that’s good with all the competitions we’ve played in,” Schmid said. “I think they all understand the position. We have a simple plan for them in terms of what we need them to do and the way we play – we need them to stay central and lock down that middle.”
Meanwhile, this season he paired with two players that he hadn’t started with before when he started alongside Zach Scott in the MLS season opener against the Montreal Impact and Djimi Traore in the Frenchman’s Sounders FC debut against Tigres in the first leg of the CCL quarterfinal series with Tigres UANL.
“It was strange,” Hurtado said. “I feel comfortable. They are really good players with very good experience, so it’s good for me.”
Hurtado may be a bit of an old dog in MLS in his fifth year, but he’s not opposed to learning some new tricks. Schmid pointed to the improvement in his language skills for helping that growth, which has been noticeable in his organization along the backline, as well as in his play with the ball at his feet. He has added to his game each year and this year, he has already started picking up tips from Traore – a veteran of the top leagues in England and France.
“He’s a good partner. He has a lot of experience playing in Europe at the top level. I speak to him every day. I can learn how he sees things on the field and off the field,” Hurtado said.
That communication will be of particular importance on Tuesday when the Sounders host Tigres UANL in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series. The Sounders will need a strong defensive effort if they hope to advance, as they trail 1-0 after the first leg.
The quarterfinal match at CenturyLink Field will be televised live on Fox Soccer with the radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3. Tickets are still available at SoundersFC.com or by calling 800-745-3000.