Once again, the Sounders came out strong at home and thrashed the away squad. This week it was Colorado, and Seattle overcame an early Clint Dempsey red card to produce a convincing 3-0 scoreline. Even down a man for much of the game, Seattle was on the front foot all match. The win rewarded this beat up team with the second seed, a little rest before a home game next Thursday, and great momentum heading into the playoffs.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.5
The defense was stellar in front of Frei, and his organization in the back has been excellent in the second half of the season. The shutout against a largely inept Colorado team that only managed five shots may seem like a minor accomplishment until you take into account that an early red card gave the away squad a man advantage for nearly 40 minutes.
In the 26th Frei was out to catch in traffic, and he very assertively commanded his area. Right before half was Stefan’s chance to change the scoreboard, and he stepped up amazingly. With Stefan Aigner free in behind, Frei expertly stayed big and saved a point blank wide-open side volley. Just as importantly, the keeper corralled the ball and didn’t allow a rebound from Dillon Serna who was unmarked and ready to finish if Stefan couldn’t hold the ball tightly. This was a tremendous save that kept the Sounders in the lead at halftime.
The second half was highlighted by a Colorado PK miss in the 53rd, aided by a nice dive from Frei that may have affected the shooter. Not content to rest, Stefan aggressively punched away the following corner. He got a knock in the 69th when Joshua Gatt unnecessarily hammered him. Stef finished off the game with a nice catch in traffic in the 92nd to put a bow on his league-leading 13th shutout.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.6
This was a more quiet game from the young left back, but as usual Nouhou was strong in defense. He is learning when to go forward in better spots, and in this game he worked a little more effectively with Jones in front of him. He had a tidy 85% completion rate and combined well with Marshall to shut down the left.
In the 3rd minute Marlon Hairston juked Nouhou, and for a second it looked like the Colorado attacker had a good chance, but Nouhou is so fast that he immediately recovered and dispossessed Hairston. Nouhou is able to take risks defensively because of his amazing speed, and this was a great example of him doing just that. He had a nonchalant touch that was stolen in the 10th minute; this is the sort of thing he needs to work on: cleaning up possession a bit more when looking to connect forward. It took until the 19th minute before the Houtrain roared up the left side to join the attack. In the 37th he showed off his incredible athleticism to work his way out of a jam with an overhead clearance.
Much of this game was in moderation for the young defender. While he still raced forward on occasion, he understood that being down a man meant he should stay home much more on defense. I thought Nouhou was very strong supporting Jones, who often left him alone. In the 71st these two nearly connected as both broke out on a counter at breakneck speed; Nouhou’s return pass barely missed connecting with Joevin. It was a very calm and complete game from Nouhou.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.2
The Seattle defense simply erased Colorado’s offense for much of the game. This was due in large part to the precision in which the defense moved together. And that was primarily due to Marshall’s near-perfect positioning, as he continues to quietly dominate opponents. He only had a couple interceptions and clearances, and didn’t even record a tackle, while calmly doing nearly everything right.
Aigner had zero luck matched up against Marshall all night, continually getting bodied off of runs and channeled ineffectively away from goal. When Torres or Nouhou pushed out of their zones it was Chad who slid over, covered the space, and offered support as needed. The only notable actions were covering for Nouhou with a strong slide tackle in the 58th (conceding a corner) and stepping up nicely in the 81st to steal a pass. Marshall seemed to lose track of Alan Gordon on a corner kick in the 82nd, allowing a free header, but otherwise this was a nearly flawless, albeit quiet, outing from Marshall.
Roman Torres – 7 | Community – 7.4 (off 91’)
Similar to his center back partner, Torres had a fairly mundane match against Colorado. Roman’s passing percentage was lower (68%), but he chipped in with five clearances and two tackles. Much of the impressive work from Torres against Colorado was done positionally, sliding over to support the Leerdam/Shipp side or slipping across behind Marshall when needed to clear.
In the 11th minute Roman showed off his mobility, popping up on the right behind a high Leerdam position, keeping possession for Seattle. Six minutes later he was all the way across to the left to clear behind Nouhou, something he repeated early in the second half. Torres picked up a silly yellow card for failing to move after a foul was called and then tempted an already testy ref by kicking the ball away. I would rather we not test the referees with accumulation rules in the playoffs. In the 36th minute Roman was caught diving in well upfield, and only the hustle of his teammates prevented a break behind him. I think Aigner was Roman’s mark in the 40th and the Colorado player beat the trap for the Rapids’ best chance of the afternoon.
Torres had one small miscommunication with Frei that was dealt with late before his obligatory 88th minute charge upfield on offense. Roman is remarkably good in these situations, and he combined on a nifty give-and-go with Wingo that nearly scored a goal. At this point, arguing game state is probably pointless, so let’s just enjoy when Torres goes walkabout.
Kelvin Leerdam – 8 | Community – 8.1
This was perhaps Leerdam’s best performance as an attacking right back. He showed up with a dazzling display of control, dribbling, off ball movement, and vision. Kelvin had it all going on, creating an awesome four key passes, an assist, consistent goal-direct movement, and precise connections going forward. He was also a defensive stalwart, showing true two-way play for the entire game.
Kelvin started off strong, combining with Dempsey in the 2nd minute before launching a beautiful far post cross. Not content to just chunk in crosses, Leerdam shows a higher tactical ability to be patient and attack with the dribble or higher percentage passes, and it all came together in the 9th minute. Leaking out on the right, Leerdam caught the end of a beautiful Dempsey switching pass and collected the ball directly at goal. Head up, Kelvin waited for the play to develop before sliding a perfect pass to Bruin who had the simplest of finishes thanks to Leerdam’s smart play. Leerdam kept this up all match, and in the 23rd another overlap and connection with Dempsey saw him almost released again. He chased the ball through and nearly stole it from opposing keeper Tim Howard before ending up in possession high on the left wing.
Even down a man, Leerdam was a two-way force, shutting down his side with stellar 1v1 defense in the 47th before overlapping three minutes later and finding Bruin in the box. Eight minutes later, Leerdam went goal direct, just missing near post on a breakout shot. Late in the match, Leerdam was still going, pulling back a pass for Nico at the top of the 18 after another tireless run up the wing in the 89th minute and showing great defense in the 92nd. He was guilty of being the guy keeping Aigner onside for Colorado’s one big chance, and there were some mix-ups with Neagle that were about the only things tainting a very strong effort.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.6 (MOTM)
This was another incredible match from Nico. He absolutely dominated the stat book. He touched the ball over 30 times more than any other Sounder, yet still completed 90% of his passes, nearly all forward. He had five shots, three key passes, a penalty kick, a goal from the run of play, and he added four tackles on defense for good measure. Losing players in this game only made him more effective, as his work rate is unheard of in this league, and he covered an amazing amount of ground. Lodeiro was everywhere.
Asked to once again alter his role to being a deep-laying playmaker, Nico did just that. In the 7th minute he just under-hit a ball that would have put Jones in alone. Moments later he worked through the middle with Roldan before feeding the ball wide. When Dempsey left, Nico got even more ball dominant, spraying passes around so it looked like Seattle still had a full complement of players on the field. In the 31st Nico had a 60-yard dash in possession on the dribble through the Colorado defense, and then was back defensively moments later.
In the second half, his endurance was completely on display. The second goal sequence was started by Lodeiro’s pass and move before opening Jones up over the top with beautiful vision. Tim Howard is not too bad at saving penalties, and even though he guessed correctly, Lodeiro’s strike was perfectly placed for Seattle’s second score. In minute 74, Nico popped up at the top of the box and put a curler just wide. Ten minutes later he recovered defensively. In the 89th minute, Lodeiro still had energy, juking three in a highlight reel dribbling sequence that was only denied by a fantastic Howard save. In minute 94, Nico made up 30 yards in a pure sprint, out-hustled everyone to get on the end of a loose ball, and finished cleanly with his off foot for the final goal. Nico was just awesome.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.6
If I’m building an 8v8 soccer team, I want Nico and Cristian on my team. These guys covered so much ground that the loss of Dempsey was barely noticeable. It is just incredible how much range Roldan has, and together, these two midfielders were dominant all night. While Nico was out gathering goals and playing pretty through balls, Roldan was behind him mopping up everything. He had an immense nine tackles on defense, absolutely choking away any central attacks for the entire match. In possession, Roldan had a sparkling 94% completion rate including a tidy 5/6 on long balls, and he added a key pass to boot.
Early in the game, it was quiet for Roldan, although he and Nico combined nicely in the 7th minute to pressure the ball into a turnover and quick Seattle counter attack. When Nouhou had a rough touch in the 10th Roldan was there to sweep away the danger. Ten minutes later Roldan was bossing through the midfield collecting tackles at will. Seattle cleanly controlled the midfield before Cristian roamed forward, finding a moment to burst up the right wing and put a beautiful cross in that should have earned a penalty kick.
The second half was more dominance from the midfield, forcing everything from Colorado negative. A combination with Nico and Roldan in the 60th started the sequence that earned a penalty. These two combined again in the 74th when Cristian popped up near the penalty area and connected with Nico for a long distance try. This was a completely dominant midfield exhibition from Seattle. I hope that Roldan is careful with his elbows though; a 51st minute shoulder tackle earned him a yellow and was violent enough to make me hold my breath a little.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 6.9
Jones had a very productive outing at the left-wing position, and he’s found a way to mesh better with his teammates when playing from an advanced starting spot in recent matches. Showing off a polished offensive game, Jones earned two key passes and took three shots of his own. He still has a penchant for over-reliance on crosses (1/6) but it must be said that it was his cross that forced the red card and penalty on Colorado.
I was impressed with Jones’ early dedication to helping Nouhou defensively, switching up and defending on the end line in the 3rd minute, but he was by no means an active defender in the first half. Nico nearly unleashed Jones into a perfect 1v1 with the keeper but his pass was a little weak in the 7th. Jones makes great outside-in runs that are perfect for a deep lying through ball. In the 39th Joevin was lingering at the top of the box for a shot after some strong hustle work from Bruin.
Joevin’s best play of the game was leaking out in minute 60 and getting on the end of a Lodeiro pass before putting an inch-perfect cross to Bruin who was fouled. This offensive proficiency from an outside back is very impressive, and the Colorado defender had no choice but to foul. Eleven minutes later Jones beat a player on the dribble and started a break with Nouhou on the left. He just missed a far post shot in the 88th minute.
Jones is still susceptible to the lazy pass which puts his team into unnecessary pressure. One such pass in the 90th forced him to take a yellow card to prevent a break. He still doesn’t play much if any defense when he’s at the left wing, and he watches a lot of the game, but offensively he is so dynamic and has such a natural feel for where to move in space that he’s really a joy to watch in the attack.
Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 5.2 (Red Card 24’)
Similar to Brad Evans in the Timbers game, Dempsey was having a great game before he got a red card. Up until the 24th minute, Clint was the best player on the field, spraying passes around and filling up my notebook with quality plays. In this short time, he managed two shots and a key pass on nearly 80% passing as the offensive catalyst for a dynamic Seattle attack.
Clint’s 5th minute switch opened the field nicely, but his 9th minute pass was even better, a laser beam crossfield look that put Leerdam into the box completely unmarked en route to the first Sounders goal. In the 12th minute Dempsey beat one off the dribble before shooting high. Three minutes later he picked up a loose ball, immediately drove forward into the heart of the defense and slipped Bruin perfectly through for a shot that hit the woodwork. Right before getting booted he nearly combined to release Leerdam in on goal. Dempsey was firing on all cylinders.
I’ve re-watched the red a lot. On the play immediately prior, Mike da Fonte poked Dempsey in the eye, and while it’s hard to tell intent, it’s notable that I singled out da Fonte in the previous game as being especially dirty behind the play. He consistently beat on Clint in this game as well. This is a young player who is very physical, and from my view, it looks like Clint is hand-fighting with da Fonte again on the red card, and his hand gets pushed high and he follows through. It’s definitely an unnecessary hard foul and the kind of call that can be a red in this league. It’s disappointing that the referee deemed it serious foul play, as I truly don’t see a deliberate intent to injure or strike the face, but Dempsey has to know he’s a target for this sort of play and be smarter. (This incident was similar to the Nico kick-out red earlier this season).
A shame, since Clint was clearly dialed in and playing fantastically before this error.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 67’)
One of the unsung heroes of this game was Shipp, someone who was beaten up a little by commenters. His stat line is mundane: 86% on 21 passes and few notable offensive or defensive plays. What Harry did very well, though, was support those around him who were getting the stats. Consistently tucking inside, Shipp supported Roldan, allowing Nico to push forward and combine. This central movement also sucked the entire Colorado defense to the center, allowing Leerdam to slip out consistently on the overlap.
In the 4th minute, Shipp won the ball with a nice piece of sideline defense. He had a big hand in the first goal without touching the ball. First, his movement inside and forward supported Dempsey and opened space on the wing for Leerdam. When the switch was made, Shipp dove into the box to occupy Axel Sjoberg and Da Fonte, both giving Kelvin time to pick a pass and opening huge space for Bruin in behind. This smart movement was huge in getting Seattle off to a quick start. In the 11th and 22nd minutes, Shipp was again behind Leerdam, supporting the right side and allowing Torres to stay central.
The penalty kick in the 52nd was debatable, but it’s hard to fault Shipp, who clearly is blinking as the ball came out of the shade into the sun and caught him unexpectedly. In the 56th minute, Shipp was amidst a beautiful combination with Nico and Bruin, opening Lodeiro into huge space in the middle of the field after a pretty backheel. Harry doesn’t offer a lot individually, but his tactical movement in space is very strong and complementary to the success of others.
Will Bruin – 9 | Community – 7.2 (off 85’)
Will is on some kind of run these last few games and looks energized and active. His movement and effort up front were excellent this game, and this may have been his most complete outing of the season. Bruin was everywhere in the attack, with four shots, two key passes, a goal, a called penalty kick, an uncalled penalty kick, and a hit on the woodwork. Colorado had no answer for the dancing bear.
In the 4th minute, Bruin pressed high and nearly forced a turnover deep in Colorado territory. Five minutes later, Will did everything right, waiting patiently before diving in front of the defense and finishing cleanly to give Seattle a lead only nine minutes into the game. In the 14th minute, he combined with Joevin to press high, earning a turnover to Dempsey in the midfield. Not content to watch, he hustled into the attack, getting on the end of a sublime return pass from Clint before putting a shot agonizingly off the post. Will was only just beginning, and again in the 21st, more effort created a turnover to Clint who nearly scored. In the 38th, down a man, Bruin worked hard versus two defenders and was pulled down for what should have been a penalty kick. He didn’t hang his head. A moment later he took a nifty touch off a throw-in to beat two, and he nearly found Jones at the top of the box for another shot.
The second half was more of Bruin alone up top but he was more than enough, terrorizing Colorado with a great diagonal run and shot in the 50th. Six minutes later, his backheel hold up play found Shipp in space, and again Will hustled immensely to join Nico in the attack up field. All this hard work paid off in the 60th as Sjoberg hauled him down, earning himself a red and Seattle a penalty. Bruin faded late and was subbed off to deserved applause. His holdup play wasn’t great and he only completed 67% of his passes, but the bear took constant abuse from the Colorado defense all game and completely dominated them, helping Seattle remain in control throughout.
Lamar Neagle – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 67’)
Lamar got a lot of playing time and was very active, taking three shots and earning a key pass. His passing was fairly ugly (58%), and at times his communication with Leerdam was rough. Sometimes the team would control the ball well only to have Lamar make a turnover. But you get lots of energy and toughness from Lamar, which showed up on the scoreboard late. Neagle fought for a “meaningless” header in the 94th that Nico scored on, and that is exactly the kind of strength and hustle that you want going into the playoffs.
Henry Wingo – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 85’)
Henry had one notable play, a nice give and go with winger Torres in the 88th that showed off both Wingo’s pace and physicality, on a great bit of skill.
Tony Alfaro – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 91’)
Alfaro came in and touched the ball once but didn’t complete his one pass.
Chris Penso – 6 | Community – 4.0
I thought Penso was really bad live and I’m not sure what to think after the rewatch. He called fouls fairly well and I noted a number of times with nice advantage play. Unfortunately, there were just too many crazy calls that I really don’t understand.
In the 32nd Aigner was called for a high kick foul, and then given a yellow for persistent infringement, which confused me because it was his second foul. VAR will make it hard to rate referees in the future, and this game was a perfect example why. Penso didn’t call that red on Dempsey, VAR ref Fotis Bazakos did, and Penso agreed. Okay. But in the 38th when Bruin was fouled in the box, Penso clearly puts his hand to his ear — and Bazakos apparently didn’t see a penalty. Penso immediately pulled a yellow on Sjoberg in the 60th, but was called over to VAR and advised to red card him. Moments earlier, Sjoberg clearly hit Bruin’s face, similar to how Dempsey earned a red, and … nothing.
So, your guess is as good as mine, guys. Sorry. On the fouls that Penso called on the field, I thought his yellows were justified (Torres, Jones, Roldan, Gordon etc.) but when every single big play of the game was due to VAR (or obvious lack of it), it’s hard to rate this dude.
Colorado Rapids MOTM
Tim Howard came away with Man of the Match honors, despite allowing three goals. Granted, responsibility for the goals (and the penalty attempt) probably lies with the defenders in front of him. Additionally, Lodeiro’s penalty strike was close to perfect, so it’s tough to knock Howard on that one.
On to the playoffs. A week to get healthy, a strong road result, and then home next Thursday to keep this home cooking going. This team can go all the way.