Without a doubt Seattle was the better team through 180 minutes against Vancouver. The home leg was a romp for the Sounders, and it could have been much worse for the Whitecaps than the eventual 2-0 Seattle win. Seattle outshot Vancouver 20-7, and ended the two-game series with an aggregate shots-on-target-allowed of one. This was a complete manhandling by Seattle, and everyone played well.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.0
Unlike the first leg of the series, Frei was credited with a save! This came on a dangerous run from Christian Bolanos in the 66th minute, and Stefan did well to stand there and catch the header hit directly at him. With as wet as this game was, credit is due to a keeper who never looked uncomfortable, directly commanding his area and defense and making good decisions throughout. Seattle’s entire defense did a tremendous job not conceding many set pieces (three) all match, eliminating a huge part of Vancouver’s attack.
Stef does a ton of technical things cleanly, like in the eighth minute, his positioning well outside the goalmouth made a potential tricky back header to him a simple affair, with Torres calmly finding his keeper with the ever dangerous Fredy Montero lurking. These things don’t show up in stats, but again, in the 17th he was in a great position to beat Montero to a ball in the box. Frei managed the game well. When he received a late pass back in the 85th he used a no-nonsense clear to remove any chance for Vancouver to equalize. This was a very impressive outing from the defense.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.0
If you don’t love Nouhou, I don’t know what to tell you. He had the second most touches in the game (10 more than Cristian Roldan!), completed his passes at an 86% clip, had two tackles, three interceptions, numerous aerials won, a key pass, and did all this with his usual wackily effective style that included lock-down defending from his side all match.
Nouhou was unsuccessful on all six of his crosses, but in the third minute, his overlap and low cross was perfectly aimed to Dempsey, only to be blocked away. In the 13th he worked well with Marshall, supporting more central as needed with Chad drifting in pursuit of Montero. After a good run and poor cross in the 23rd, Marshall and Nouhou had a bad combination that nearly cost Seattle, with the defense recovering. He quickly was back on the positive side of my book helping defensively in the 30th in the middle of the field before making a tremendous overlapping run onto a perfect Lodeiro pass to earn a 100% definite penalty kick that inexplicably wasn’t called. He didn’t hang his head after this ridiculous call, and he used the underrated butt block to prevent a shot in the 38th.
Another nice cross that nearly reached Bruin would go down as a failed pass but this 43rd minute look was tremendous. In the second half, with the introduction of Alphonso Davies, Nouhou just dominated the young Canadian star. Nouhou was faster, stronger, and more agile, completely erasing Davies from the game. In the 80th minute Nouhou had a tremendous cross field pass, finding his defensive teammate Marshall for a play that nearly earned both an assist. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the choo-choo run in the 87th, with the Houtrain chugging up the field at breakneck pace to get on the end of a Dempsey pass and create the game sealing corner kick.
There are some spacing issues with Jones and Nouhou, as both want to overlap each other and they don’t link too well, but this young left back created what should have been a penalty kick and multiple other offensive runs while at the same time playing wonderful defense.
Chad Marshall – 8 | Community – 7.3
After being completely bottled up by Torres in the first leg, Montero tried his luck with Marshall for a majority of the second. Hah! Marshall replied with his usual disdain for strikers and backed it up, holding Fredy to even fewer shots than the first match. Chad was clean on the ball, completing 88% of his passes (including impressive eight of ten on long balls from the back), and added two interceptions and three clearances. There was never a time that Montero had a clean look, and much of this was due to Marshall’s giant body in between him and the goal at all times.
Chad easily headed over Montero in the fourth minute and it was a broken record all game when Fredy tried to play anything in the air. When Bolanos tried to get into the attack via an over the top ball in the 13th, Marshall played it perfectly, sliding over and easily clearing. Chad did have a small issue with Nouhou in the 24th, but as usual he was quick to recover and clear away. The left side communication was great, with Marshall and Nouhou calmly passing their way out of trouble. When Vancouver pushed a few more numbers into the attack it was as far away from the Sounders left as they could get. Marshall stayed up on a set piece in the 80th and won a nice second header to Dempsey, but Clint was unable to reward his teammate with an assist on the play.
Roman Torres – 7 | Community – 7.5
Although Torres was freed from as much 1v1 defending on Montero as in the first game, he still found himself matched up with the Vancouver striker on occasion and when that happened, there were fireworks. Roman had a fairly low 74% passing rate and at times struggled to connect with teammates going forward but he turned in a stellar seven clearances and four tackles. Many of these were drifting across in front of Marshall and Montero to cut out passes before they reached the Vancouver front line.
In the third minute, Torres nearly got on the end of a corner kick volley attempt, but was unable to connect. Five minutes later he beat Montero to a header and softly connected with Frei. Vancouver had a small cry for a penalty in minute 10 when Torres was beat over the top by Montero yet recovered strong to shoulder him off the ball in the box. After this, Marshall was largely in charge of Montero and Torres wasn’t beat in behind again. He did commit a foul in a bit of a bad spot in the 38th, which allowed Vancouver a free set piece.
The second half was more of the same, with Torres excelling in a roaming role, picking off passes and sliding across to help as needed. Seattle set up a nice free kick to Torres in the 59th for a redirected header that was a neat wrinkle on standard deliveries. Roman had a miscommunication with Gustav Svensson that led to the lone Vancouver shot on goal — Bolanos ran right through the middle unmarked. Kendall Waston also got in behind Torres in the 90th minute but his sliding attempt wasn’t on frame. This was a strong outing from Torres, who only had a few minor hiccups throughout.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 7.1
Kelvin has been such a quiet force for this team, and this game was no different. He is tremendous defensively, consistently making great decisions, and also has very underrated 1v1 offensive skills. He almost always makes a smart pass in the attacking third, and is showing more and more ability to both dribble past people as well as seamlessly combine with attackers.
In the eighth minute, Leerdam overlapped and had a low, hard cross that made it through the box. After a rare poor connection with Roldan, Kelvin got forward again in the 14th. This time he showed wonderful patience, waiting until Bruin could work free and offering up a key pass with which the striker should have done better. One aspect of the defense being so in sync is Leerdam can get forward and have faith that he will get the ball, like in the 25th, when he continued his run and Nico found him. In the 29th, Marcel de Jong lost a 1v1 matchup with Leerdam and just before half Kelvin nearly connected on another overlap and cross.
In the second half as Seattle pushed Nico forward and brought in Victor Rodriguez for a decidedly attacking look, Leerdam slotted in perfectly, linking up on his side and offering width as the attacking midfielders buzzed around, interchanging. Kelvin’s overlapping run in the 72nd opened up a Dempsey/Lodeiro combination. In the 82nd, his driving run to the end line onto a Dempsey pass and cutback created chaos for the Vancouver defense. Waston got in behind in the 90th, but at that point the game was decided.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.4
I am so impressed with Roldan’s ability to slide in next to anyone and just be near-perfect in the middle of the field. In this game, he started out with Nico, whose roaming presents a lot of challenges for a defensive midfield partner, and they worked very well together. Later on, Svensson came in and it was a seamless transition. Throughout, Cristian bossed the midfield defensively, leading the team with five tackles while also adding two key passes and a shot on the offensive end.
It took Seattle a few minutes to figure out positioning, and in the second minute, Roldan had one of his few turnovers with Nico well upfield. This didn’t happen again until the 39th, and both players managed to cover everywhere for the next 58 minutes. Roldan got a fifth minute drop from Bruin and quickly moved it forward to Jones, and other than an 11th minute steal from a dropping Montero, Roldan was never dispossessed in the middle. In the sixth, Cristian charged forward and had his shot blocked out for a corner. In the 12th, his pressure forced a very dangerous turnover that Bruin wasted. In the 24th, a roaming Roldan came across to shut down an attack on a nice defensive play.
One weakness for Seattle is when the attacking players turn the ball over facing their own goal, but in the 46th when Dempsey did just that Roldan was there to recover. Ten minutes later Roldan joined the attack in a big way, combining with Nico first defensively, and then dashing towards goal and finding Shipp as Seattle took the lead. The timing on getting forward and execution on a lightning quick attack was sublime. In the 87th minute, Roldan was still defending strong, eating Jordy Reyna, who Cristian obliterated all match. Roldan nearly had an assist to a far post Dempsey in the 90th, which would have capped a fantastic all-around game.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 9 | Community – 7.7
I was impressed with the defensive work of deep lying playmaker Lodeiro for the first 60 minutes. I was extremely impressed with the offense work of attacking playmaker Lodeiro for the last 30. This was a completely dominant exhibition of movement and execution. Nico touched the ball nearly fifty times more than anyone else on the field and had more completions than anyone else had touches, with a sparkling 89% passing rate. He had a whopping five key passes. He also had a shot to go with multiple defensive plays while running full speed for 94 minutes. Vancouver had little answer for him other than fouling.
Lodeiro was everywhere after being fouled 15 seconds into the game. He recovered nicely in the 11th minute in the midfield, showing off a defensive awareness that impressed. His set piece service in the 19th was spot on and the weight on his 25th minute through ball to Leerdam was perfect. After that chance went awry, he merely dialed up an even better pass to the Houtrain on the other side of the field five minutes later, earning a penalty kick (that remains uncalled). Still playing a “defensive” role in the 56th, Nico came back to find the ball, and then found Roldan pushing forward with a slick forward pass to jumpstart the Sounders’ first goal. His last play before moving into the wide midfield was to dispossess Montero in the 59th.
Immediately upon moving forward, Nico started to combine with Dempsey to devastating effect, linking with him in the 61st and 72nd, dancing around and through the defense. Lodeiro’s hard work won a set piece in the 79th and it was another set piece, an 88th minute short corner that sealed the game. Nico missed a few passes to Dempsey early, got caught once trying to dribble out of the back in traffic, and had a late control that he fumbled in the rain out for a free corner to Vancouver. Who cares?
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 60’)
Once again, Jones was quiet against Vancouver, but was steady before being subbed off in the second half. Not much about his game showed up in my notes, but he had some great stats: 87% passing, one shot on target, two key passes, although nothing of note defensively. More than anything, he looked uncomfortable linking with Nico’s erratic movement, often wastefully replicating either Lodeiro’s or Nouhou’s runs.
Jones started off with a very light touch that was a turnover on his first possession, but he followed this up with a great fifth minute cross and sixth minute defensive recovery on Reyna. Looking a little lost on offense in the 18th, he did manage to win a free kick after his cross was blocked. I liked Jones having a rip from deep in the 21st and he always puts these shots on frame. After these notes, his section of my book is bare, with a severe lack of movement and some halfhearted attempts to help Nouhou defensively after losing possession in the 30th. Right before subbing he had a turnover and jog combo that may have been because of injury.
Jones can be a dynamic offensive player, but in the Vancouver series, was just a guy. When Nico moves around, guys like Shipp and Roldan move away from him, understanding complex spacing and shape that Jones just doesn’t seem to get. Because of this, he often makes redundant runs to teammates. When isolated on the wing and allowed to attack, he is lethal on the left (especially from a deep back position) but asking him to make coherent runs through midfield is unfair to his skillset.
Clint Dempsey – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM)
Dempsey was very, very good in this game, especially late, when Seattle offered him some different attacking pieces to combine with. He blew the doors off the stat book to the tune of 10 shots, three on frame, a key pass, and most importantly, both Seattle goals to send them through. Clint was a ghost, unable to be marked, floating through the holes in the Whitecap defense to find spaces to attack. Vancouver did well to stay compact, blocking chance after chance, and it took quick ball movement to finally break down their defensive positioning.
Clint was goal dangerous early, shooting barely wide in the seventh from distance after finding space and switching beautifully to Leerdam in the eighth and 11th, opening space. He nearly found the ball on a ninth minute corner kick, but after this was very quiet. He had minimal impact until right before half, where he gave everyone a preview on a 44th minute cutback/left footed shot that was blocked and put a far post volley just wide in stoppage. In the second half he was again quiet, getting shots but continually having them blocked by well-placed defenders. In the 55th, Clint had had enough, juking on a cutback to send three Whitecaps the wrong way and opening up just enough space to fit a perfectly placed curling shot into side net with his left foot. This was a ridiculous bit of personal skill and broke the game open.
Immediately, Dempsey was linking with an advanced Lodeiro, who put Bruin in on goal in the 61st and again for his own shot in the 72nd. In the 80th, only poor control from a beautiful Marshall header stopped Clint from scoring another. Two minutes later, Dempsey was defending hard and after stealing the ball, slid Leerdam into the box. In the 88th, Clint beat Jordan Harvey far post and made no mistake for his second goal. He nearly scored two more, in the 89th and 90th, with only impatience and a nice save from keeper Stefan Marinovic stopping his hat trick. Dempsey was on a roll, and the amount of skill and influence he showed for that 40-minute stretch was awesome to behold.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.3 (off 67’)
I really like what Shipp brought to this match, and his movement in support of others was tremendous. At a glance his 83% passing and one key pass may seem unimpressive, but there is so much depth to his play that is hard to quantify in numbers. For example, his one key pass was his assist, which came on a play where he started near midfield supporting defensively, combined with Nico and then continued his movement to pop up magically in the right place in the box to get a backheel from Bruin and find Dempsey. Many a lesser tactically aware player would have been done as soon as Nico had possession, but Shipp doesn’t ball watch, he moves instinctively to offset spacing for others and in this case, it was integral to the hugely important first goal.
In the first five minutes, Shipp’s positioning was tremendous, supporting the wide runs of Leerdam while offsetting whichever of Roldan or Lodeiro pushed forward. Harry gave de Jong too much time to pick out Montero in the 10th, but quickly rushed to close down this lane thereafter, ending what looked to be one of Vancouver’s main attacking strategies. After shrugging off a defender with some physical play, Shipp ran past Bolanos in the 15th and found Bruin in space for a chance the forward wasted. In the 25th, Harry followed up a play and crossed far post, earning a corner. Shipp missed a wide-open Bruin in a great holdup position five minutes later, instead pushing the ball in a less offensive angle.
Subbing Shipp out for V-Rod opened the game up and I definitely want to see Victor on the field whenever he is healthy, but with Nico deep, there are a lot of positives to having the tactical awareness that Harry brings to offset spacing. It’s nice to know that a guy who was out for months can slot in smoothly and be a “glue” guy on a team with plenty of options.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 91’)
Bruin was much improved this game facing the Waston/Parker duo. His runs were more diagonal and vertical, intermixed with valid attempts at some back to the goal hold up play. His 80% passing was just okay, but he put one of three shots on frame, had a key pass, and was active enough to open up some space for others.
In the fifth minute, Bruin had his first successful hold up play, finding Roldan who quickly passed behind him to Jones racing towards goal. After a deflection found him in a similar spot in the 12th minute, Bruin chose to drop the ball again, however he had tons of space to turn and attack the middle of the defense. This was a microcosm of Bruin as an attacker. He excels in poaching loose balls and deflections in the box but struggles to be goal dangerous with consistency from the run of play. In the 14th, Leerdam earned Bruin a clear open shot from the top of the box that was weak and right at the goalie. A minute later, Shipp put in a beautiful over the top pass that Will fumbled away. These are big opportunities, and he just can’t seem to take advantage.
I was impressed with Will’s high pressure, often creating tension in the back and turnovers on long clearances. This happened in the 12th and 26th, with the latter nearly seeing Marinovic fumbling away the ball in his own box. I liked Bruin’s chest pass in the 17th to find Roldan but after a blind 21st minute dummy to the Vancouver defense, Will disappeared.
In the second half, Will was really effective at running his defenders right in front of Dempsey’s shots. He did pop up beautifully in the box to backheel to Shipp on the game-winning goal build up, and put a shot into the side net off a 61st minute Dempsey feed. While more effective than the last match, Bruin didn’t have much luck pouncing on loose balls in the box because there weren’t many, with Vancouver turning in a whopping 32 clearances.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.7 (on 60’)
Goose came in and was seamlessly added to the defensive midfield, combining with Roldan to perfection. He had good defense in the middle in the 70th, put a great pass through the lines to Nico in the 77th, and had another beautiful switching pass to Leerdam in the 79th. He did lose Bolanos on a run in the 66th, and needs to be aware of those direct runs when handing off duties to Torres.
Victor Rodriguez – 7 | Community – 7.5 (on 67’)
Welcome back, sir. Wow. In a short stint V-Rod had two key passes, an assist, and was seemingly involved in every quality Sounders attack. His 73rd minute defensive pressure won possession. In the 74th, his first touch was (as always) directly positive. In the 82nd, his run forward earned a free kick right outside the box. Quick thinking with Nico turned a short corner into Rodriguez in the box in space and his perfect back post feed found Dempsey for the dagger. He nearly found Dempsey again a minute later back post. Oh, and his passing for the match? 100% completion.
Lamar Neagle – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 91’)
The human victory cigar was called into the game to make and complete three passes. Light em up!
Baldomero Toledo – 2 | Community – 3.4
For the first 24 minutes, Toledo was good. His calls made sense, (like a Lodeiro ninth minute yellow), he ignored Fredy diving in the 10th minute attempting to earn a penalty, and when Roldan was fouled, he let advantage go and then brought it back. Then the wheels fell off. Completely.
In the 27th, Montero
earned a red card for a two-footed stomp was called for a simple foul on Nico. In the 32nd, Nouhou earned a p enalty kick after beating Jakob Nerwinski in the box was casually ignored for a penalty shout even upon a second, third, fourth, and fifth glance via VAR. In the 42nd, Nico fouled someone blatantly but there was no call, and then Fredy was fouled and instead, he was called for a hand ball. Shipp was nearly kicked in the face by Nosa in the 58th, with straight leg cleats extended and the Vancouver player merely got a yellow. In the 68th, Torres fouled Montero and advantage was played and then brought back to give the yellow card, but a similar play happened in the 71st with Aly Ghazal fouling Roldan, and a card was eventually given no card was given. Neither was a card issued for a third advantage call in the 86th after Nosa cleared out Roldan.
By my count, there were two blatant red card fouls on Montero and Nosa that were missed. There was a clear penalty kick that was missed, even with the benefit of VAR showing exactly that. The discrepancy in advantage play and cards was ridiculous, with multiple Whitecaps clearly deserving of persistent foul cards. This was a joke.
Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM
In a rare split decision, Tim Parker and Fredy Montero fared well for their defensive and attacking endeavors, respectively. Still, the true winner, with a whopping 25.4 percent of the vote, was “other.” Whether this was intended for Bolanos, with his one whole shot on goal, a veiled dig at referee Toledo, or for Carl Robinson and his tactical masterclass is up for debate. Maybe someone can speak to this in the comments.
Rest up mighty Sounders, the flying Dynamo (Dynami? Dynameese?) have dispatched Portland and it’s time to push for back-to-back cups.