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Five reasons to be excited about the João Paulo signing

It’s official: João Paulo is the newest signing for Seattle Sounders FC.

A versatile, clever and gritty player capable of lining up at any of the five midfield positions in head coach Brian Schmetzer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, the Brazilian Designated Player is poised to make an immediate impact for the reigning MLS Cup Champions.

Here are five reasons to be excited about this signing:

Pedigree

Signed from Botafogo, a massive club in the Brazilian Serie A, João Paulo boasts a resume that matches his quality on the pitch. Not only does he have almost 200 league appearances across the top two divisions of Brazilian domestic soccer, the vast majority of which came in the top flight, he’s also been battle-tested in Copa Libertadores, the top club competition in South American soccer.

At 28 years old, he Joins the Sounders the prime of his career from a storied South American club with vast experience in continental competition.

Style of Play

Recognized for his technical ability, creativity and excellent ball-striking technique, João Paulo possesses a skill set that has historically translated well to MLS. He blends that technical acuity with defensive grit, covering lots of ground and breaking up plays. On the attacking side, he reads the angles and body position of defenders very well, and he has the close control to navigate tight spaces before finding a teammate in an advanced position.

What immediately catches the eye is his ability to eliminate opposing defenders with his first touch, twisting and turning out of pressure as he bursts into open space. Combined with his penchant for vertical passing, he should adapt well to Seattle’s double-pivot regardless of whether the team is dominating possession or utilizing counter-attacks.

Positional Profile

Whether he lines up in Seattle’s double-pivot or higher up the pitch, João Paulo is an excellent facilitator of possession. He may not hit the Hollywood passes of a traditional No.10, but he makes meaningful contributions in every phase of the game.

His skill, ingenuity and proficiency in 1-v-1 situations make him an intriguing option out on the wing. That same skill set, combined with his defensive prowess, also translates very well to a box-to-box midfield role alongside Gustav Svensson.

Tactical Flexibility

Cristian Roldan can thrive either as a No. 8 or out on the wing, and the same can be said of João Paulo. However, the variances between the two players – namely João Paulo’s dribbling and 1-v-1 ability – leads to several permutations that Schmetzer can employ based on the opponent.

João Paulo and Roldan can line up next to each other as two No. 6-8 hybrids in the double-pivot, a system that worked to great effect for the Sounders in 2016. However, if Svensson is the dedicated defensive midfielder, he can be the conduit linking the midfield to the attack in a box-to-box role, with Roldan out on the wing. Lastly, if Roldan and Svensson are lined up at the base of midfield, he has the skill set to be an effective wide attacker in MLS.

Seattle’s attack is at its best when guys like Roldan, Nicolás Lodeiro and Jordan Morris have the freedom to roam. João Paulo could be the force multiplier that brings out the best in his teammates, adding more fluidity to an already potent attack.

Trophies

Between the Concacaf Champions League, Supporters’ Shield, U.S. Open Cup, MLS Cup and Campeones Cup, the Sounders will be competing across five fronts in 2020. João Paulo’s experience in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana will be key in CCL. Moreover, his extensive resume in the Brazilian Serie A, tactical flexibility and versatile skill set will help with the roster rotation throughout the campaign.

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