TUKWILA — Jimmy Medranda can often get forgotten in the Sounders’ attack. That much was clear by the shock in the voice of a broadcaster calling a game in August.
“Of all the people on the field!” a broadcaster belted in unbridled awe after the Sounders left back smashed a full volley from outside the box into the net off a corner kick in a 6-2 win over Portland on Aug. 15 . The left-footed golazo — Spanish for amazing goal — was voted as MLS’s Goal of the Week.
Golazos are actually part of Medranda’s skill set. Search his name online and it seems there aren’t enough superlatives or exclamation marks to properly describe the strikes that come from outside the box — too fast for keepers to even attempt saves.
But excitement can fade and that’s what happened to Medranda. The Colombian suffered a knee injury in a May 2018 match while playing with Sporting Kansas City and spent the bulk of the past three seasons working his way back to form with three different teams.
Fully healthy, Medranda has started Seattle’s past three matches, recording a goal in the 3-0 win against Colorado at Lumen Field earlier this month. The Sounders (17-5-6) play at Houston (5-12-12) on Saturday.
Seattle, which qualified for a league-record 13th consecutive postseason berth in its last outing, can clinch one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference bracket with a win or tie against the Dynamo. The Sounders, however, want to remain first in the table to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the conference championship match.
“(Jimmy) had a little bit of a checkered past in the sense that once he left Kansas City, he was kind of injury prone and all of that,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I would say kudos to (Sounders vice president of sports medicine and head athletic trainer) Chris Cornish and (vice president of performance) Sean Muldoon, those guys do a good job with his preparation in training. Jimmy has found a second home. He really enjoys the guys here and he feels like he’s contributing. His mental state also helps his physical play.”
Medranda, 27, was acquired in October 2020 via trade with Nashville SC in exchange for homegrown midfielder Handwalla Bwana. The deal could also garner a total of $250,000 in general allocation money (GAM) for Seattle if Bwana hits certain performance-based markers for Nashville.
A left hamstring injury delayed Medranda’s debut in Rave Green until November 2020. He logged 25 minutes in three appearances as a sub last season, including 13 in the MLS Cup loss to the Columbus Crew.
With a full training camp and a change in starting formation that shifted Medranda up to wingback, he has returned to the player he was with Sporting KC.
SKC signed the touted defender in 2013 and Medranda made one appearance as the Wizards won the league championship his rookie season. He became a factor in the SKC starting lineup by 2016 and helped the club win the U.S. Open Cup in 2017.
The injury in 2018 not only sidelined Medranda, it dimmed his confidence.
The golazo reappeared in June against Vancouver. Off a corner kick, the ball was deflected taking two bounces toward an awaiting Medranda inches outside the box. Again, a left-footed strike beamed into the back of the net.
Medranda rushed to a celebrating Raul Ruidiaz, the relief apparent on Medranda’s face.
“When I scored that goal, I let go of a lot of suffering that I’ve had due to injuries and from the time that I didn’t have much playing time,” Medranda told reporters afterward. “I felt liberated after the goal of all the frustration that I’ve had from the past.”
Medranda is one of the interchangeable parts that has Seattle atop the West despite stars Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris being out due to knee injuries. Lodeiro has been one of the club’s top three scorers since he arrived in 2016.
Morris suffered his second knee injury in the past four years and is closer to returning than Lodeiro. The Mercer Island native joined the team in Houston and could see his first minutes this month since suffering the torn ACL while playing overseas in February.
Medranda has shared the starting left-back duties with Brad Smith. The former has paired well with center back AB Cissoko. Schmetzer will have to make adjustments to the backline against Houston because center back Yeimar Gomez Andrade is serving a one-game suspension due to yellow-card accumulation.
“There’s maybe some coaches that didn’t give (Jimmy) a look or didn’t believe in him or maybe didn’t see the strengths that he has,” Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said. “But I always thought he had the quality and the hunger.
“The moment he joined our squad and even in training, you saw that confidence even though he hasn’t been playing a lot. He would get the ball and he would drive at goal right away or he would try to shoot from 30 yards on a bouncing ball. A lot of confidence, oozing confidence that’s scary for opponents. Me having played against him before, that’s the stuff I don’t want to play against.”
No need to be shocked, it’s Medranda just being Medranda, again.
“I’m very happy with my performance the last couple months,” said Medranda, whose three goals and three assists are career highs. “I just need to keep working hard to be my best and keep showing the best of me.”