It’s OK to play badly sometimes. Rough games happen. For whatever reason, this Seattle Sounders team is either much worse than everyone thought, or they are vastly underperforming. I tend to think it’s the latter, but Saturday night was a pretty big vote for the former. In the 1-4 loss to the Chicago Fire away, Seattle showed a remarkably fragile psyche, different from the resilient team that could battle back from deficits earlier in the season. In the end the combination of poor refereeing, bad luck, and failure to take advantage of chances did in a Seattle team that collapsed at the end. The scoreline was nowhere near indicative of the way the team played in the first 70 minutes, but the game ended with a team that showed little fight or desire, something that must change as soon as possible.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 5.8
The four goals put past Frei were not indicative of any fault of Stefan, but when you give up that many in a game, some responsibility must fall on the man in the net. Defense starts at the keeper, and he is the guy to organize and communicate to help his back line.
Frei did nothing wrong this week from a physical goalkeeping level. He started off in the 7th minute saving a 1v1 excellently after Alfaro had a horrible back pass attempt stolen. Frei was in position to catch a header in the 16th and in the 24th saved a PK. In the 39th Stefan had a nice play to come out and save near the top of the box, but spilled it back into danger, and will want to hold onto the ball next time.
Ultimately it was the shots he didn’t have much chance to save — a second PK chance given, a shielded shot from 6 yards out, and a few tap-ins late due to horrible defensive failures — that resulted in 4 goals against. I think Frei saves goal number 3 if Alfaro doesn’t deflect it past him. Either way, the defense did a lousy job of helping him out and there were no heroics (or they were waved off by the ref) that Frei could perform to help his team more.
Joevin Jones – 2 | Community – 3.6 (Red Card 89’)
This was a wretched performance from Jones. He is being asked to shoulder way too much of the creativity load for this team. It’s great how effective he can be going up the left wing, and his assist numbers show how dominant he can be as a wide threat. However, this game was embarrassing in both his play and effort, both of which sucked. After averaging nearly 100 touches per game this season, Jones ended with a paltry (for him) 65, and clearly showed little motivation to be involved.
Joevin started off effectively, with a great run in the 3rd minute getting forward and crossing after beating Drew Conner. Two minutes later he ate Conner again, winning a free kick on the edge of the Chicago penalty area.
After that everything went downhill. In the 7th minute, with Alfaro beat, Jones stopped hustling back. This would be an unfortunate recurring theme on the evening. After stabbing in on defense in the 8th, again Jones walked passively behind the play. More walking in the 14th after being beat, this time holding his hand up hopefully for offside. In the 23rd minute with a comfortable 6 defenders back, Jones had a terrible pass stolen and immediately put into the box where Alfaro conceded a PK. Joevin closed out the half with two more lazy back passes that became dangerous turnovers.
The second half showed a ridiculous lack of effort from Jones. He marked zero people in the 59th, which forced the mids over to do his defensive work while he stood watching Chicago score. On the 73rd minute goal he failed to mark anyone, allowing Solignac to walk past him and finish. A few minutes later Joevin was again slow to recover, this time quitting completely as Chicago ran up field and scored a 4th. In the 87th and 89th he picked up two yellows and will miss Wednesday’s game, a fitting end for a guy who showed no interest in being on the field.
I hoped Jones would have a great game, returning to his old team with something to prove, and instead he was awful.
Tony Alfaro – 3 | Community – 4.0
The left side of the defense was a disaster, and Alfaro struggled all night as well. Part of his issue was the lack of support from Jones and Alonso, but other than a nice slide tackle early, Tony had nothing in the positive column. He lacks good positioning with respect to his CB partner, and his decision making is forcing him into high risk situations consistently. He tends to mark spaces instead of people, and this was really telling against Chicago.
In minute 7 Tony had a horrible attempt to pass the ball back to Frei, and only a heroic save from the keeper kept the score level. In the 23rd minute he was finally penalized for his constant slide tackling. I personally don’t think it was a PK, but his over-reliance on sliding puts Alfaro in a position to be on the wrong side of referees’ calls. He finished out the half without too many issues.
The second half was a nightmare. Alfaro and Jones failed to combine with any cohesion, and this often led to both marking no one at all. Chicago used this to their advantage in the 59th, passing around their side until both defensive mids were forced over to defend, then bypassing them and scoring. In the 67th Alfaro got away with marking a patch of grass, and on their 73rd-minute goal Chicago again took advantage of Alfaro drifting in between players to score. In the 76th yet another slide tackle miss was punished. While he was on the ground, Chicago scored.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 5.3
Chad Marshall was back, and he was solid as expected. He turned in an exceptional 96 percent passing rate while being part of a combination with Roldan that locked down the right side of defense for most the game. The communication with Alfaro was in question at times, and Marshall was forced to come over to the left and bail out the younger CB on multiple occasions.
Chad was consistently in the right spot, and his positioning was a large deterrent to any attacks through his area. Repeatedly Chicago avoided the Seattle right, instead picking on the weaker left time and time again. Marshall did have a 19th minute miscommunication that allowed David Accam to get in behind for a good chance, and he was very lucky not to be called for a 33rd minute foul on Luis Solignac on the top of the box where his tackle was not on target.
Later in the match Chad missed a slide, which allowed the ball through, but he recovered well. Marshall did his best to help the struggling defense, but there was a distinct lack of communication, and standard procedures such as passing off defensive assignments were bungled all around.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.3
Roldan has been the MVP of the team this year, and he showed no signs of slowing from a new starting position. He still had the third most touches on the team, turning in an 80 percent completion rate while defensively locking down his side all night. He and Marshall combined to allow nothing substantial in the first 70 minutes, all while Cristian was actively part of the offense. His performance shows how much we need consistency from the outside right.
A nice wrinkle to Roldan’s game has been set piece delivery, and he sent in a great free kick in the 6th minute, looking to an open spot far post that Seattle failed to find. Defensively Roldan was again solid as a right defender, consistently both stopping people 1v1 or picking the right times to step forward and deny service. In the 9th and 20th minute he shut down his wing and turned possession into the central midfielders. In minute 28 Roldan was confident in possession, turning the ball inside and finding Dempsey in space – Clint converted to tie the score. In the 39th Cristian smartly pressed Accam, stopping the Chicago star from turning and initiating a break.
Roldan started out the second half eating Accam defensively, and his passes in the 61st (no PK called) and 66th (missed header) both were assist-worthy looks from the advanced right wing. Roldan made a few mistakes on defense but showed how a right back can help balance Seattle’s team shape. He lost Michael de Leeuw for a free header, Accam got behind him once, and a few turnovers saw him in very advanced position unable to recover, but he also had an assist and should have had two more.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.6
Alonso struggled against Chicago. He looked slow, out of position, and not nearly as involved as usual. Some of this can be attributed to a new midfield partner, but he had about 30 fewer touches than usual, and didn’t make his mark on the game at all.
The Fire consistently bypassed the Seattle midfield with long, incisive passes vertically behind Alonso, and he failed to quickly recover. He left his feet in the box against an Accam dribble in the 8th minute and was lucky others helped him on defense. In the 14th minute we saw the interesting sight of Svensson running past Alonso, outsprinting the Cuban. In the 22nd and 41st Alonso was pressing, both times trying speculative long volley attempts, neither coming close. This frustration with the team’s attack led to Ozzie being caught upfield attempting to help too much at times, and Chicago took advantage.
In the 59th minute Alonso failed to track his runner, de Leeuw, who found Accam for the go-ahead goal. On the Chicago 4th goal the home team was permitted to run directly down the middle of the field, right past Alonso who lacked the recovery speed to do anything about it. He was promptly subbed.
I think that Roldan unlocks Alonso’s freedom to roam and Cristian’s ability to cover ground both early and late allows Ozzie to be his best self. In this game Ozzie really missed his midfield partner.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 4.5
While many players struggled, I was yet again impressed with the versatility of Svensson, who was strong in his first start at defensive midfield. He filled up the stat book admirably, with 86 touches, 90 percent passing, a shot on goal, four tackles and three interceptions.
Early on Goose showed an ability to step up and win the ball in the midfield, and he even covered for a slow Alonso in the 14th. Svensson’s passing was above average too, with a penetrating 17th-minute pass forward to the 18 that showed great vision and a vertical desire that’s at times missing. Another pass late in the half opened Roldan into the right wing with tons of space. Svensson seemed to be everywhere, popping up in good spots to support the team both offensively and defensively, and his control with the ball was excellent. The second half was highlighted by great forward pressure in the 48th, forcing keeper Matt Lampson into a horrible clearance right to Lodeiro. In the 55th Svensson made a smart play in the middle to win the ball back and he showed 1v1 defense in the corner in the 59th.
Gustav was too slow to keep pace with Accam and he was forced into a professional foul at one point to make up for his lack of speed. Late in the game Chicago scored right up the middle with neither Alonso nor Svensson able to stop them; otherwise I was really impressed with his showing.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 4.6 (off 71’)
Shipp again did the dirty work and linking play he has come to be known for in Seattle. He played defense, was tidy with the ball (86% percent completion rate) and made a lot of constructive runs. There just wasn’t any creativity to his play and it’s disappointing that a guy who used to be so dynamic has been reduced to decent role player.
One thing that Harry did very well was overload the box, helping give numbers to the Seattle attack. I don’t like when people roll around like they are dying, but Shipp was penalized for not doing so in the 5th minute when he was brutally taken out. This didn’t even earn him a foul, on what looked at the least like an orange card. Harry tried a nifty over-the-top pass in the 13th that missed Morris, but annoyingly turned down similar opportunities to press the action forward later in the half.
It was a smart piece of tactical soccer that saw Shipp move across the field in the 28th, opening the space that Dempsey scored from a moment later, but other similar movement went unrewarded. In the second half Harry had a golden chance to get a secondary assist, but his pass to Clint was just a little off, and a backside run was left wide open and underutilized as a result. This was yet again where Dempsey and Shipp just couldn’t connect, and they should be able to by this point in the year. Harry lost effectiveness as the game went on, likely because he was doing a ton of defensive work, helping cover and trying to support others. I expected much more from Shipp, who looks completely reluctant to be a driving offensive force, instead settling to be an average role player.
Clint Dempsey – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.5 (MOTM) (off 79’)
Dempsey again was a very lone bright spot on offense, turning in a great performance filled with nearly 90 percent passing while dropping in a key pass, a goal, 5 shots as well as most of the best chances for the away side. He had very little help going forward, and at times the team looked lost when he wasn’t driving toward goal.
In minute 4 Clint got wide open on the back post and put a header over the bar. This was something he repeated in the 66th minute – either of which would have been huge for Seattle. He did score the lone Seattle goal, a nice left-footed finish after drifting unmarked into zone 14 and getting a pass. Dempsey wasn’t just scoring, I noted a much more active defensive shift from him, highlighted by 16th- and 47th-minute recoveries that he immediately turned into counterattack opportunities. Clint was by far the most goal-dangerous player all game, and deserved a PK in the 61st after being pulled down in the box. Other times he got the ball in good spots only to find himself 1v5.
Clint was too slow on a throughball in the 10th minute and Jones was called offside, he wasted a set piece and took a questionable 50-yard chip shot, but for much of the second half he was the only driving force of the offense. In a game where many players lost their desire, Clint was still playing hard when he subbed out in the 79th minute.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.4
Nico had a very quiet game after a great start. Early on Seattle was getting SIX players in the box for crosses, something we haven’t seen all year. This was tremendous, and Nico almost profited from this with a deflected shot in the 2nd minute. Unfortunately, this try hit the crossbar, and two minutes later his perfect far post cross was headed over by Dempsey.
Nico still touched the ball as much as usual, and his 82 percent completion rate was decent, but he was only credited with a single key pass to go with two shots, all of which came early. He deserved a second key pass for putting Morris in all alone 1v1 in the 32nd minute as well, but I have almost no other notable actions for Nico, who spent the rest of the game chasing on defense and connecting with short passes that weren’t dangerous.
Lodeiro forced a pass through in the 22nd when Seattle had a 5v5 with Jones on the way, and some of his passing was questionable. His set piece delivery was again consistently short, and against a team who struggled this year defending dead balls I’m very confused why we never went far post to the capable head of Chad Marshall. Nico still ran hard, played both ways, and tried to push the offense forward, but with Dempsey being the lone player willing to attack vertically, his options were few. Lodeiro kept trying to refresh the offensive direction, but without options going forward.
Jordan Morris – 4 | Community – 4.5
I just don’t know any more about Morris. In minute 18 I had a note “where is he” and this was pretty much his theme for the evening. He touched the ball a mere 24 times and repeatedly made poor tactical decisions.
Seattle tried to press Chicago early, but Jordan’s angles allowed easy passing lanes for them to get out of their zone. What’s more he failed to close on Dax McCarty or Bastian Schweinsteiger when the Chicago players dropped deep, allowing them to pick out long passes that bypassed the Seattle midfield. In the 30th Morris scored an offside goal, yet 2 minutes later Dempsey with a head of steam looked up to find 5 defenders and no support from Jordan anywhere. It was even worse for Morris immediately after this, as Lodeiro beat the trap on a perfect through ball that saw Jordan 1v1 with Lampson. He then inexplicably tried a weak layoff to a Chicago defender instead of shooting, and this complete lack of confidence from a striker is shocking. Later in the half I noted multiple times Morris failing to move, just standing and waiting for things to happen instead of being proactive and shuttling the Chicago defense around. This made it near impossible for Seattle to penetrate a defense that could stand still and wait.
The second half started roughly for Morris as well, and again his runs were not smart ones. With Shipp overloading the left wing in the 47th, Jordan never made any space for his teammates. By this I mean Jordan never got inside the width of the 6-yard box, and thus when a cross did come into him, he was so wide that it was difficult to do anything with it. Compare this outside-out run to the one Dempsey makes in the 61st minute, pulling a defender away and then driving to the center-right of the goal that forced an (uncalled) PK. Jordan just isn’t making smart spacing movement like this, and its stunting every attack.
If they aren’t going to sit Morris for his injury concerns, I think he should come off the bench for a game at least, if only to sit next to a coach and have them explain things he isn’t seeing in games or in practice. These are fixable issue, but right now he is playing really poorly and needs a physical and mental break.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 4.7 (on 71’)
Did Will Bruin play? Seven touches, not on the same page as anyone else, and hardly the spark hoped for when down 2-1 as he entered the game.
Alvaro Fernandez – 5 | Community – 4.2 (on 77’)
Given 13 minutes of mop-up duty down 1-4, Fernandez did what he’s good at: defending and connecting. He was perfect in passing, made smart defensive decisions, and in short was completely useless for a team chasing a 3-goal deficit. Maybe with more time his work rate in the middle would have made more room for others (Nico was a bit more effective, but that easily could be score-related) but this was a forgettable outing, like many of his.
Brad Evans – 6 | Community – 4.7 (on 79’)
Brad was not only the best sub, he looked better in the 10 minutes he played than many of the starters. He didn’t touch the ball much (only 6 times) but when he did good things happened. His first touch in the 85th was a positive one toward goal, and he continued this with a surging run forward on the dribble, something completely lacking from any player in the game prior. This immediately probed deep into the middle of the Chicago midfield and pressed their defense, as well as opened the wings. His pass from this play was vertical to a forward, who had runners with him. We need more of that.
In the 87th he again was composed up the middle, took the space given to him, and earned Goose a shot on goal, the midfielders connecting for one of the few times all game. Brad’s cameo was short, but with a key pass and 100% completion he looked potentially like the dynamic addition several of us have been hoping he can be to the team.
Nima Saghafi – 2 | Community – 1.7
Seattle can’t get a break with referees right now, and it’s not surprising to see some of them hang their heads after one bad call or another puts them in crummy game state over and over. This week it was Saghafi, who was downright horrible. Again, an MLS game was subject to refereeing that was broadly inconsistent and missed multiple huge and game-changing calls which forced the teams into complete frustration.
Saghafi set a precedent in the 5th minute, allowing Joao Meira to completely clean out Shipp without so much as calling a foul. Other refs would have shown a straight red, and a yellow was definitely warranted. Allowing that to go unpunished set a weird tone for the game.
The inconsistency was obvious, starting in the 11th minute Dempsey fell after a tackle on him. The play was deemed to be a clean tackle, with contact coming after, so no foul called. In the 12th minute a similar play was again deemed clean, this time with Alonso being cleaned out after a “legal” tackle. This was established as a non-foul, yet suddenly in the 23rd minute this same play (arguably with less contact as well as a lot of dive) from an Alfaro tackle was deemed a PK. BUT WAIT, 5 minutes later ANOTHER tackle that takes out the player after the ball that had even more contact than the Alfaro tackle was back to being a non-call, robbing Morris of a PK earned. If you are keeping track this was not a foul, not a foul, A PK, not a foul, and in the 67th when Dempsey took a Fire guy out after the play it was not a foul. Infuriating.
The referee missed a blatant offside in the 14th on Accam and an obvious foul by Marshall on Solignac in the 33rd (hey look, its our friend Not a Foul!). Kappelhof fouls Dempsey from behind but doesn’t get a deserved yellow, and is returned the favor in the 37th when I thought Clint deserved yellow for a cynical knock. Svensson had a professional foul that’s normally a caution result in only a talking to. Dempsey earned an obvious PK in the 61st that was deliberately ignored. This referee took back a saved PK that shouldn’t have been called in the first place, and allowed Chicago a second chance before not calling 2 equally if not more legitimate PK’s. That’s deplorable.
What can I really say? This guy was awful, in over his head, and unfortunately his calls, while dreadful for both teams over the course of the game, really favored the home team in the GIANT, GAME CHANGING CALLS – specifically PK’s awarded. It must be difficult to keep getting lousy calls that go against your team and continually suck the life out of your efforts, and I don’t begrudge the players their frustrations over this.
Yes, nearly all the ‘Other’ answers are write-ins for Nima Saghafi. David Accam takes this one with just over half the votes.
I realize this team likely feels that it is playing against 12 right now and that’s a legitimate gripe. They need to control what they can control though, and that is going into SKC and earning a positive result. This team was close to taking the lead several times, but quitting in the last 20 minutes was unacceptable. I hope to see a much more focused team on Wednesday, prepare yourself for Vermes-Thugball.