The Seattle Sounders shored up a back line that has conceded 27 goals in 18 games Saturday, adding Dutch right back Kelvin Leerdam from Vitesse in the Eredivisie using targeted allocation money. The 27-year-old defender is a product of Feyenoord’s youth system.
“I started to follow the league the last two and a half years,” Leerdam said after his first practice Saturday. “It’s a tough league, a lot of tough teams, but I think the football is getting better.”
Born in Paramibo, Suriname, Leerdam lived most of his life in the Netherlands, including his entire professional career from his 2008 debut with Feyenoord. At 27, the Sounders will count on Leerdam’s experience.
Leerdam said his conversations with American teammate Matt Miazga, who was on loan with Vitesse last season after transferring to Chelsea from the New York Red Bulls, helped convince him to give the league a serious look.
Leerdam, 5-foot-10, is on the slim side at 154 pounds. He was confident that he could adapt to MLS’s physical style of play.
“It’s a manly sport,” Leerdam said, smiling. “Most of my game is technical, but if I have to be hard, it’s a man’s game, so I’m going to be hard.”
Leerdam has experience on the game’s biggest stages, having played in both the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League in his career. In 2013, he scored eight goals in 26 league appearances for Vitesse, suggesting that Leerdam may be able to contribute offensively.
Coach Brian Schmetzer was pleased.
“We signed a very good player,” Schmetzer said. “It gives us more depth, more competition. There’ll be a learning curve, Kelvin will have to get up to speed . . . (but) it opens things up a lot.”
The signing makes the future of Brad Evans uncertain. A nagging calf injury has limited Evans, the presumptive starting right back, to seven appearances. After making several position changes the past few years, and with his health still in question, it is unclear if Evans has a long-term future with the Sounders.
In the interim, Schmetzer believes Evans will plug in where the club needs him.
“We’ve always thought that Brad could play different positions,” Schmetzer said. “(Brad’s) fine, he’s a team guy. He gets it. He’s been part of this team for a long time, he’s always for the team. Certainly if you look at it, it’s never easy. We talked that through.
“I’ve been honest with Brad from day one. He’s been honest with me. There’s no issues. This is pro sports. If Brad is better, he plays. If not, he’ll go somewhere else (on the field) to help the team.”
Leerdam was still jet-lagged following his arrival Friday, and will need a little time to get back his game fitness after a month and a half of inactivity after Vitesse’s season ended. He will be ineligible for the Sounders’ Tuesday match against the Colorado Rapids (6 p.m., Q13 Fox), which has caused Seattle to recall Jordy Delem from the Martinique national team while Evans serves a one-game suspension for a red card he received against Portland June 25.
Once Leerdam is fit, the position battle will begin.