A number of injuries changed the Sounders lineup again this week, so there was a predictable adjustment period at the start of this match. Seattle came out slow, and the spacing was a definite issue in the first 20 minutes. Interestingly, another injury fixed a lot of these issues, opening up the field with almost immediate results. Although the 4-0 final score was a just one, the defense played very well and was needed to snuff out a number of chances from FC Dallas that might have made this a lot closer game. It was nice to see the Sounders adjust throughout the game to take advantage of matchups, as well as play a direct, aggressive style to continually put themselves in strong attacking positions.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.2
This was a very nice outing from Frei that may have been a bit overshadowed by the score, but without some timely saves and consistent positioning, Dallas would have equalized a number of times. Although only credited with one save on two shots on goal, Frei faced 14 shots and was instrumental in preventing the away side from getting back into the match.
In the 14th Frei went outside the 18 to clear a pass. With Dallas putting the lightning-quick Michael Barrios up front, they had an over the top threat all night. Frei combatted this by ranging far outside his box at times, cutting down angles and playing sweeper-keeper when necessary. This allowed the slower central defenders for Seattle to be effective, with Stefan cutting out anything that got in behind them. In the 22nd he spotted Nico out on the left and found him with a perfect throw to start a counter. Another play outside the 18 prevented a Dallas break a few minutes later. One of the few shots on goal came in the 33rd, and Stefan was down to stop the low ball and prevent any rebound. The second half was a bit testy for a while, and Frei came up huge in the 56th to catch an over the top ball at the edge of the box that had beaten the defense. Three minutes later, Frei had his best play of the match, coming out to make a huge save on a poor back pass from Marshall, stopping Dallas from tying the match.
Frei was beaten in the 54th, coming out and preventing a low shot from Barrios who had gotten in behind the defense, and his positioning allowed only a soft chip that was cleared by the Seattle defense. Frei played very well within the Sounders game plan to work the ball through FC Dallas’ press, and his ability to assist the back line and make saves when necessary were integral in the win.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 7.1 (off 81’)
Joevin was very tidy with the ball against Dallas, offering a stellar 96% pass completion rate while splitting time between left back and left wing. Jones was very good in the first half and remains an unstoppable attacking fullback. He continually abused both Kellyn Acosta and Hernan Grana on the left, dribbling past them at every opportunity.
This started in the 11th minute, when he ran past Acosta to begin an attack. A minute later, with Victor Rodriguez tucked inside, Jones overlapped perfectly onto a beautiful Roldan pass before beating Grana 1v1 and serving a wonderful pass to Dempsey for a shot that forced a save from keeper Jesse Gonzalez. Jones was rather dynamic overall, covering the back post very well defensively in the 18th and offering a consistent outlet for Frei as Seattle worked the ball through a high press. After pushing forward in the 23rd with the introduction of Nouhou, Jones immediately got over the top, miss-controlling a beautiful pass in on goal and losing possession. Right before halftime, Joevin got on the end of a nice Nico through ball and found Bruin with a cross, but completely ignored a wide open Nouhou moments later, instead forcing a pass to a double-covered Dempsey.
The second half was a bit less effective for Jones, although his 52nd minute over the top run onto a splendid Lodeiro pass was nearly perfect. Similar to his earlier connection with Roldan, a cleaner control would have earned Joevin a great opportunity to score. Defensively, Jones fell off the map, failing to assist Nouhou much at all after halftime, failing to close Urruti down in the 59th. A minute later on a 50/50 ball, Jones put in very minimal effort, and this failure to clear nearly ended with a Dallas goal. He ignored two more Nouhou runs in the second half, although the second came in the 67th in a sequence that Seattle ended up scoring on. Joevin struggles mightily to track any runs and support defensively as a midfielder, but is a joy to watch matched up 1v1 on the wing.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 7.4
Marshall had a bit of an off game at times, but his off games are still really good and he “only” managed 83% passing to go with a number of tackles and clearances. Matched up for the most part with Barrios, Chad was very good at funneling the Dallas attacker away from goal, and limiting his opponent’s ability to get in behind the defense.
Seattle had a bit of a tough time settling down and reacting to the early Dallas pressure. In the 5th minute, Marshall’s central pass to Roldan wasn’t accurate enough; it was stolen, but Chad recovered well. Moments later, Marshall was dispossessed trying to dribble up the left wing and looked around for a foul that wasn’t called. After this the defense adjusted fairly well, as Barrios only got in behind in the 26th, only to be snuffed out by the indomitable Nouhou. Marshall nearly earned an assist from the backline, finding Jones with a beautiful pass upon which Joevin failed to capitalize.
Ever-calm Marshall returned in the second half, cutting out passes and positioning himself perfectly throughout. In the 54th Marshall covered two players before sliding over behind the play to support Frei; he likely would have covered Barrios’ shot if Leerdam hadn’t. A few minutes later, Marshall had his worst play of the game when he forced a terribly short attempted pass back to Frei. This was a really rough play and Chad was lucky his keeper bailed him out. Marshall cleaned up everything else in the match, including tremendous 1v1 defense in the 86th on the wing, and was a large part of the shutout effort.
Roman Torres – 8 | Community – 7.8 (MOTM)
Torres has been very good lately, and he filled up the stat sheet admirably against Dallas. Four tackles, two interceptions, five clearances, two blocked shots, and 84% passing from the back as the ball filtered to his side more often than Marshall’s. This was a very patient game from Roman, who, instead of charging upfield constantly, looked to hold a high line defensively and filter possession back into attacking areas with diagonal passes.
However, Roman started out a bit slow when he kicked an early pass out of bounds, and Tesho Akindele ran past him easily in the 10th minute. Roman was a bit lucky that Barrios miscontrolled a pass in the 22nd after he had inexplicably dropped off the Dallas forward and allowed him to find room in the box. When Torres got control in the back, he consistently looked forward quickly, finding Nico to transition play in the 19th and then created another counter attack with some 25th minute pressure to force a turnover. With Barrios attempting to beat him in the 39th, Roman shrugged off the diminutive attacker.
Most of Roman’s actions in the second half were positional, cutting out attacks and winning all aerial battles. He did slide and miss a through ball in the 57th which was luckily stopped by Frei. In the 69th Torres had a nice defensive position and stopped a Dallas attack. Roman was clearly the better center back against Dallas, capping off a really impressive run of performances.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 7.0
Leerdam does so much consistently well that you start to take it for granted (à la Marshall) and this game was another where he was quietly involved all over the field making plays. His 73% passing and minimal defensive stats (three tackles, one interception, one clearance) really aren’t indicative of how dominant he is at defending an entire wing while also supporting into the attacking third.
In the 11th minute, Leerdam showed his ability to attack centrally with a dribble and short pass, rather than resorting to lumping in low percentage crosses. Kelvin just missed V-Rod’s long diagonal run that would have opened him and Lodeiro in a 2v1 in the 19th minute. This pass up the wing has been troubling for Leerdam, who hasn’t converted it with any consistency. He did make a tremendous unmarked run towards the back post late in the half that Jones completely missed.
The second half was even better, starting in the 51st when Leerdam was very patient in the offensive third by dribbling towards the middle. Three minutes later, he popped up magically near his own net, clearing away a goal-bound shot from Barrios that had beaten Frei. After an ugly pass to no one in attack in the 64th, Kelvin drifted wide again and received a beautiful long ball. His first touch was excellent, and he beat Maynor Figueroa to the inside and followed it with a slipped pass to put Dempsey in on goal on a play that ended with a goal. Moments later, he was back defending Barrios and coming up with the ball. In the 75th he again found the right attacking pass for Rodriguez, who darted through the midfield into the box.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 23’)
Before being hurt, the Goose did everything we have come to expect from him. He completed all eight of his passes, defended well in the middle, and didn’t put a foot wrong (his hamstring however … :( ) I noted a nice defensive recovery in the 8th minute after Barrios had beaten the trap, and his positioning in the 17th was perfect as he stole the ball in the attacking third to keep the pressure on as Seattle nearly scored. It’s a shame that he got hurt, and I really hope this isn’t a long-term injury, as Svensson has the most appearances of any Sounder this season, and he’s so valuable with his contributions all over the field.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.9
Roldan still doesn’t look super comfortable with the broken arm, but this was a vast improvement over the last match. In a familiar destroyer role, Roldan was freed from attacking duties that require the more dynamic runs and touches that he has struggled with after the arm injury. As Jeremiah pointed out in his article, Cristian stayed almost entirely out of the offensive third, yet still managed two key passes. He also completed 90% of his attempts and had four tackles while marking both Mauro Diaz and Javier Morales and limiting their impact on the game.
Cristian started out very slow, going to ground and missing the ball in the 5th after a poor touch, and a minute later bungled a simple give-and-go with Rodriguez. In minute 11 Roldan didn’t go in hard on a tackle, possibly favoring his healthy side. He had no hesitancy a minute later, however, when he backtracked into the defense to gather the ball before turning and dropping a perfect pass to Jones over the top into space. One thing that Cristian excelled at against Dallas was his vertical passing, and in the 25th his penetrating pass to V-Rod beat three defenders and opened up a great attacking position with numbers for the Sounders.
Dallas’ best chance came when both Roldan and Lodeiro got caught too high up the pitch in the 54th, something rectified by having Cristian sit deeper for the rest of the match. Roldan got across to break up an attack after a turnover by Seattle and his 1v1 defense in the corner in minute 60 was perfect when he cleared the ball upfield without issue. As the updated midfield pairing got more comfortable with each other, Roldan cleaned up everything that got through, including a moment when he bossed Roland Lamah off the ball in the 88th. I was really impressed by how far Roldan has come tactically, as he smoothly adjusted to a new role next to a new player.
Victor Rodriguez – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.8 (off 76’)
Rodriguez played spectacularly, involved in nearly every Sounders attack either from dropping into the middle to help build the play, making darting goal-dangerous runs, or serving passes into the path of onrushing teammates. He put both his shots on target, scored a goal, had what looked to be an assist, and was basically unmarkable for Dallas the entire time he was on the pitch. His connection with teammates (especially Dempsey) was evident, and his passing and movement was simply beautiful. While doing all this, he still managed to be a solid contributor on defense, chipping in with three tackles and assisting the press. His first MOTM award as a Sounder is indicative of a guy who linked a lot of other talented players together and drove the team to a quicker, attacking mindset.
In the 3rd minute V-Rod dropped in to help Jones defensively before curling a beautiful pass forward to meet a Lodeiro diagonal run in the 16th minute. A few minutes later, Victor made a diagonal run that almost created a 2v1 situation with Nico, but Leerdam’s 19th minute pass went awry. In the 24th Rodriguez unleashed a 30-yard snap shot that nearly caught the keeper napping, and I like his willingness to be goal dangerous at all times.
I think V-Rod is quick, but his anticipation makes him even faster, and this was on full display in the 31st minute. He started dashing towards goal before Dempsey even received the ball, trusting his teammate to not only gain possession, but also to find him. When Clint put him through, Rodriguez’s first touch was perfect to put him in behind and stave off pursuit. A calm, measured finish (J-Mo, you watching?) put Seattle on the board first.
In the second half it was more of the same as Victor linked up with Dempsey and Leerdam, connecting passes and going directly towards goal on multiple occasions. In the 67th V-Rod sprinted into space and collected an errant pass, beat two players, and laid off a pass to Bruin that earned Seattle’s third goal. He wasn’t finished, and in the 75th he made another vertical run to open space for himself and get on the end of a fine Leerdam pass. Instead of shooting, he tried to lay the ball off for someone else and should have taken this one himself. That mistake, a few short free kicks and a missed pass or two was all I could find in the negative for this guy, who was completely dominant as the vertical driving force of the offense.
Clint Dempsey – 8 | Community – 7.5
As usual, Dempsey led the team in shots (five) and shots on target (two) while also contributing two key passes, one of which was a heads up assist for V-Rod. Clint started out very slow in this match, finding his space severely limited and bumping into Bruin when he tried to get on the ball. Nico moving back opened room up front as his passing stretched the field, allowing the very compatible V-RoDeuce attacking unit to combine in the middle.
In the 12th minute, Clint got a golden chance via Jones’ hard work on the left wing but his shot was right at Gonzalez. In the 17th he put in a nice cross to where Bruin should have been. Dempsey dropped back a bit in the 20th, opening up the field from the center and alleviating some of the congestion. After Nico dropped back, Dempsey was able to stay higher up and in the 31st he pounced on a loose ball, first timing it to V-Rod for an assist. In the 42nd these two nearly replicated the play, and their combination play was fantastic.
After the half Clint was again part of most of the action. He had a chance to control and shoot after Jones’ 52nd minute shot, but instead tried a first time shot that was saved. In the 64th Dempsey burst through the middle into the box and onto the end of a Leerdam pass. His first-time shot was on goal, and forced a fumbled save from the keeper that allowed Bruin to follow up with a very important second goal for Seattle. In different circumstances, Clint may have earned a penalty when he was fouled twice when shooting near the penalty box in the 82nd. Dempsey did have a poor touch in the 89th minute, but the ball was vacuumed up by the Nouhou ChooChoo.
Dempsey doesn’t connect too well with Bruin, and until Nico dropped to open up the field, these two found themselves in the same spots a lot, as well as forcing Clint deep to help transition. The good news is Deuce and Victor were locked in together, connecting beautifully all match, and Clint was still very effective throughout the match.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.8
Nico has really played well this year, and showed off his versatility on Sunday. He led the game in touches (101) with a near 80% completion rate and added a shot and three key passes. Normally that is a great game for Nico, but with the injury to Svensson, he was forced to drop into a defensive midfield role after the 25th minute. He contributed well on the other side of the ball, making three tackles and a team-high five interceptions. Nico buzzed around the middle of the field and controlled the game in a way that Dallas had no answer to.
Early on, Nico had trouble getting into good spots, finding stacked players in front and minimal room to operate. He came all the way across field in the 16th to get onto a pass from V-Rod in one instance. Nico struggled to connect with runners, and unsuccessfully tried to find Bruin with through balls on numerous occasions. After moving back, the game opened up and Nico was all over the midfield, finding runs from a deeper starting point. He put Jones into the box in the 45th and also had his own tight angled near post shot go over goal seconds later — missing a wide-open Rodriguez on the far post.
Roldan’s play released Nico even more in the second half, and he responded with some fantastic passes. In minute 51 he hit a laser beam over the top perfectly to Jones, who nearly scored. This was an incredible 40-yard pass from a deep defensive position that is nearly impossible to defend. Lodeiro was up and down the field with abandon for much of the second half, and he was rewarded with an assist on a perfect pass in the 92nd, putting the ball into the box for a close header.
Nico at defensive mid might not be a permanent thing, but it was very effective in this instance. Nico’s work rate allows him to get back when he forces play, and his vision and vertical passing makes him effective from deeper starting positions. The one time both he and Roldan got caught upfield Dallas nearly scored, and it’s clear that Nico can’t be trapped and dispossessed in these areas as it allows opponents to easily counter. This was a very impressive outing for Nico, as he continued to play well.
Will Bruin – 8 | Community – 7.7
Bruin struggled for much of this game. It’s a testament to his persistence that he kept grinding to score a couple “ugly” goals via sheer ... Will. Stat-wise he wasn’t impressive, with only 24 touches and an awful 53% completion rate on his passes. Other than the goals, he managed a single shot, and spent much of the game working hard without being effective. But goals change games, and Bruin was the guy who scored more than anyone else.
In the 9th minute Bruin jogged right into Dempsey’s hold-up play, and struggled to connect often. Will had a nice 12th minute move that opened up the middle for Clint’s shot on goal, but five minutes later didn’t move as Dempsey served in a nifty cross for him. In the first half, Bruin was either too slow (22’ through ball), too fast (25’ offside), or simply off with his timing on shots (45’ from Jones).
The second half didn’t start out great either, as Bruin missed multiple hold up attempts in the 49th, 53rd, and 60th. But even as he struggled with many things, Will was still active in pushing the line, opening up spaces for others. Bruin doesn’t quit on plays and followed up the 64th minute Dempsey shot with a goal that was produced via pure effort. This was a poacher’s finish in which Bruin dove towards goal and beat defender Harris, who was draped all over him. It wasn’t a pretty goal by any means, but this determination was excellent and crucial to the result. Three minutes later, Bruin didn’t mope after yet another wayward touch and failed holdup, choosing instead to crash in on goal as V-Rod took advantage, and when presented with the ball and an open net, knew what to do. He nearly scored his hat trick in nine minutes when his left-footed volley sailed wide.
This is Bruin in a nutshell. At times he doesn’t fit into the pretty, flowing game that many fans desire, and it’s hard to say he was a good addition to the game until about minute 60, but when given an opportunity, he finishes. This is something so many players don’t have and I really appreciate that this guy just keeps banging on the goal until it relents.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.7 (on 23’)
Coming in cold just 23 minutes into the game, we were graced with the Nouhou Experience. He responded with 90% passing, a team-high seven tackles, two interceptions, two clearances, and multiple breakneck runs upfield with that signature Nouhou reckless abandon.
Nouhou nearly found Jones in the box in the 23rd, and his pace was on display in the 26th when he recovered to support Marshall vs. Barrios. Right before the half ended, he had a beautiful steal and overlap that was blatantly ignored by Jones. After halftime he nearly released Dempsey, showing great awareness—though this play started with him playing a bit high and allowing Barrios to get in behind him. In the 61st he spotted Mauro Diaz a 10-yard head start and dispossessed the Dallas DP.
Nouhou is just fun to watch, and throughout all his flopping arms and wild form is a guy who just doesn’t get beat often. He did have a bad foul in the 37th on Morales from behind that gave up a free kick, but he is usually very consistent in the back and a great tool for a team heading into the playoffs.
Lamar Neagle – 7 | Community – 6.7 (on 76’)
Lamar was on the field for nearly 17 minutes and didn’t do much for the first 16 of it. His 67% passing and single tackle weren’t impressive stat wise. He missed a connection with Leerdam immediately upon entering, missed another one where Nico put him in a great spot in the 86th, and was just a body on the field. Even after struggling, Lamar, similar to Bruin, wanted the ball more than the defense late in the game, and pounded in a point-blank header to cap off the scoring in minute 92.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 81’)
Harry Shipp lives! Entering a game for the first time in 11 matches, Shipp slid into a defensive midfield role and did well. His tidy near 90% completion rate helped move the ball around late and kill clock with possession. Immediately helping defensively in the 84th, he won possession in the defensive third. Two minutes later, he finally received a foul call after being hacked four times while shielding the ball from the Dallas defenders. In the 87th he did have a poor pass in the midfield that was stolen, due to what appeared to be some miscommunication. Shipp’s over the top look to Nouhou wasn’t quite as sharp as Nico’s service, but it was great vision to utilize the pace of the left back creeping up the sideline. This was a nice little outing for a player who had been largely forgotten.
Drew Fischer – 4 | Community – 5.8
This was a very frustrating referee performance on re-watch. Fischer missed a lot of calls that were right in front of him, and while he ultimately controlled the game well, I thought he was very inconsistent with his whistle.
A lot of things happened in areas that most referees call, but this ref allowed a ton of contact right next to him. Goose blatantly pulled back a Dallas player in the 7th minute without a call, and in the 18th Atiba Harris tackled through Bruin (getting ball and man) five yards from Fischer who made no call. There were a lot of tussles in the box and on multiple occasions no foul was called, even on blatant pushes like Akindele on Torres in the 28th or when Torres returned the favor on a short set piece moments later. I thought that the foul called against Nouhou for charging the back of Morales (37’) was great but later Acosta did the same thing to Nico (61’) directly in front of the ref and earned no call.
Two big misses from the officiating staff contributed to this low grade, and each was a judgement call that seemed to be the kind of call Seattle just doesn’t get, or game state prevents poor referees from making. The lesser of the two was an 82nd minute no call while Dempsey was shooting on the edge of the area. He was fouled at least twice, but because he doesn’t dive to sell the fouls and with the game out of reach, no call was made. An even more important miss by the referee crew came in minute eight; in my opinion Morales 100% should have been sent off for a vicious, two-footed studs-up tackle on Rodriguez. This tackle had excessive force, endangered the safety of the player, and was much worse than similar plays that have been easy red cards (Oniel Fisher on opening day last season comes to mind). Referees are reluctant to make such a huge game-defining call this early in the match, but the center (or VAR, anyone seen VAR?) really needs to make this call every minute of the game, not just late in the second half.
FC Dallas MOTM
Michael Barrios eked out a MOTM performance over Jesse Gonzalez. With Frei and a stout defensive line, Barrios was unable to get Dallas on the board. Still, he was prominently involved in their best opportunities throughout the contest.
Time for Seattle to close out the season at home this weekend, against a Colorado team that has struggled much of the year but has gotten points in five of their last seven. Let’s hope for a Seattle win and Vancouver result to bring home a #2 seed, a bye, and a Cascadia Cup.