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Seattle Sounders midfielder Nicolas Benezet is loving life in the Pacific Northwest.

In the Rave Green’s 4-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, Benezet scored the game-winning goal and nearly bagged a couple more. Since joining the Sounders two months ago in a trade with the Colorado Rapids, the French attacking midfielder has already contributed three goals and an assist from just 339 minutes of action across all competitions.

Following the win over Vancouver, Head Coach Brian Schemtzer perfectly summarized why Benezet has become an instant fan favorite in Seattle.

“He’s a great soccer player,” said Schmetzer, “And he’s great on social media.”

There is perhaps no better example of the Nicolas Benezet Experience than his goal and celebration combo against the Whitecaps. 

The goal was a supreme bit of skill, receiving the ball under pressure and spinning his defender with one simple touch before firing a quick-release shot through the legs of the goalkeeper. With his teammates and fans erupting in celebration around him, Benezet walked gingerly toward the corner while grabbing his hamstring before he started twerking.

“That was a bet with one of my friends,” Benezet said at training this week. “He sent me the video of the guy celebrating like this after scoring a goal and he said, ‘are you going to do this?’ I said ‘Yes, let’s do this’.

“It’s the exact same celebration that the guy did. My hamstring is perfect.”

It was just the latest example of Benezet’s fun-loving, light-hearted personality that has helped elevate an already talented and tightknit locker room.

After scoring minutes into his debut, he struck a pose that was an ode to the famous anime show, One Piece. Benezet regularly cracks jokes with his teammates on Twitter and even has a recurring weekly bit where he reminds fans across that the Sounders sit first in the Western Conference.

According to Benezet, the freedom to express himself on and off the pitch is a big reason he wanted to come to Seattle in the first place.

“I needed to move, and I think Seattle was the best place for me to be here,” he said. “To be able to play my football and to be free. I feel free when I am doing like celebrations or doing some [trash talking] on Twitter and I feel like I am free. That’s all I wanted.”

Benezet first visited Seattle when he was with Toronto FC for the 2019 MLS Cup and immediately felt like it was a city he could live in. Fortunately, he was able to see some of the sights and enjoy the summer weather before the real Seattle sunshine started up.

“When I came first here it was in August, and the weather wasn’t like this,” he said. “So, I went to the beach because I grew up with the beach and I like to hang out on the sand. So I went to Golden Gardens and that was great. Now I cannot go anymore because it’s cold. I love Seattle. It’s a good city.”

Now that he’s finally playing with freedom again, Benezet has one objective in mind for the six remaining games in the 2021 campaign.

“To be top of the West: that’s the goal for the rest of the season,” he said. “We are right now on the top of the West, and we have to stay on the top. After that, if we do this, the next goal will be to win the championship.”

Benezet and the Sounders return to action on Saturday as they face off against the Houston Dynamo (5:30 p.m. PT; FOX 13+, Prime Video, El Rey 1360AM) at PNC Stadium.

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