I’m not as worried about the slow start to the season as many are, but again the Sounders dug too big of a hole and fell 1-2 in Vancouver. Seattle has now gone down two goals to their opponent in three of their four road games this season, and that is a huge concern.
The chances were there for Seattle Sounders to put this one away throughout a dominant first 30 minutes, but the Sounders haven’t figured out how to get the ball in the net consistently, forcing them often to play from behind. Especially on the road, the Sounders aren’t getting that fortuitous call or lucky bounce. That is often enough to change the complexion of the game, because seemingly every small mistake is being ruthlessly punished by opponents.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.2
Again, this week Stefan did well keeping possession in the back, working particularly well with Gustav Svensson, and that contributed to long stretches of control of the game for Seattle. Frei had about 7 fewer long passes this game than he averaged earlier in the season, and was calm each time on the ball. The first half he had almost no action and the second was highlighted by free kick catches in the 51st and 60th minutes. Vancouver was held to 3 shots on goal.
Frei’s stats are really wonky right now. He has given up almost as many goals (8) as he has been credited with saves on the season (13). That means officially he has only had 21 shots against him in six games, which suggests the defense is doing a fantastic job — and they are. Somehow though, the shots that are taken are going in at a hugely successful rate. (To put this in perspective, Dempsey leads the team with 20 shots, so if he scored at the rate players are scoring against us, he should have 8 goals already this season.) What all this boils down to is teams are getting 1-2 quality attempts a game, and finishing them all. This was in evidence last Friday, as Fredy Montero had 3 shots, 2 of which were on target, and both scored. Frei had no chance on either. I don’t blame Frei for the way the team is playing in the back, but they must limit these huge chances somehow, and he will need to be part of that solution.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 6.0
For the second week in a row, Jones struggled to add much to the game, although he was consistently in positions to do so. He isn’t varying his offensive decision-making, and this creates a very one-dimensional player going forward. This is odd to me (we have all seen him be so dynamic and pop up in different positions), but against Vancouver he repeatedly got to the same area, sent in the same cross, with the same results. Joevin had a whopping 7 failed crosses, 6 of which went to the same position in the penalty area. In fact he failed to have a successful pass within 25 yards of the goal, including twice within the box, which is a huge reason Seattle struggled to create good chances.
Jones started out normally, overlapping at will and finding great space in the 3rd minute (cross to Ousted.) If he puts that pass on the ground he has Morris open for a better option. One of his best offensive plays came from a long 4th minute shot that took a deflection and troubled the Vancouver keeper; it was nice to see this changeup from Joevin. Other than that, his decision making and passing in the final third was poor, and he was frustrated into bad decisions.
Defensively Jones was just OK. He stopped most attacks from his side but tended to fall asleep on the back post, including in the 28th which allowed Christian Bolaños a wide-open header. When Fredy Montero was scoring his first goal, it was Jones who failed to close down Cristian Techera, allowing the Whitecaps winger plenty of time and space to pick a perfect cross. Joevin needs to trust his recovery speed and close out stronger on the wing, because it’s been multiple times this year that Seattle has been penalized by weak pressure on wide players.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.2
Chad had a very boring game. The first half was a complete defensive shut-down of Vancouver, as they were perfectly willing to cede possession and attempt to counter quickly. Chad and Goose calmly mopped up any pressure early, and Marshall led the team with 8 clearances. He was across early and often to clean up behind teammates, and vice-versa. Montero almost found space in the 34th when Marshall took a step backwards, but Fredy went wide with his shot.
The second half saw more of the attack skew towards Vancouver, but again there were few great moments for the home team. In the 65th minute Vancouver scored against the run of play, and while a lot of blame goes to his CB partner, I thought Marshall did poorly on this play. With Bolaños making a direct run behind Alonso and splitting the Sounders defense, Marshall ignored the runner to ball-watch, essentially putting Gustav 1v2. This veteran defender will likely be upset with his positioning there. Chad got forward some, and his header to the back post in the 32nd was great, something Kendall Waston (with the help of a push) would punish Marshall with for the ‘Caps second goal.
Chad overall did OK defending, but it’s telling that when he gets beat in any fashion, the other team almost always seems to score.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 5.7
Another game, another goal that Goose is mostly culpable for. That must stop, but other than the goal I thought Svensson had a good outing.
In the 6th minute there was very strong movement from Gustav, and this was imperative to give Roldan a better passing angle under pressure. This sort of thing goes unnoticed, but sliding over like he did makes the defensive mids’ jobs so much easier. He stepped up and stole a pass sparking a counter in the 13th, and 10 minutes later was across to head the ball away from danger in the box. Svensson showed off strong 1v1 defense in the 62nd, stonewalling Alphonso Davies near the box.
Goose deserves blame for the goal in the 65th, misjudging a great cross that most natural CB’s likely head away easily. His first step on the play is forward toward the run of Bolanos and this put him in a bad spot to attempt to step back and head the cross away. This run has repeatedly victimized the Sounders and needs to be the subject of a video review asap. It’s clear that Svensson is prone to misjudging these crosses at times, but here he was stuck in between two players and picked the wrong one.
I like what Svensson is bringing with his feet to the game, and an 86th minute ball bypassing the midfield to Dempsey’s feet was perfect – it led to a shot off the post and earned the second key pass from a defender. It’s hard to rate a guy who played very well for most of a game, but his one huge error cost his team a goal. From my view the first goal was more than just Gustav, with upwards of four players responsible. As a central defender, he simply can’t keep being the main culprit for a team that is constantly playing from behind.
Oniel Fisher – 6 | Community – 5.3 (off 78’)
This was Fisher’s best start of the year, and while not great, he was a very adequate right back against Vancouver and looked much more comfortable on his wing. The timing isn’t always there and his decision-making going forward is a work in progress, but he was much improved this week, showing strong instincts. He also struggled crossing, but his one successful cross (out of 4) created a big chance for Dempsey. Oniel also showed a willingness to mix up his service.
In the 2nd minute Fisher was well upfield, but his cross was blocked. In the 6th and 7th minutes he again got forward but lost the plot after finding himself in good position and subsequently lost the ball as well. Many times in the rest of the game he turned and backed out of opportunities to attack, and while I like keeping possession he should add more direct play from his wing in the future. One great play he made was in minute 51, perfectly controlling a long Alonso switch through the corners before finding Clint with a diagonal dropping pass. Only an incredible Ousted save prevented Fisher from earning an assist; he would have to settle for a key pass.
Fisher was generally strong on defense. Other than in the 29th allowing Techera too much space to cross the ball (foreshadowing a later VAN goal), Oniel was consistently where he needed to be: supporting the center and adding width for distribution. His 1v1 defense on Techera in the 40th minute was perfect, and he earned a foul for his troubles. In the 57th he again showed his skills wide, dispossessing Davies and turning the ball forward to counter. This was a decent improvement, and now he needs to keep building into a more complete player.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.6 (MOTM)
I thought Ozzie was ok this week, keeping the center compact and running his left defensive midfield channel with authority. Alonso found it difficult to maneuver through a packed midfield yet again, and “only” completed 84% of his passes. He sat deep, and on occasion could burst forward on the dribble or switch the ball to an open wing.
Alonso was a massive menace to Vancouver, constantly in passing lanes, picking up errant passes, and shutting down attacks. He was very physical this game, and perhaps somewhat lucky not to have earned a card on multiple occasions. Ozzie adequately interchanged with Roldan, and was a steady presence that recycled possession to the front four repeatedly. I think he is susceptible to losing runners directly from the central midfield at goal, and it was this exact run that helped the Whitecaps score in the 65th. Our communication on passing off the vertical run needs to improve.
Alonso’s best play was a 51st minute perfect pass wide to Fisher, opening the right back into space that pulled the entire Vancouver defense into disarray and ended with a Dempsey shot pushed just wide. He also had a late volley struck well, but right to Ousted. This was a very workmanlike effort from Alonso, but as we know he is capable of much more.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.4
Alonso and Roldan were again very in tune this game, with Cristian earning the rare higher passing completion rate (88%). Almost all the Vancouver attacks were shunted to wide areas, and both goals came from the width and not down the middle. These two defensive mids were very strong protecting the backline, and they made it extremely difficult for the Whitecaps to penetrate the central areas.
Roldan didn’t put a foot wrong all game, consistently breaking up midfield plays, pushing smart passes to teammates, and supporting the attack more than partner Alonso. In the 9th minute he found his friend Morris with space, allowing the striker to get into the box with possession. Most of the game, however, Roldan was just a piece of the possession, funneling the ball from back to front. Seattle controlled the middle for long stretches, and Cristian was there any time Vancouver looked to break, such as when Alonso slipped in minute 45.
Unfortunately, both defensive mids were rather boring, unable to affect the attack other than push balls wide to Jones and onward to Waston or Ousted. It wasn’t until he moved to right back late that we saw Roldan’s attacking chops used, and he looked strong going forward. In the 88th he drove to the end line and crossed back to the 6, which was a nice pass and a smart new angle I wish others had used earlier. A minute later it was his header that kept the action alive in the box on a play that ended with a Seattle goal. Roldan really has a nose for the ball in the opponents 6-yard box, and his athleticism often earn him surprising touches in amidst the trees. Cristian has the skills to be more involved in the attack, and I would love to see him be more active going forward from the center, not just on the wing.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 5.3 (off 68’)
Another quiet game from Shipp that showed more smart runs and movement with little results. He does all the little things needed, including supporting a very advanced Jones on defense, but isn’t having success translating his game to goals for Seattle. Touching the ball half as often as Nico, Shipp had a tidy 80% completion rate and kicked in a key pass for his troubles.
Shipp was strongest in the first half, just missing putting Morris through in the 3rd minute followed immediately by a no-look pass perfectly setting up Joevin down the wing. A minute later he found Nico unmarked in the box, but as would become the norm, Seattle had no answers for Vancouver’s central defenders on any of these plays. Shipp kept his wing better this game, offering width options and space for others in the middle, but it was also his 61st minute through ball from the middle after a lovely turn in traffic that put Morris over the top free and earned Shipp a key pass.
Harry is still struggling to find that right mix of movement, passing, and connection with his teammates. He recovers well for Jones who is apt to get caught high up the field, but I didn’t see these two combine after the first half. He’s not doing anything wrong per se, but there should be more production from Shipp, whether it’s direct play, off ball vertical runs, or finding attacking passes.
Clint Dempsey – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.4
Clint had a very odd game. Re-watching I was often frustrated with his movement off the ball and failure to connect with teammates early. He finished with 80% completion on his passes but just didn’t seem to be clicking with others throughout, notably Nico. On the other hand, he almost single-handedly was the Sounders offense, getting off 7 shots, hitting the woodwork twice, forcing a great save on another shot, and earning a key pass. On another day, the away team wins 3-nil and Clint is celebrating a hattrick.
Clint dropped more defensively this game than recently, and at times that muddled up the middle. When he did have the ball in the attacking third he was by far the most goal-dangerous Sounder, nearly chipping Ousted from 35 yards out in the 8th minute. After this great try Dempsey disappeared though, and didn’t show up in my notes until after halftime, completely failing to add to the Seattle cause. He really needs to stay involved, and it took halftime to get Clint back in business.
The second half was a very strong display of attacking movement from Dempsey. It was Clint who got on the end of a great 51st minute Fisher pass and one-timed far post, only to be denied by Ousted. Two minutes later he found Lodeiro in acres of space, leading to a shot. Six minutes later Deuce narrowly missed Morris with a backside chipped through ball. These two players are so close to being on the same page but really aren’t yet this year. In the 86th it was again Clint off the post, this time with a thundering left-footed shot from outside the box. He ended the game nearly saving a point, with a 95th minute redirect which was saved off the line by Waston.
Clint can be frustrating to watch at times, muddling up free-flowing attacks and making some poor decisions that lose possession in bad spots. He also was directly in the middle of seven or so of the best chances the Sounders had all night. I hope some of the “post karma” he has been saving up gets returned soon, because right now that is the only thing stopping him from leading the league in goals.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 5.9
Again, Nico filled my book with both good and bad marks, but he was generally improved from his outings so far this year. Stats-wise he was fantastic: 88% completion on 64 passes is amazing, and his misses were nearly all from crossing (3/14). He had 3 key passes, 2 shots, and generally good numbers in possession. Unfortunately, he also lost the ball off the dribble a lot, his service on set pieces is very inconsistent, and he is just missing on a few plays that are the difference between great chances and not.
Lodeiro is nowhere near to being on the same page as Morris, failing to put the striker into good areas at all this game. His 7th minute through ball was too wide and ended as a turnover. On multiple occasions Nico was not even in the same book, let alone on the same page as his teammates. He failed to work well with Fisher again this week, and was slow to close with the right back on Techera in the 29th. Other times it appeared his decision-making was wrong, whether it was a 42nd minute dribble to the corner and cross blindly to Ousted, or three minutes later passing up a wide-open shot by turning the ball over, forcing a pass through.
Otherwise Nico was very strong both ways, supporting Alonso in the 1st and making a 4th minute vertical run to earn a corner. In the 53rd he was opened into massive space by Dempsey, only to have his 2 jukes/shot combo saved by Ousted near post. I really liked his through ball to Jones in the 78th and this was part of a great sequence where these two players isolated the left side and consistently created chances. In the 89th a pure hustle play from Lodeiro resulted in a near post cross that for once had a runner waiting – and Seattle finally scored.
I think (hope?) that Seattle’s struggles are mainly things that can be fixed with practice. There is too much talent to not score more, and the Sounders are getting good chances this season. Nico really must get on the same page as Morris, though; his complete inability to connect with Jordan is concerning. The set piece service had 2 clunkers this week to go with multiple very good serves and a few decent ones. I would love to see more consistency in service so teammates could be in the right places to capitalize as opponents seem able to do (VAN scored off their first corner, Seattle went 0/9). All said, this was a much-improved performance, and one for Lodeiro to build upon.
Jordan Morris – 4 | Community – 4.9
We all hoped that THIS was the game where Morris broke out. Last year it was the last half of the first 10 games when he really started to figure things out, and I remain optimistic that this year will be the same. He was not very good against Vancouver. Jordan is a center forward who didn’t have a pass or shot from within the width of the goal box. Every single action was pushed wide, and as a central forward this simply can’t happen (compare with Montero, who had 80% in between the goal box width). Morris simply must learn to stay more central. Zero shots, 0/2 crossing and a dismal game from our young striker really showed a frustrated, ineffective player.
Jordan also isn’t getting into good spots for others to find, repeatedly ignoring near post runs that as Bruin showed can be very effective. In the 9th minute he got put into the box by a nice over the top pass from Roldan, but then drove away from goal. This ruined his angle and his pass was subsequently blocked. In the 31st he was forced left, and his toothless attack was fortunate to earn a corner.
I was repeatedly frustrated with his runs, and a 36th minute play illustrated this perfectly. With Oniel charging up the right wing in possession, Morris starts out too wide. Instead of splitting the center backs and being more central to begin with, he is already outside the penalty area. By not checking first away from the ball, his simple diagonal run not only takes him even further away from goal but encroaches on Fisher’s space on the wing. It started too wide, went wider, and when Fisher tried to get the ball to Morris it was stolen; even a completion puts Jordan harmlessly near the corner flag. This is a teachable moment I hope the staff caught.
Morris also needs to be more confident of his own abilities; there were multiple times he did get space (61st is a good example) but failed to take on a CB 1v1. He turned backwards, in a position he’s expected to dominate and attack. Morris found no space in the middle as a striker and so you might think he would have looked better when moved to the wing. Unfortunately, no, he was not any more successful as a wide player after Bruin subbed in. His crossing isn’t particularly noteworthy, and while diving in on his right foot from the wide left might work, he failed to find much space all game.
Will Bruin – 7 | Community – 6.8 (on 68’)
Again, Bruin was called on to enter a game down and create a goal, and again he did just that. In the 70th we saw standard hold-up play, with his back to the goal. He made the most of his 6 touches, and was successful on both of his passes. Bruin was very active without the ball, even showing up in the 76th minute in his own 18 while defending a Whitecaps attack. Hopefully Morris was paying attention on Bruin’s 89th minute goal. This was perfect execution from a striker who drifts AWAY from goal first, creating just enough separation from a defender before diving to the now open near post, and finishing clean.
Bruin hasn’t looked fantastic away from the ball and isn’t getting many touches even when on the field for long stretches. He is doing nearly everything right in these late game scrums, finding space as good finishers do, and making no mistakes when given the opportunity.
Henry Wingo – 4 | Community – 5.0 (on 78’)
This was an opportunity to inject pace and direct play into the game and Wingo managed that in the 89th with a turn and cross back from the end line. Unfortunately, he was a huge reason the team was chasing two goals by this point and not just one, completely losing Fredy Montero in the 80th minute. He really added nothing.
Kevin Stott – 8 | Community – 5.0
Stott had a strong performance last Friday, showing the ability to control a game without punishing either team unduly. It helped that both teams were willing to play soccer and not whatever it is that the SKC’s and San Jose’s of the league do. Advantage was played when needed, and more than anything Stott was a background figure, not imposed into the game state other than when distinctly necessary.
My biggest issues with Stott were minor: I think he could have given an extra card or two. Ozzie Alonso was very lucky not to see yellow for a hard foul in the 38th or merely persistent infringement (5 fouls). A similar hard kick out by Matias Laba on Roldan in the 47th deserved a caution as well. The other debatable call in the game was Montero’s kick into Roldan in the 53rd, a foul that was given as a yellow card but could easily have been red with a different referee or game state.
The rest of the calls and cards given were reasonable, although I would have liked the whistle to be quicker upon fouls given. Multiple times the alert came late, and at least one card was given off camera as play had already continued. Also, the handling of the end of each half was not optimal in my opinion. The first half ended with Seattle preparing to take a corner kick and the game ended after a blatant handball right in front of Stott. I know it is the referee’s authority and his prerogative when to end the game but most center refs would have allowed each set piece to be completed before whistling play dead.
Is this even a contest? Fredy Montero (as much as we hate to see him do it against the Sounders) did exactly what Fredy Montero does in MLS: scored goals.
Seattle has played well at some point in every game this season, yet has failed to put together a whole game of consistent play. Especially on the road that is a recipe for draws and losses. I think this team should be improving as players adjust, but it’s natural to be a bit concerned with the lack of cohesion from multiple areas in the formation. Traveling to LA to play has never been easy for Seattle, but the last time we were there great things happened, and I see no reason that result can’t be duplicated this week.