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When Xavier Arreaga first arrived to the Seattle Sounders in 2019, it was a career move that put the center back in unfamiliar surroundings.

To that point, Arreaga had played his entire professional career in his native Ecuador, where he had developed into one of the best young defenders in his country’s top flight. Just 25 years old at the time, Arreaga’s age, track record and upside all led the Sounders to bring him in with the hopes he could be an anchor for the club’s back line for years to come.

Fast forward to the 2022 season and Arreaga is playing arguably the best soccer of his Sounders career, a weekly fixture for the Rave Green in central defense. His presence was especially crucial in Seattle’s historic Concacaf Champions League title run, as he started and played all 90 minutes in all eight of the club’s games in the continental tournament.

“He’s grown into life in America, life with the Sounders, he’s done well,” Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said following the club’s 2-1 victory over Charlotte FC on May 29. “I think there’s still room to grow there.

“…But Xavi’s done well, I can’t complain about some of the steps he’s taken as a young man coming into this country, so he’s been good.”

SPEND YOUR SUMMER WITH THE CHAMPS

SPEND YOUR SUMMER WITH THE CHAMPS

A Concacaf Champions League celebration, theme matches, and a long home stretch make Sounders matches at Lumen Field your perfect Seattle summer destination.

Arreaga’s dependability has proven doubly vital during a season that saw his center back partner, standout Colombian Yeimar, miss multiple weeks during the heat of CCL with a sprained ankle.

Jackson Ragen rightfully garnered heavy praise for his breakout showing during Yeimar’s absence, but Arreaga’s role in keeping the defense playing at a high level while also fostering an effective new partnership with a rookie teammate shouldn’t be overlooked. The end result is Schmetzer having something of a three-headed monster at the position.

“[Arreaga] had a good partnership with Jackson when Yeimar was out, so I think those three guys are all talented center backs, I think all of them can play, be starters on any team,” said Schmetzer.

Following the Charlotte victory, Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said that the match, Seattle’s third victory in four league games since the end of CCL, was an apt example of how Arreaga’s development has impacted the club’s overall defensive cohesion.

“I think today in particular [the center backs] did really well in terms of really staying connected to the remainder of the squad when we really tried to push and put pressure on the opponent, especially an opponent that likes to play out of the back,” Frei explained. “So, sometimes as a center back or as a defense unit you want to stay back and stay a bit more safe, if you will.

“But if you create that disconnect from the press and from the guys that stay behind, teams can really get out of the press and exploit those gaps. But today I thought we did quite well, the guys stepped in when they needed to and were able to have them turn over the ball quite high up the field and retain possession and that’s really good because we’ve been working on that, so to see it come through is great.”

Frei also expressed a similar sentiment to Schmetzer, saying that an increased comfort level with living in a new country and adapting to the culture have started to pay dividends for Arreaga on the field.

“I think he’s more comfortable,” Frei said. “Some players it takes a little bit longer to get comfortable with the team or also with the cultural difference that you face when you come from another place. I think he feels very comfortable now and that allows you to approach your craft a little bit more at ease.

“He’s also getting a little bit older, so he’s getting more experience. And as you get older and you add that experience to your repertoire, you have to start utilizing it and show it. So, happy to see those things from him.”

Along with teammates Jordan Morris (United States), Cristian Roldan (United States) and Albert Rusnák (Slovakia), Arreaga is one of four Sounders to be called up to their national teams during the June FIFA international break, as he re-joined an Ecuador squad he helped successfully qualify for the 2022 World Cup with nine appearances during qualifying (seven starts).

Still just 27 and making waves at the club and international level, Arreaga’s best soccer might still be in front of him.

SUMMER WITH THE CHAMPS

SUMMER WITH THE CHAMPS

A Concacaf Champions League celebration, theme matches, and a long home stretch make Sounders matches at Lumen Field your perfect Seattle summer destination.

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SINGLE MATCH TICKETS

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