The rollercoaster season of the Seattle Sounders continued, with an away loss to the Philadelphia Union the latest result in an up-and-down week. Losing 0-2 on short rest all the way across the country isn’t incredibly surprising, especially in light of Seattle’s lineup changes. This was, however, both a chance for Seattle to step toward a top-two Western Conference playoff seed, and an opportunity for some bench guys to show they are viable options going forward, neither of which happened. While the team will be disappointed with the result, this game was much closer than the final scoreline.
Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 6.2
Frei showed some mental fatigue against the Union, making some uncharacteristic mistakes. While he did have five saves, there were chances for Stephan to take control of the game and it was disappointing that he couldn’t do so.
Seattle was definitely under more pressure in the first half, and Frei did well to punch away in the 4th minute and control a shot directly at him in the 19th. A minute later, however, he fumbled away a shot to the side of the goal that he should have cleanly controlled. Things got worse in the 28th, with Seattle leaving Marcus Epps wide open on the left. Frei’s footwork was slow, and his positioning suspect. He was beat near post and looked to be leaning badly, unable to make a save that would have kept Philly off the board. Stef nearly compounded this error five minutes later with a ridiculous roll out into traffic in the center of the field. A Philadelphia player nearly jammed this pass back down his throat into the goal but luckily the shot went wide. What was he thinking – trying to release Bruin of all people short and to the middle?
The second half was less busy for Frei but he did well to push aside a Fabinho shot wide in the 66th. He had a tremendous 87th minute save on Jay Simpson’s point-blank header that briefly kept Seattle with a chance to rescue a point. Unfortunately, he was all out of sorts a minute later when Roland Alberg put a twisting shot past him. When he’s more on his game, Frei pushes that shot wide. Not a stellar outing for Stef.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 60’)
This was a mess of a match for the young Nouhou. While he had a team high 93% passing completion rate, he struggled at times with defensive positioning and never looked comfortable combining with either Alfaro or Jones. Offensively Nouhou offered nothing going forward, with both of his crosses into the box failing to find a teammate. Defensively he was strong, leading the team in tackles, interceptions, and blocked shots.
In the 5th minute Nouhou showed his anticipation and speed to steal and push forward with great pace, only to find no options up front and subsequently turned the ball over. A minute later we saw a bit of a dive from the Cameroonian, which was ignored by the referee. Strong defense in the 6th (1v1 with Raymon Gaddis) and 18th (pushing the defensive line high) were highlights as Nouhou held down a left side with zero assistance from his left wing. Often left alone to deal with attacks, Nouhou struggled with communication on his side. This eventually led to the first Philly goal in the 28th. On this play, Alfaro smartly switched wide to support Nouhou, and while trying to play center back for Tony, Nouhou got lost in the middle, wandering around next to Marshall before ineffectively retreating to the goal line. With no wing help Nouhou must be much more cognizant of the width. The end of the half saw the Hou pop up in the attack and send a hopeful cross to the far post that missed his teammates.
After halftime Nouhou had a nice defensive moment 1v1 with Epps in the 48th, only to hold the ball too long and not clear it effectively. Luckily Svensson was there to cover in the 51st with all left-sided players caught upfield and shirking any defensive duties. Nouhou did well on the ball, but was part of a repeatedly victimized left defense.
Tony Alfaro – 5 | Community – 4.9
This was an okay outing for Alfaro, who had to hold down the left central defense and work with the Hou-Joe wing combination. He completed a high rate of his passes, (even earning a key pass) but it was his team high eight clearances that showed just how beleaguered the defense was in this game. Tony also had a huge amount of touches for a center back (84, second on team).
In the 4th minute Alfaro was outjumped by C.J. Sapong for a header that was redirected towards goal, but in the 18th Tony showed strong defensive help in the middle. The first Philadelphia goal was a complete mess, and Alfaro was directly in the middle of it. First smartly switching over to the left outside to support Nouhou, Tony played good defense. Inexplicably after the ball was passed to the middle Alfaro simply abandoned the left, floating back to the middle before dashing back wide when the (now) wide open Epps received a pass. He compounded this even further by failing to cut off any of the goal to give Frei a predictable shot.
The rest of the match was much improved, and Alfaro didn’t do much notable either way, other than a nice sliding recovery in the 51st and being outmuscled by Sapong in the 56th. For defenders, no news is good news and while Alfaro had a tough time communicating with the left side of the team early, the entire defensive unit was much improved in the second half.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.0
With everyone around him struggling, Marshall did exactly what you expect. He was tremendous in this game, winning every aerial, clearing the ball with possession (89% passing) and dominating his matchup with Sapong all afternoon. I didn’t have a single negative mark in the book for a guy who quietly held together a patchwork defense (starting five out of six players out of position).
In the 7th minute Chad dominated Sapong in the air to clear, and this would be a theme. He did it again in the 17th, 35th, and 52nd as well, each time preventing Sapong from pushing their offense into the match. On the first Philly goal Marshall was the only defender doing the right thing, erasing Sapong as an option via stellar 1v1 marking. Each time the home team tried to attack down his channel Marshall was there to clear the danger, and was so effective Philadelphia rarely even tried to challenge him.
In the second half Marshall dominated a 50th minute matchup with Fabrice-Jean Picault. But the most impressive moment was an absolutely enthralling sprint in the 63rd. On this play Chad outran Wingo, Alfaro, and nearly every Philly player to cover the back post on a breakout counterattack following a Seattle corner. This was a simply fantastic moment of hustle from a guy not known for his pace.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 6.1
Kelvin was very up and down in this game, committing many more mistakes than we are used to, but also showing some quiet quality in key moments. His passing was strong, but other than a late key pass he failed to attack dangerous areas. Defensively he was just okay, showing some miscommunication with multiple new players around him.
In the 2nd minute Leerdam stepped up nicely on defense and started a counterattack, but this was rare. When Philly scored in the 28th, Kelvin was way too deep defensively, keeping opponents onside. In the 35th there was a very reasonable shout for DOGSO, as Leerdam shoulder-tackled Picault on a breakaway. He was lucky here, as he played the man and not the ball, and it was compounded by their legs getting tangled up and both hitting the ground. Right before half he had a great switch crossfield to Nouhou that went wasted.
In the second half Leerdam tried to enter the attack more, with very mixed results. His great anticipation and steal in the 53rd jump-started an attack up the wing, but his 65th minute pass to the middle of the field was awful and led to a direct counter by Philadelphia. After a meh cross in the 80th, Leerdam had his best offensive play a minute later. In this sequence Kelvin dribbled at the defense on top of the box and did a very crafty shoulder dip at goal, forcing the defense to react to his upper body, while at the same time laying off a nice pass to Bruin. This very subtle body control opened up extra space for Will to get a dangerous shot off. After an 87th minute clear weak and to the middle, Leerdam followed up by leaving Simpson wide open in the box while ball watching. Leerdam is much better than he played on Sunday.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.0
Working with a guy he’d only started one game with, I thought Goose was trying to overcompensate for his younger central partner. He was tidy with the ball and defensively sound for the most part, but neither defensive midfielder was a driving force that moved the ball into dangerous attacking positions, instead shuttling the ball from side to side with little effect.
In the 1st minute it was clear that Svensson needed to cover wide, and he did so clearing the ball with both Nouhou and Jones well upfield. This was repeated in the 18th, single handedly stopping a very dangerous attack on the left sideline with these players in advanced positions. A minute later, however, he lost a vertical run from the center midfield — tracking middle runs has been a problem for the Sounders. Right before half Goose overcommitted to a hard tackle that he missed in the midfield, leading directly to a Union shot.
The second half was similar, as Svensson was unable to push the ball into the attack; a 46th minute cross-field pass was easily stolen and turned into a Philly push. In the 69th Gustav didn’t clear the box on a defensive header and it was nearly shoved back into the goal, and in the 87th Svensson failed to get goal-side on Simpson, who was left alone to try to beat Frei from a few yards away. Just like Marshall, the Goose was loose in the 63rd, showing incredible stamina and hustle to get back defensively with a full field sprint past everyone to support. A veteran busting his ass to defend is great to see and hopefully some of the younger, impressionable players were paying attention.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 55’)
Delem wasn’t bad against Philly, in fact he led the game with over 96% passing and had a few tackles. The problem is he was utterly forgettable for a majority of his time on the field and didn’t offer anything dynamic in any form. He had only four completed passes that ended up in the attacking half of the field, and was content to make high percentage, safe square passes or drops, to mostly Alfaro.
In the 6th minute Jordy floated to the right side to assist Leerdam and his header kept possession. He put himself in a bad position in the 10th by slide tackling from behind, earning a yellow card. Conceding a caution so early made it hard for Delem to do anything risky, adding to his ponderous play. He did have a nice 18th minute cross and was consistently over to support the right side such as 24th and 45th minute double teams that earned possession. In the 19th he missed a vertical run from Alejandro Bedoya; he must be more aware of people who are moving into spaces in front of the center backs. This was a quiet outing from Delem who did the minimum and contributed a steady, if mundane, performance in the middle.
Joevin Jones – 4 | Community – 5.1
After a midweek game watching Vrod dominate this position, the downgrade to Jones was immense. If you just looked at stats you might see a key pass, 88% passing, and some token defensive work and you’d think he was effective. But those stats can’t quantify what a disgusting lack of effort the rewatch showed. Similar to a few other matches this season, Joevin exhibited little to no effort, casually jogging around and detracting from the success of everyone around him. It’s infuriating to watch just how poor Jones is in games like this, when we know he can play much better. His awful play put immense pressure on other players and disrupts the entire team.
In the 1st minute Jones completely ignored a Nouhou overlap, instead forcing a pass forward to the middle that failed, creating a giant left side void defensively. This would be repeated multiple times in the match. In the 6th Nouhou got forward and after Seattle lost the ball and Philly attacked our defense, it was nearly two minutes (!!) of game time before Jones even showed up on the screen defensively. There was more casual defense or jogging in the 8th and 10th minutes, before zero effort to support Bruin in the 13th. On this play Will received a long ball from Nico and turned wide only to have a giant hole where Jones should be – he turned back to the middle and found Nico for a shot. Lodeiro had run 40 yards up field to support the attack he started himself while Jones (who started next to Nico) remained 30 yards behind the play showing zero effort. In the 16th minute with two wide open opponents on the backside of the Seattle defense in the box, Jones stood outside the area watching. In the 25th his “defense” consisted of pointing behind him for someone to mark his man and then standing there. On the 28th minute Philly goal, Jones never even got past half field! This isn’t a tactical decision, it’s pure lack of effort. There were zero positive marks in the first half, even offensively, to balance out this performance.
The second half wasn’t better until he was moved back to left defense. In the 47th he telegraphed a midfield pass and failed to so much as jog back defensively. In the 52nd poor Roldan frantically waved his stump trying to get Jones to actually move up the wing and support him, to no avail. Jones’ first positive mark came in the 53rd, with a decent cross that forced Blake to catch. A minute later Joevin had a tremendous pass that deserved a much, much better finish from Bruin, who fumbled it away. Finally moved back in the 60th, Jones didn’t close down Epps in the box, but was across three minutes later as a free safety to shut down a dangerous counter. After a nice 75th minute play to step across the box defensively he followed with another anticipation play 7 minutes later to stop a penetrating pass. Jones closed out the game jogging hopelessly after Alberg, who promptly put a nail in any comeback hopes in minute 88.
The people who think Jones is a good winger should watch this match.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 80’)
Playing with a broken arm, Roldan really struggled in the first half, unable to connect with teammates, lacking the speed, balance, and mobility he normally employs to be an effective multi-faceted player. His 70% passing is a clear indication just how affected he was by the arm injury, as was his very low (43-same as Frei!) number of touches. Cristian took quite a while to adjust, and there were definite plays where he was not the player we are used to seeing.
In the 7th Roldan started out full of energy, working a 1-2 with Nico before nearly getting an open header on goal. Six minutes later he was again involved, making a nifty dummy run and continuing into the box to further support Lodeiro who was wide open via this move. After the first 15 minutes though, Roldan slowed, first being beat in the 16th by Fabinho, lacking the pace, strength, and extension to hold off the defender. Un-injured Roldan is likely in on goal, or at least getting an orange card for the handful of shirt the defender utilized. In the 18th he missed a simple drop pass to Nico, and was laboring badly while attempting to run on defense. After an incomplete pass to Bruin in the 36th Cristian went in very tentative for a tackle he normally dominates a minute later. Roldan seemed invisible in the first half.
After the break Roldan was much improved, flicking a nice header into the path of Jones from a Frei clearance in the 54th. Back at defensive mid with the insertion of Dempsey, Cristian was strong in his usual spot, moving the ball around and protecting the back. He was still lagging at times, like a 65th minute play where he was unable to round an opponent due to lack of pace and balance. There has been some debate on whether or not Roldan should have played, and the second half is clear evidence that he was fine to play a specific role, but his injury made him less effective as a creative player.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 5.9
After a monster midweek performance, it was easy to predict a drop off from Nico against Philly, especially with the difference in attacking options Seattle deployed. Lodeiro did his best, getting 10 more touches than anyone on the field, earning three key passes and two shots, while being both the main attack creator and finisher in the first half. With endless hustle and movement, he was unlucky not to have been rewarded with more on the scoreboard.
Lodeiro started slow, going down easily and not getting a foul call in the 3rd minute which allowed Philly to capitalize. In the 4th he was too slow to clear the ball; this was one of multiple instances where Nico’s play lagged a bit. A poor pass in the attack a few minutes later was followed by missing Jones on an overlap in the 8th, and it looked to be a long night for the DP. He turned it all around in the 12th minute on a play he started in the midfield. Picking up a pass, he instantly dialed up Bruin on a 35 yard over-the-top pass from midfield to the edge of the penalty area. Not content to admire his handiwork, Nico sprinted forward past all defenders to get on the end of a beautifully dummied pass into the box and earn what I thought was a PK. That would have changed the entire game, but the best we can do is recognize his great play. Nico would put a perfect through ball to Bruin in the 34th only to have his forward fail to control the pass. Lodeiro had his own issues controlling a ball, and this led to a dicey Leerdam DOGSO situation a minute later.
When Dempsey came into the game Nico suddenly found space and the Seattle attack flowed forward through the two DPs. In the 67th he picked out his buddy Clint perfectly, but alas they would drink no shots as Dempsey fumbled control with only Blake to beat. Three minutes later it was Nico’s turn with an open look; he skied it over. The second half showed how important spacing and options are for Lodeiro, and it illustrated exactly what he needs around him for this team to excel.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.6
Live I thought Bruin was truly terrible, but the re-watch showed a few very nice plays. He still fumbled way too many opportunities, was completely disconnected from Nico for long periods, and did little to bring teammates into the game, but he put in some very solid effort in good spaces. He even led the team with 3 key passes. However, I’d love to see him have more than one shot in 90 + minutes.
In the 8th Bruin had a nice drop pass to Nico, but then failed to connect well with him for much of the rest of the match. Two minutes later Bruin failed to make a checking run in an obvious hold-up spot. After an awkward control in the 13th Will looked left for an option (no Jones) before turning back and finding Roldan, who dummied onto the onrushing Lodeiro in an inspired bit of soccering. Bruin inexplicably ran away from Nico in the 22nd, giving his teammate no pass and leading to a turnover before completely bungling a perfect through ball in the 34th. In between these plays he played defense from the front, with an impressive 80-yard recovery run to play left back of all things in the 28th minute. He ended the half with a failed holdup in the 45th.
The Sounders adjusted in the second half, and Bruin found himself in better spots. His best chance came in the 54th from Jones, and presented with a cross and only Blake to beat, Bruin trapped the ball so badly it hit him in the face, allowing the Philly keeper to save. Ugh. He posted and connected with Dempsey on multiple occasions, earning shots for Clint in the 63rd and 64th, both from give and go’s. In the 81st Bruin nearly chipped Blake from just outside the area, but the keeper was able to save.
Clint Dempsey – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.1 (MOTM) (on 55’)
Clint is playing with a ton of energy and subbing him in pulled the momentum squarely in Seattle’s favor. He immediately made Seattle more goal-dangerous, and he contributed a massive seven shots of his own in addition to a key pass. In the 58th he won a header from Frei’s clearance directly to a teammate. He forced a tremendous save from Blake in the 62nd, and another two minutes later after linking with Bruin. His best (and worst) moment came in the 67th when Nico found him all alone on the back post and Clint mis-trapped the ball too high off the ground, unable to volley home the tying goal with only Blake to beat.
Dempsey’s hustle forced Blake outside his 18 to clear in the 81st and an 85th minute shot created a rebound that no Sounders were able to pounce on. I thought Clint forced things a little, missing Leerdam on a through ball while electing to shoot, and getting in the way of a Jones volley attempt late, but the entire game changed upon his insertion and there is no denying that the shape and intensity was much improved by Dempsey.
Henry Wingo – 7 | Community – 6.5 (on 60’)
Wingo was the pleasant surprise of the evening. Asked to inject pace, energy, and direct play, Henry did exactly that. While he wasn’t always disciplined, he converted 95% of his passes, including a whopping three key passes, and he was fantastic combining with others. In the 61st he instantly stole the ball from a Philly defender and pushed it forward, signaling a new effort from the Seattle attack. A minute later he was on the right wing, crossing a ball, getting a deflection and shooting direct. In the 70th he kept up the intensity, eventually leading to an open Lodeiro shot. His long throw and hustle in the 83rd created a free kick for Seattle.
There were some hiccups, like an overcooked 61st minute cross and hopeful dribble into two defenders in the 74th that lost possession, but this was a very positive outing for a young player who helped the second half surge.
Lamar Neagle – 4 | Community – 5.2 (on 80’)
Unlike Wingo, Neagle did next to nothing in this match. He had two passes. He completed half of them. He had a nice 86th minute hustle play to win a ball; he was also called offsides to negate it. Not sure why he keeps getting minutes.
Alan Kelly – 7 | Community – 5.9
Kelly has been one of the better rated referees for the Sounders and he was again very solid in Philadelphia. There weren’t a ton of notes, which is what you want for a referee. He called a quiet game, including 10 fouls total (five for each team) with two fairly easy yellow cards given.
The cards were given to Delem for an unnecessary slide tackle from behind and to Ilsinho for a hard tackle that wasn’t close to the ball; neither get much argument for me. He could have chosen warnings instead of cards for first fouls but both were dangerous enough that the harsher hand was reasonable. In the 16th while Roldan was struggling to round Fabinho, the center and AR both missed a fairly blatant tug of Cristian’s jersey that likely made this look even worse. I thought Delem in the 32nd and Bruin in the 62nd were fouls that were not given but neither was a big deal.
The two plays that defined this match were split in favor of each team, and both showed Kelly’s reluctance to make the big, game defining call. The first was a Fabinho tackle on Lodeiro in the box in minute 13. While I agree that the defender got the ball, he completely went through Nico to get it. This is called a foul anywhere else on the field and for that reason it should have been a penalty. The second was the Leerdam/Picault play in the 35th. In this instance I couldn’t be too upset if it had been a DOGSO, but there is plenty of reason to agree with the no call. Again, this is likely not a foul anywhere else on the field, and on replay the big muddling factor is that they get their legs tangled up and fall (which isn’t a foul). If they don’t do this, Leerdam shoulder-tackles Picault away from the ball and Frei retrieves and it’s a non-issue. No matter which way you see these calls it’s important to recognize both the center and ARs hustled into position and both agreed with non-calls, allowing the players and not refs to dictate the game. Also, VAR (hah!)
Andre Blake made a couple of top-notch saves and kept everything the Sounders put on frame out of his goal. He earns over two-thirds of the vote.
After a nice break, Seattle finishes off the season with two home games that are both winnable. We likely need wins to finish with a bye. It would be great to see the lineup that played versus Vancouver and shredded them with quality space, technical skill, and quick play.