He glides up and down the right side of the pitch, swiftly, smoothly and smartly. An anchor in the back, yet a dangerous point of attack on the flank, Kelvin Leerdam is a natural fit at right back. However, it may not even be the place that fits him best: the sideline.
“All the coaches I have worked with, they always try to push me to become a coach,” Leerdam said. “So, I am thinking about that now. They always told me that I have a good read on the game, so they have always pushed me to think about that. I have that in the back of my head.”
Ask anyone around the club about the 27-year-old Leerdam, and his knowledge of the game is second to none. He was born in Parmaribo, Suriname, a sovereign state that came under Dutch rule in the 17th century. Although it’s been independent since the 1970s, Suriname is still heavily influenced by the Dutch, which is known in soccer circles for their unparalleled knowledge of the game.
He broke into Feyenoord of Holland’s Eredivisie in 2008, making nearly 100 appearances before transferring within the league to Vitesse. After three-and-a-half seasons and 89 appearances, Leerdam joined the Sounders last July. He made an immediate impact at right back.
“It’s never easy to go to a new place; you don’t know anybody,” Leerdam said. “But, I have to say, everyone here treated me right. They tried to make me at home as soon as possible, they try to take care of everything. In the end, when you feel welcome by everybody, it makes the transition easier.”
Leerdam went on to play 15 league matches with the Rave Green in 2017, plus each of the five postseason contests. He was a huge reason why the Sounders gave up just 10 goals in Leerdam’s 20 appearances.
Going into his first full season in MLS, Leerdam expects to fulfill an even bigger role.
“I am one of the older guys, it’s my 11th season now,” Leerdam said. “I try to take that role onto me to help the young guys on and off the field – I think it’s important. I try to help the young guys.”
A future coach off the field, he already shows managerial qualities among his teammates. This week during preseason camp in Chula Vista, Leerdam is roommates with midfielder Henry Wingo, a talented Homegrown Player entering his second pro season.
“I help [Henry Wingo] out on his defense and his 1-v-1 – he needs to recognize those opportunities because I think he is a very good player,” Leerdam said. “He is a young talent; he’s fast. When you have that kind of talent I think you can be important to the team.”
Whether it’s helping a young player with his positioning or shutting down an opposing winger on the flank, Leerdam’s experience, knowledge and passion of the game is tangible. He is undoubtedly a vital part of the club’s success in 2018.
“Normally what you see is what you get,” he says. “I am a guy who tries to work hard, be important to the team, be a leader on and off the field. Don’t force it – it all needs to be natural.”
As a player who fell just short in the 2017 MLS Cup and arrived after the club won its first title in 2016, Leerdam is determined to bring the trophy back to Seattle.
“I am looking forward to it. We need to show everybody that what we achieved in the Western Conference is something we worked really hard for, so hopefully we go on the same run and win everything.”