Three in a row! I have long maintained that a three-win streak gets any MLS team back in it. For the Seattle Sounders, this streak has done just that. Riding a good run of form and a consistent lineup, Seattle put in a full-team effort, played well (not great) and fought hard to beat the Portland Timbers 3-1. I tweeted midgame that a playoff team wins this game, and the home team did. That result puts the Sounders poised to move up the charts into playoff contention as early as this week.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 7.9
Frei earned an 8 for a game where I had ZERO notes for him in the first half. He just was not used; Portland didn’t put a dangerous attack on frame, and Seattle rarely played his feet while keeping the ball for 60+ percent of the time. The second half was a completely different story and Stefan really changed the game, making multiple, absolutely clutch saves to keep the Timbers off the scoreboard.
In minute 57 things started to heat up for both teams, with Stefan playing a critical role in maintaining momentum for the Sounders. Starting with a clearance under pressure and a near-post save in the 58th, Frei was an absolute wall. After Seattle scored their first goal, Stefan kept Portland from immediately equalizing, first on a corner kick scramble that gave Jack McInerney a header on goal. This demanded the spectacular and Frei was up to the task, sprawling fast to push the ball away.
Moments later after deliberately fouling Mears, it was again McInerney with the chance to draw the game even; he was played in 1v1 on Frei but took an extra touch and was completely stoned by Stefan’s accurate and athletic sliding block. Frei reacted perfectly here, closing off the angle first and then covering both the near post high and far post with his legs, ultimately blocking the shot. These two moments of brilliance were complete difference makers, in a half which Frei did well to direct his team and keep the sheet clean (until minute 94).
I didn’t like Frei’s movement on the McInerney header; it looked like he got caught halfway out before retreating to his line to make the save. He failed to respond to a ball inside his six in the 74th minute that Mears had to head away. Frei could be more assertive in dominating his area, coming out more aggressively and using punches if necessary, something he finally did to end the game.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 6.5
Jones had a tough matchup this week with Alvas Powell and Lucas Melano, both who have the speed to neutralize what Joevin likes to do on offense. I thought Jones played a smart, contained game and got forward when appropriate, but Powell especially was very good at limiting any linkup play on the left.
Jones got forward in the first half, consistently looking for Lodeiro or Ivanschitz. His 21st minute low diagonal cross found the latter and opened up a nice chance. Tracking back on this play he neatly dispossessed the Timbers who had stolen the ball from Morris and were trying to counter. Other crosses weren’t very good, often going short or to goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. Joevin had an absolutely terrible switch stolen by Melano in the 27th that was lucky to not hurt the Sounders.
A nifty short set piece in the 37th found Joevin serving in a perfect ball to the head of Marshall, resulting in a shot over the bar. After struggling early with Melano’s pace I was pleased with Jones’ positioning later in the first half as he adjusted appropriately. I was disappointed to see his mind already made up to dive in the 40th and he rightly received a yellow when he received no contact.
The second half was more up and down play for Jones; I liked him putting Dempsey into space in the 52nd, but didn’t like him being beat by McInerney a moment later. His awful 67th minute giveaway to Diego Valeri was only stopped from being a goal by the heroic Frei. There were just too many mistakes and not enough calm possession, especially when up multiple goals.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 7.1
Without the big target Fanendo Adi to battle with, I thought Marshall had trouble early early with the movement and pace of Melano/McInerney. The Sounders defense employed a lot of “bend but don’t break” defense this week, and Chad was exposed at times.
The first half saw many struggles for Chad, and it took him a while to settle into the game. Marshall uncharacteristically misjudged passes in the 14th and 21st, putting himself way out of position for Timbers attacks. Another rare play in the 25th was Marshall diving in and whiffing on Valeri, leading to a wide open McInerney. Chad did have a nice header on a set piece, pushing it over the top in the 37th.
The second half saw a much more sound defensive effort from Marshall, starting with perfect defense in the 50th on Darlington Nagbe in the box. Chad won the headers we are accustomed to all game, and as usual put them either to a teammate or appropriately out of danger. I have no idea why Marshall was caught so far up field in the 67th, and he should stay home more to help on potential breaks. When Adi subbed in, Marshall continued his mastery of the opponent, beating him in the air to win possession in the 88th and winning a post-up battle in the 90th.
Brad Evans – 7 | Community – 6.5
I am still trying to figure out Evans on the backline. He brings good things for about 95% of the game but is prone to turning off at inopportune moments. If he could clean up a few of these mistakes he would really be a top defender, exhibiting a great mix of aerial and foot skills, vision and ability. He also has the talent, like in minute 83, to get his head on a ball and put it in the right place, in this case a perfect flick to the back post that earned him an assist.
The first half was the Evans show in the back, constantly saving the defense that struggled around him. In the 14th minute he covered for Marshall and ate McInerney’s lunch. In the 19th he was forward and heading the ball to keep possession, preventing a breakout. In the 20th he showed off a great sliding interception to prevent a through ball from Valeri to Nagbe. I was most impressed with his defense in the 23rd; when confronted with three attackers coming at him Evans perfectly delayed the entire push from Portland, stopping the ball and allowing his fellow defenders to track back and remove the numbers advantage. This was a huge effort and really showed how well Brad sees attacks coming at him. He stuffed Valeri in the 25th and 33rd, Melano in the 41st 1v1, and Nagbe in the 53rd, all displaying strong individual defense.
The issue I see is Evans just isn’t experienced defending crosses/set pieces and scramble plays. He had a mis-clearance from a free kick in the 16th that saw the ball drop to an (offside) Ridgewell who missed from a few yards out. This is one of many mistakes he has committed this season when dealing with set pieces, and I think he needs a lot more experience. He was beat by McInerney on a 65th minute header before completely losing Fanendo Adi on the late goal. I have no idea why he dropped off of Adi and ran back to guard the goal. These are just things that you learn from years of playing in the back. Brad is smart and he’ll get there, but I’m wary of his recent play. That being said, he was the best player on the back line and really carried the first-half defensive effort.
Tyrone Mears – 6 | Community – 6.5
Faced with a very effective Vytautas Andriuskevicius and others attacking down his side, Mears lost his forward-looking, attacking prowess of the last few games. Instead, I was disappointed to see a passive, merely okay defender with zero forward desire. On multiple occasions, there were spaces that he just failed to attack.
Mears got forward in the 4th minute and put in a short, ineffective cross and again in the 12th was forward but found a better far post service. Alas, after that brief spurt Mears stayed home, rarely supporting the attack at all. This hampered the Seattle right wing play, until Roldan adjusted and started taking that space (and ultimately moved there permanently).
Tyrone had a terrible switch in the 17th that was easily stolen. He dove in and missed on a counter attack in the 23rd at midfield, allowing Portland a huge advantage on a counter. It was only the superb defending of Evans behind him that painted over this error. Tyrone’s defensive clearance on a corner kick in the 63rd was awful and straight vertical, allowing McInerney his header on goal.
Mears has shown he can be a very useful attacking option on the right, but apparently certain matchups make him curl into a ball and refuse to get forward. His defense on Nagbe and others was very good, and that is his job first and foremost, but because our wide defenders have been so effective getting to the end line and offering width, I was disappointed this week when that didn’t happen very often.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.6 (MOTM)
Roldan is still improving and it’s fun to see him develop week by week. This formation has certainly shown his ability to play off Alonso, shadowing his midfield partner and filling holes as needed, but this week was about growth beyond that. Cristian showed not only a great tactical awareness on when to get forward but the skills to influence the game when he does so.
In the 17th Roldan dove in on Powell that led to a dangerous counter, and in the 30th he passed a ball out of bounds.
Now that all those negatives are out of the way, let’s talk about the maturity of Roldan as a player. In the 7th minute instead of diving in on Nagbe he merely contained the dangerous Timber player, forcing him right into an Alonso tackle. Roldan was simply fantastic against Valeri; it looked like he was told to keep a specific eye on him. In the 14th he closed down on Diego very fast, and he would repeat this throughout to suffocate the playmaker. In the 25th Roldan again showed how willing he is to support his back line, this time with a recovery run from far up field, covering the back post and then not only destroying Valeri but retaining possession and starting a Seattle attack. This happened again in the 33rd; a Roldan tackle both prevented a Timbers counter and kept the ball in the attacking third for Seattle.
The second half saw Cristian move forward, taking the space offered by Mears on the wing and eventually finding himself 1v1 on the edge of the box in the 60th. Beating Vytus and earning his second PK in two weeks was a neat little play that was huge for the team. Roldan stayed involved both directions, got forward again, this time from a right wing position, and in the 80th found his man Dempsey to tally an assist. Not satisfied with “the most dangerous lead in soccer”, Cristian opportunistically finished off a beautiful Evans flick in the 83rd to put the game out of reach.
This was a tremendous match for Roldan, who not only put up 90% passing but played huge 2-way defensive and contributed to all three goals. Fantastic effort.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.5
Another quietly efficient game from Alonso means another win for Seattle. We are used to 90 touches a game, 90% completion, and like clockwork he gave us that, along with the usual hard tackles, good defending, and strong possession.
Ozzie immediately won the ball in the 1st minute and it was nice to see him set the tone. In the 7th minute he completely blew up Nagbe, who was shuttled into his tackle by Roldan. Alonso even got a lovely shot from distance in this game, picking up a pass in the 12th and forcing a difficult save on his absolute howler from 35 yards out.
Alonso read the game well, winning tackles, getting interceptions, and doing a great job preventing Nagbe from having any impact on the game. He did have a few uncharacteristic plays where a poor pass almost hurt the team in the 51st, 73rd, and 86th. I thought he was slow to mark Jack Barmby through the box in the 79th but other than these small issues Alonso was as advertised. He has been so consistent this year, and the improved play from the back line and holding midfield allowed the offense time to get their finishing boots on.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.6
Nico’s “worst” game of his short tenure here saw him again run two defenders all over the field, opening up giant holes for Morris, Dempsey, Roldan, etc. to run through. I love that since Nico has such a high work rate an “off” day for him still affects every part of the game. While not scoring or constantly putting guys through, Nico was still great at opening up gameplay.
Unfortunately, Lodeiro will have to get used to the fouls from teams like Portland. Ridgewell introduced him to the Timbers game plan in the 3rd minute, cutting the Sounder DP down unceremoniously. Nico was credited with five fouls suffered and I counted eight. That is a HUGE number of fouls (Seattle committed eight ALL GAME) and he did well to shrug off the persistent hacking.
Nico opened Mears into huge space in the 4th minute and was quite active early. In the 8th he was working the ball with Mears in the right defensive area, got the ball to the forward on the right, got it back in the middle of the field, played the ball through the left wing and eventually played the ball to Jones on the left defense, having travelled all the way across the field, forcing six different Timbers to defend him: amazing. In the 25th Lodeiro had a great header near post that forced a save, and shortly after halftime had a volley from a Dempsey layoff that looked goal-bound before a deflection. Nico was still active even with all the extra attention, managing to put Morris through in the 51st and again finding him in the 76th, this time with a sneaky back heel in the box.
Nico took many set pieces with varying levels of success. In the 57th his corner and follow-up cross were bad, and a direct kick earlier hit the wall. He did have a perfect ball to Evans for the third goal, and will need to work on getting over the first defender when not going short. I saw Lodeiro have his first “turf scuff” pass in this game and looked tired as early as the 80th, but still he managed to put his mark on the match and should only continue to improve as he gets more comfortable with those around him.
Andreas Ivanschitz – 5 | Community – 6.2 (off 71’)
I was disappointed with Ivanschitz this game and would like to see him be more involved. Without Jones’ recent attacks up the wing, Andreas was ineffective in combining on the left and added less to the defensive effort than in recent weeks.
His first time flick in the 21st towards Morris/Dempsey was good, one of the few times Andreas saw possession in the box. This is one of the issues I see; AI isn’t getting enough touches in attacking areas to really rate him. Sometimes players miss his late runs (Morris missed one badly), but there also seems to be a disconnect between Andreas and his teammates in how they want to attack. When isolated on the left Ivanschitz is almost always dropping the ball. That is nice for possession and we don’t need to see repetitive lumped in crosses, but at some point he needs to be more goal dangerous on his own.
Andreas was very good on set pieces, including a short corner that saw him dangerously tiptoe down the end line with possession. Defending free kicks is a mixed bag, and he was carded for some of his tussles in the trenches. He fell down in the 63rd, allowing McInerney a header that almost scored. We need more from Ivanschitz on both ends of the field (especially defensively), and I have to imagine guys like Friberg and Flaco are breathing down his neck for playing time.
Clint Dempsey – 8 | Community – 8.2
Five goals in three games will do a lot for a guy’s confidence, and Dempsey looks to be flying high, scoring in bunches and getting strong marks for his attacking prowess. I really like how Clint is settling into position and making smart runs off of Morris, finding multiple great attacking chances every game.
In the 2nd minute Dempsey showed off some fancy touch, juggling a ball before putting AI through on goal, and two minutes later only a mistouch in the box stopped him from getting a dangerous shot off. After helping move the ball down the left side, he found a left-footed blind cross that somehow found Nico on the corner of the six for a header chance.
The second half is where Clint really came alive, consistently sitting in the hole behind the four-man backline of Portland, and in the 49th laid off a nifty flick to Nico for a volley. In the 50th his control and near post shot was just high from a nicely played Ivanschitz corner kick. A minute later Dempsey missed a simply huge chance provided by Morris. He did well to get to space and provide an option, but pushed his shot wide with a large window to shoot on goal.
This week Clint made no mistake when provided a second opportunity to score from the spot, burying his PK and giving the Sounders a very important lead. This is the kind of player he is, shrugging off a big miss with a crucial conversion, and he followed this up by finding space in the 80th and placing a left footed shot into the side net from outside the box. This was a goal scorer’s goal, with Dempsey just understanding player movement, and putting the ball perfectly to his spot from long distance. Clint has found good attacking spots with the injection of “Lodeiroil” into the machine and I expect many more chances as the season continues.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 7.6 (off 89’)
Jordan showed that he is a force to be reckoned with when he gets a head of steam towards goal. Just like against RSL, Morris found spots to rip off long, surging runs where his speed, strength, physicality, and desire combined to make him more than a handful for the Portland defense.
In the 10th minute Morris went full beast mode on Powell and Taylor, turning beyond both, shouldering off a challenge and using breakaway speed to create separation enabling a shot. Unfortunately, the polish isn’t there with finishing, and his toe poke try went wide. For the rest of the half the fear of this run kept Portland pinned back, and Jordan roamed around the Timbers back line stretching and pulling without much luck.
Things changed in the second half, starting with a 48th minute play where he nodded a holdup header down to Nico, then got a return pass before finding Clint and making a run to open space for Lodeiro’s volley. In the 51st Morris made another awesome run to get behind Ridgewell, destroying the former EPL defender and finding Dempsey for a wide open shot that should have been an assist.
Morris took a moment off from setting up goal chances to take a ball in his own half, and proceed to dribble over 70 yards across the field with no less than four defenders on him, shrugging off multiple physical challenges while winning a foul at the conclusion. It was simply amazing to see this “kid” carrying Timbers on his back, seemingly lose possession only to win it back by sheer force of will and physical dominance. Wow.
Jordan wasn’t done, with his smart run in the 80th pulling defenders away and making acres of space for Dempsey’s goal, and again beating Ridgewell in behind yet chipping barely wide in the 89th. I did see Morris run to the spot and into Dempsey’s space once, but they look more and more in sync every game and he just keeps surprising me with his physical abilities.
Erik Friberg – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 71’)
Showing no signs of being chopped in half last week, Friberg came on and calmed down the Sounders defensive efforts. In fact, in the 15 minutes before he subbed on Portland had an astounding 73% possession, which the 15 immediately after was down to 61%. For the entire time he was on, he helped limit a pushing Portland side to a more manageable 56% possession. This was hugely important for the team to defend with control of the ball and a lead. Erik’s work was mainly to shuttle things wide, and he played very well in the central channels.
Oalex Anderson - 6 | Community – 5.5 (on 89’)
I would have been happy to see the closer Valdez in this game, but Anderson was a fun sub. He offered a bit of defense by offense, his speed keeping the Portland wings more defensive, and he helped a few times in his limited appearance by tracking back well.
Alan Kelly – 4 | Community – 5.6
I was surprised that Kelly let so much go in the Portland game, and I have no idea how he was deciding to issue cards. I counted six Chara fouls, yet his card was for a specific foul, not persistent infringement. Lucas Melano got away with pushing Marshall in the 22nd, undercutting Roldan in the 23rd, and pushing Evans in the air in the 58th, yet none of these dangerous plays were even called fouls. Dempsey undercut Ridgewell once as well, but apparently those aren’t fouls anymore.
The yellows to AI and Jones were good calls where Andreas got caught as the retaliator and Jones was went down easily, but the hypocritical Lodeiro delay yellow for a slight kick away was ridiculous - especially in light of Gleeson’s exorbitant amount of time taken every goal kick or Valeri kicking a ball away mere moments later without penalty. Speaking of lack of calls: how the heck does Lodeiro get smacked in the face in the 54th and not only does Vytas escape what should be a red (“point of emphasis on strikes to the face”) but isn’t even given a yellow? This is the same ref who stopped play six minutes earlier with SSFC in possession for an injury on Vytas. That tells me that Kelly is willing to stop play for a non-head injury, but not penalize someone blatantly striking the face. Insane.
What really bothers me is when a referee misses huge, game changing calls consistently. I felt that this ref team did so multiple times in this game and was just lucky that goals didn’t directly result. The first was Ridgewell coming from an offside position before putting a shot over the top early. Another was McInerney pulling Mears down by his shirt in the 67th, just prior to his 1v1 with Frei. This was massively blatant and should never have ended up as anything other than a spot kick for SSFC. If either of these plays score the home team has been hard done by the ref team. Add to that Vytas getting away with four fouls (one RED worthy!) and never seeing the book, and this was a subpar effort.
Fanendo Adi’s substitute appearance and goal earned him the top spot from 469 votes this match. Alvas Powell’s strong performance at fullback put him in a distant second.
10 points from 4 and heading to a tough Texas matchup on short rest. Hay Fe guys.