Well, if you had “Seattle goes down by two goals again” you win a prize. Just like the first game of the season, the Sounders roared back from an early deficit, except this time they would rescue a road point with a last gasp goal. While the scoreline and some of the gameplay didn’t show it, this was a much-improved performance over last week, and the 2-2 tie final score is okay as far as road results go. After watching the game again, I saw many positive points, including 12 shots inside the box and a dominant offense at times. Somewhat surprisingly, it’s the defense that let the team down.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.0
For the second week in a row Frei picked the ball out of the net behind him twice, something that only happened three times in MLS play after Schmetzer was hired. This is more indicative of defensive lapses rather than any specific Frei mistakes, although there is some rust showing.
In the 1st minute Stefan signaled his willingness to come far off his line, helping Jones on the left by ranging to the edge of his box. A few minutes later he was again active, this time stopping an over the top look toward Matteo Mancosu. This aggressive movement from the keeper was needed, as Montreal continuously pulled the Sounders defense out of position and attempted to put through balls down the middle.
It was one such through ball in the 17th that opened the scoring, with Mancosu getting free for a 1v1 and making Frei look a bit silly in the process. Stefan appeared to slip a bit, but his sprawling lunge did little to slow the advance of the Montreal striker. Although he easily rounded the keeper and slotted home, Frei did force him wide to give a laboring Torres a desperation slide attempt. In the 32nd Frei was in good position to save a Hernan Bernardello header that was luckily right at him, but he will likely want to study some film on Montreal’s second goal. Even though screened by Marshall, Frei looked a smidge slow diving down to his right and he won’t be happy allowing goals from shots outside the 18.
There weren’t many notes for Frei because frankly the Impact were just very efficient in scoring on their opportunities. There is plenty for Frei to improve upon as the season gets into full swing.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 6.4
Last week we saw the dynamic attacking Joevin Jones, who dominated the left wing with galloping runs around and through the defense, serving passes and showing tremendous vision and decision making. This week was just as impressive to me, but for almost the exact opposite reasons. Jones (with help from Shipp) flat out eliminated both Dominic Oduro and Chris Duvall from creating anything in the Montreal offensive end; as a result the ineffective Oduro was subbed at the 67-minute mark.
Other than jogging behind the 17th minute goal when he could have hustled, Jones was impeccable on the defensive end. Joevin’s positioning forced any Montreal attempts back across the field. Oduro had 26 touches, none of which were dangerous, and I give Jones a ton of credit for that. By the 35th minute Oduro and Duvall had quit attempting to beat Jones via pace and just chunked in hopeful crosses or recycled possession back around.
In the first half, other than a 23rd-minute run forward that earned a corner, Jones was nonexistent offensively. The second half shape enabled him to attack more and once again he picked his spots perfectly. He didn’t have as much success as game one, but he spread the field well and was a big reason there was so much space for others to work through the middle. Although not a flashy outing, Jones ended up with the second most touches on the team (82) to go with a key pass and very impressive 83% completion numbers. I would like to see him be more aggressive (as we learned last week, he is nearly unmarkable going forward), but this match was a great illustration of how far his 1v1 and positional defense has improved.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.1
There is an issue with the central back four players (Marshall, Torres, Roldan, Alonso). I don’t exactly know how to assess blame for the defensive lapses in the first two games. There was only one major issue with Marshall this week, but whenever a team scores two on you there is more to the defensive shape than one player. I think Marshall was very good in this game covering for a struggling center back partner.
In the 1st minute Chad was forced across to help Torres, and this would become a recurring theme on the night. In the 3rd Mancosu could split the CB pair and again it was Marshall across to track the Montreal striker. There seems to be a pretty blatant issue when our CBs get split by a diagonal run, and this is something to watch with BWP incoming. The big mistake from Marshall this week occurred in minute 17, when he was inexplicably caught well over midfield defending a player who was receiving a pass from the Montreal back line. This opened a huge gap between himself and Roman, and with the defensive mids also high and square, it was a relatively routine trap break and finish for a team that is built for that kind of quick attack.
After that Marshall emphatically closed the gap, whether it was shutting down Mancosu on the break in the 47th or playing great position in a three-back as Seattle chased the game. Even the 51st minute goal against was unlucky; both Marshall and Torres played the break well, with Ignacio Piatti managing to meg Chad from outside the 18 and score. Marshall is starting to get more looks on set pieces, and responded with good contact on 75th and 89th minute corners, as well as generally being dangerous on every free kick. He ended up with two shots, a sparkling 92% completion rate, and a very solid all-around game.
Roman Torres – 4 | Community – 4.9 (off 85’)
This was the worst game we have seen from Roman, and he will want to quickly erase it from his memory. Torres was just awful in the first half, and really struggled with the spacing, pace, and movement of the Montreal attack. He did get things mostly patched up after the break, but by then a ton of damage had been done and he was lucky to still be on the field.
A weak clearance in the 3rd minute saw Torres annoyed with the surface, and he wasn’t the only Sounder to be mystified by the concrete pitch. In the 6th, matched 1v1 with Piatti, I was impressed with Roman’s agility, staying glued to the elusive Impact star. Unfortunately, after this everything went downhill for the Sounder CB. In the 14th Torres was blatantly ball watching as Mancosu ran unmarked in behind him. A minute later he went through Bernardello very high up the pitch, both being out of position and committing an unnecessary foul. Roman was lucky to get a foot on a 16th minute cross as again Mancosu got behind him.
It got worse, with Torres being easily beat on a through ball in the 17th for the opening goal before completely losing Bernadello in the 32nd. Luckily, that shot was headed towards Frei. Multiple times Roman was in the Seattle offensive half chasing Montreal players and getting caught way out of position. A forgettable first half was punctuated by a completely unnecessary and possibly suspension-worthy kick out in the 37th minute on Ambroise Oyongo.
In the second half Torres was improved, stepping forward strongly to win possession in the 47th and 56th and holding his position much better in the back. He was subbed out in the 85th for eventual goal scorer Bruin and will likely want to (like his 61st minute shot) punt the memory of this game out of the stadium and leave it there.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 5.5 (off 59’)
The Goose had a very solid outing in his second run as a right back. Faced with the tall task of containing Piatti, I thought Gustav did an excellent job holding his own 1v1, however in doing so he was often forced to give Piatti too much space, which allowed the Montreal player to drive their offense via incisive passing.
Early on Svensson denied service to Piatti, a strategy that would have been nice to continue. But after the turf forced him to misjudge a ball and Piatti got in behind him, Goose moved to a more defensive posture that wasn’t so high on the right. He continued to hold his own and I was repeatedly impressed with his composure in the box. On multiple occasions when forced 1v1 against Mancosu or Piatti in his own penalty area it was stellar defensive tenacity from the Swede that repeatedly forced them back. Calm, with his arms down while staying big and moving his feet, Goose was very strong and should be an example to others. Perhaps worried about defensive duties, Goose was too late to support Lodeiro up the wing in the 51st and when he did eventually move forward, merely ran himself out of the play which helped contribute to a break that Montreal scored on. Quicker decision making is needed here and the hesitation cost his team dearly.
Gustav only had one cross but it was a good one, hitting Dempsey on the head inside the box in the 58th. He continues to make good decisions and possession was better this week. He had a reasonable 77% completion rate and a key pass and while Svensson isn’t a dynamic attacker, he makes very smart choices when ranging forward. Against Montreal he could supplement his defensive positioning with some controlled possession and width on the right.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.4
Cristian and the rest of the central defense have some work to do to get back to their late-2016 defensive prowess. But there is no questioning Roldan’s heart. Once again, it was this tireless player’s heroics that spurred a comeback, and it’s a positive trend that he influences games late.
Like his teammates, Roldan struggled early. A great example happened in the 4th minute, when Cristian ignored a wide open and easy pass to Marshall to instead attempt to dribble past a defender deep in the Seattle half. He lost possession in the middle of the field and Montreal was not only immediately on goal, but Marshall was unable to help. Multiple times in the first half Cristian was too high up the pitch, and in the 15th and 17th not only were both he and Alonso high chasing the ball but they were square to each other, allowing an incisive pass to split them and immediately attack the goal. Marshall exacerbated by also being high and Montreal scored. Late in the first half Roldan had a miserable giveaway before being beaten by Piatti in a sequence he will want to forget.
Roldan was also doing good stuff in the first half, leading the team in tackles as well as noticing Torres out of position and quickly covering a middle run in the 4th minute or chipping in a few over the top balls to his friend Jordan. A 21st minute recovery killed an attack and a few minutes later he was pressing forward, continuing a run all the way into the box and finding Nico for a strong chance. This run is intriguing as this 4th man run vertical up the middle is nearly impossible to mark and we have the players in front of him to find the right pass. Of course, the most remembered moment was his best, a play in the 94th minute that saw Roldan range all the way wide to receive a pass, juke a player to make space, and then find a wonderful cross into a dangerous area for the equalizer.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.3
Alonso again struggled in the first half, at times being quite out of position, but he closed it down in the second half and was the fulcrum for a long period of Seattle dominance. His struggles may still be due to the short offseason and injury that limited his work with the team.
In the 10th minute Ozzie was completely lost on the right side, and the communication from Svensson, Alonso, and Torres looked particularly bad. Five minutes later Alonso completely missed a mark running directly down the middle of the field; luckily so did Montreal. As I mentioned, when Montreal scored in the 17th, part of the reason was Ozzie was too high and wide marking some random space, allowing a giant gap down the middle. A single pass removed Alonso, Roldan, and Marshall from the defense, and the guys behind were unable to pick up the slack. In the 37th Alonso was slow to react to a midfield run into the box.
The second half was much improved and we started to see Alonso exert his influence on the game. Ozzie continually attacked the open space in the middle off the dribble, showing off his usual strong possession and control and aggressively taking the space before laying off passes. This forced Montreal to react towards him, opening areas for Seattle to maneuver. It was no surprise to see that Alonso had 15 more touches than anyone else on the field and as usual his 94% completion rate was stellar. I think staying more compact early in games will help the central defense immensely and look for that to be a large adjustment this weekend.
Harry Shipp – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.7 (Off 72’)
Shipp slotted into the starting lineup for the first time as a Sounder and put in a great shift. He was active, creative, and showed plenty of pace and endurance which were two issues brought up in the offseason. While a very different player than Alvaro Fernandez who he replaced in the starting lineup, I thought Shipp worked better with the front four, and his movement and willingness to attack off the ball was impressive.
Harry started off the first half strong, and his pressing ability won possession multiple times in the attacking third in the first five minutes. It was at the 5-minute mark when Shipp showed off tremendous tactical intelligence, reading the attack perfectly and sliding all the way from left wing to right, collecting a ball inside the box from Lodeiro. This eviscerated the Montreal defense and opened both the great near post cross that Morris nearly finished as well as a cutback pass. Shipp repeated this movement multiple times and each time it created a dangerous opportunity. In the 20th he took a shot that was just wide, and while there were other options, I liked seeing a midfielder unafraid to be goal direct. In the 29th Harry dove directly at goal and combined with Dempsey before getting kicked in the chest by Laurent Ciman. He found Morris on the play for a hard-earned shot that was unfortunately wide.
There was much to like with Shipp’s offensive output but more surprisingly was how effective he and Jones were in shutting down the left. A lot of the success defensively on that side was due to Shipp’s hard work of playing both directions, and while Jones wasn’t released as often as last week, Montreal had zero major attacks down their side of the defense. Add to that consistent spark and creation of the most chances for Seattle, and Shipp was overall excellent. This two-way play was a question, and at least through one game Harry both held his own on the defensive end and chipped in some dynamic attacking support, helping earn his first MOTM award from me.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.9
I debated long and hard about a lower grade for Nico against Montreal, but in the end the amount of opportunities he created outweighed his myriad of mistakes. The stats helped back up this decision, and his three tackles, 78% completion rate, three key passes, and shot on goal were enough to offset his turnovers that were the worst part of his night.
Nico started off with a poor pass towards Dempsey in the 4th but a minute later showed just how good he is by exhibiting sublime patience to wait for Shipp to get open before putting an inch-perfect through ball that deserved more. Lodeiro was very active early in defense, but he didn’t help on the 17th minute goal sequence and that ended up hurting Seattle.
Even after two unforced turnovers dribbling into trouble in the 34, 35th minutes it was Nico again putting Morris through from a deep position in the 37th that ended with a shot off the post. Lodeiro’s biggest problem was holding the ball too long, and when attempting to dribble or find passes he lost possession more than usual. It was one such time in the 51st that, without support, Nico had a bad giveaway that jumpstarted the Montreal break for their second goal. He must eliminate these errors and realize that if he’s on an island he can’t lose possession backwards towards his own goal. That is twice in two weeks.
Nico made up for his struggles with a well-placed PK goal, solid free kick service, and his usual 2-3 passes a game that if finished well are assists. I think he is struggling with the lack of offseason and is slow starting to this MLS campaign, but that just shows how high the bar is for him when he’s still creating multiple goal-scoring situations every game while struggling.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 6.2
Dempsey had a quieter game against Montreal, but still managed to lead the team in shots while creating space for others and continually helping his team all over the field.
In the 5th minute Shipp run, there is a completely unmarked Clint Dempsey striding into the box as Morris pulled two defenders with him. Shipp made a great pass to Jordan, but in hindsight the unmarked Dempsey directly via an angled cutback pass is a high conversion play as well. Clint is so good at finding these spaces, especially via understanding game flow and how the players move. So far this year, he has been in the right place for a conversion quite a few times, and I think as the season continues he will be even more dangerous as the ball starts finding him. In the 7th minute Dempsey helped the beleaguered defense clear a ball, but he was too slow to find Morris in the 9th minute, missing putting the striker cleanly in on goal.
In the 29th minute Clint beat two defenders with a beautiful dink pass to the streaking Shipp that almost resulted in a goal for Morris and should have resulted in a red card for defender Ciman. In the 33rd minute Dempsey shouldered around a defender and got a snap header from a Svensson cross, but was unable to trouble keeper Evan Bush with his placement. There were some dispossessions and miscommunications, but I was again impressed with Dempsey’s willingness to play defense when necessary, at one time showing up at right back.
Clint looks to be near back to normal, even scoring a disputed (and ultimately waived off) goal in the 90th on an impressive half volley. He was still going strong in the 94th minute and there appears to be little concern as far as endurance two games into the season.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.5
Morris was again tremendous in this game, continually ripping apart the Montreal defense like a referee’s notebook. Unfortunately, he left his scoring boots in Seattle and just couldn’t seem to finish several great opportunities he created with tremendous movement.
So far this year Morris is diving near post often, and in the 5th minute Shipp picked him out, only to see his shot miss over. On the play, Jordan took both defenders with him, opening the entire box to a cutback pass or any defensive miscue. Jordan’s movement is truly special, and even when he’s not getting the ball he is terrorizing back lines. In the 11th he blew by a futile Duvall and won a free kick as well as Ciman’s first yellow card. Nine minutes later he was released over the top and recycled possession into Shipp for an attack. Another ten minutes would pass before Jordan was perfectly staying onside but again missing the goal on what looked to be the equalizer. Morris wasn’t done, putting another late first half ball off the outside of the post after again finding space.
The second half was quieter for Morris as the Montreal defense stepped back to limit his over the top range, but he still managed to get a near assist due to a debatable handball. Like his buddy Roldan, Morris refused to give up on the game, and while he whiffed on the header, his shoulder contributed hugely to the play that saw Seattle level in the 94th. With the quality chances Jordan is getting he’s likely to start scoring in bunches soon.
Oniel Fisher – 7 | Community – 6.8 (on 59’)
Fisher subbed in and immediately fouled Piatti. Message sent? There weren’t a lot of defensive requirements put on Oniel, but the one time he was caught upfield (73’) he showed great recovery speed to reel in Piatti and stop a counter.
Fisher was very involved going forward, constantly overlapping and keeping great width on the right. His crossing was good, and more importantly he dribbles with pace and his head up. This was clear as he beat Ciman and earned a vital PK out of nearly nothing in the 82nd minute, jumpstarting the comeback. Six minutes later Fisher earned a corner out of sheer will, supporting the attack and forcing Montreal back. This was a good debut for a Sounder who has had an up-and-down career. He will need to show defensive capabilities to play right back, but he looked strong going forward.
Henry Wingo – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 72’)
Wingo played a bit more than last game and was relatively active while on the field. He was a tidy 8/8 passing and it was his tremendous curling pass to pick out Roldan late that kicked off the tying goal sequence. I like Wingo a lot as this sub; he brings energy and two-way ability as well as some direct play that is a great switch from the more possession-minded players ahead of him.
Will Bruin – 7 | Community – 7.0 (MOTM) (on 85’)
Bruin didn’t do much, but he didn’t have to. Asked to come in late and give a spark, he did just that, posting up high and laying off multiple passes as a target forward. His ability to pick up and redirect the ball from long service is impressive, and his first touch was a flick to get Morris in on goal. Will was too slow with the ball on his foot in the 88th in the box, but he made up for it with his reaction time in the 94th. With everyone else watching, it was Bruin who reached the loose ball first and scored, giving Seattle its first point of the season.
Jair Marrufo – 5 | Community – 5.5
There was a lot of good refereeing in this game, but Marrufo just missed too many of the big calls. His positioning was often perfect, which helped call off hand ball claims in the 4th and give advantage to run-of-play fouls.
I thought the yellow for Ciman on the first break by Morris was correct, but I am confused why there wasn’t a second yellow in the 29th when Ciman kicked Shipp in the chest. That is a yellow card, and I hate the idea that the position on the field or whether that player was already cautioned should affect calls. Another call he missed was in the 37th, where Torres looks to both be shouldered in the face as well as to deliberately kick Oyongo. There must be a card there, and I think Roman was lucky to still be in the game after that.
Marrufo was generally good in the 20 or so other fouls called, although Montreal was fouling so much more than Seattle I would have been fine with a persistent infringement card. After seeing no advantage in the 39th he brought the ball back for a free kick in a very stellar call. Mancosu earned his yellow card with two cynical fouls on Alonso in a row. He got the PK spot on, even though watching live I thought it was soft. The last two issues were the handball which is a fine call but likely wasn’t the right one, and the 3rd Ciman yellow cardable offense on the Fisher PK when Marrufo still refused to find the red colored card. Three minutes for stoppage is low for that second half, and allowing Piatti to repeatedly kick away was annoying, but the big issues with Marrufo were his mishandling of the big plays. You just can’t let a guy have three yellows, miss a blatant kick out, and miss on a goal scoring play late.
MONTREAL IMPACT MOTM:
There is understandably not a lot of debate here, as Ignacio Piatti had a very strong game against the Sounders. He comes away with over 94 percent of the votes for the best player in an Impact uniform last weekend.
There was a ton of good stuff in this game, and if the Sounders limit these blatant mistakes they are going to be in good shape. A lot of what I saw on the rewatch was again rusty things where if Seattle clean it up they can really improve. I look forward to seeing what this team can do in a home game. There is nothing better than opening day on my birthday against the Red Bulls.