After a ton of games where I thought the Seattle Sounders outplayed the scoreline, Real Salt Lake came to the Northwest this weekend and Seattle... outplayed the scoreline. The important thing is that it ended as a 1-0 win for the home team, and while there was plenty of regret for missed opportunities, ugly wins are wins too. At this point a much-needed infusion of three points is potentially huge for a team that has failed to get justified results all season. There were a ton of positives to take from a game that saw a new lineup produce better results.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.9
Stefan earned his third shutout on the year and it was largely due to a fantastic defensive job in front of him. Combined with a near first-choice backline, Frei controlled the tempo for much of the game, cleanly integrating his feet into the possession for the Sounders, and he made good decisions throughout.
I had zero notes for Stef in the first half. A desert of chances for RSL gave Frei a great view of a dominant Sounders attack repeatedly knocking on the door at the far end of the field. The second half was a bit different, but Frei was up to all challenges. In the 60th he was forced to his right, pushing aside a long Kyle Beckerman shot for a corner. On the ensuing set piece, Stefan assertively punched away the cross. He was asked to make a number of positional saves, and he covered his posts effectively. The highlight of the night for Frei came on a great save in the 73rd, stopping a Joao Plata shot. He again won a duel with Plata in the 87th, winning a long cross with a catch over the imposing RSL giant.
RSL threatened more in the second half. As noted above, Frei was up for any test while also being a cohesive piece of the possession game. I loved his 50th-minute long ball clearance to Shipp from a tame save, a perfect pass that was on the foot of Dempsey three touches later in the opponents’ goalbox. Stefan and Brad had one miscommunication they will want to clean up, but otherwise this was a good performance by the entire back seven.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 6.3
Jones was rightly criticized for his lack of effort and senseless red card a few games back, and he returned with his most mature performance of the season. Although he wasn’t found constantly racing forward to lead every attack, a lot of the Sounders’ success was based on controlling the game, and Jones definitely had a different attitude against RSL that fed into this. He stayed home more on defense, while smartly finding methods to support the left in spurts. Joevin was very clean on the ball, and his 90 percent passing mark was indicative of a player making good decisions all afternoon.
Jones was the less advanced fullback for much of the first half, but his decision making in joining the attack was near perfect. In the 14th he showed a great pass back across goal after a corner. In the 28th Jones just missed an assist on a perfectly executed overlap and low pass that only needed a slight touch to score.
Joevin was a defense-first fullback on Saturday, and when he wasn’t in position to cut down angles he was closing down Omar Holness in the 33rd or shutting down Jefferson Savarino 1v1 in the 62nd. This was perfectly combined with smart forays forward. I was impressed by the mature elements of Jones’ performance Saturday.
Chad Marshall – 8 | Community – 6.9
One hundred percent. That is the passing completion percentage from Chad Marshall against RSL. Normally if you see this number on the stat sheet you’re looking at a late sub who had three passes, not a guy who played 90 minutes, touched the ball 73 times and had the third-most passes on the team (not to mention at least 7 with his head). This was a strong, consistent, smart outing from Chad who combined seamlessly with Gustav Svensson and exhibited near-perfect positioning for most of the night.
In the 20th his over-the-top ball to Morris was spot on (6/6 long balls), and in the same minute he stepped forward to stop any hope of a counter attack. In the 37th Chad was again rock solid 1v1, preventing any holdup play and disrupting a chance for RSL to get out of their defensive half. The communication from the two central defenders was beautiful, highlighted in the 82nd minute by a perfect switch off as they seamlessly moved across the field in unison. When tasked with the introduction of Yura Movsisyan late, Marshall shut him down completely in the 84th and 90th, once with a tackle and the second with a towering header win.
Chad lost the ball in the sun in the 67th which allowed Savarino a shot, but otherwise he was calm, consistent, and perfect in possession. With all the distribution options around him, Marshall was a perfect conduit for transitioning the ball while locking down his defensive responsibilities.
Gustav Svensson – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 6.6
You might be surprised at this choice for MOTM, but the Goose was loose against RSL. Svensson absolutely crushed my notes, and the stats backed him up: 90 percent passing, 4 interceptions, 2 tackles, a clearance, 2 shots and an assist. All of that while looking like he has played with Marshall for years, with the central defenders moving in near-perfect unison.
Early on Svensson showed off his ability to skip a line via longball, and his 3rd minute pass to Evans bypassed the midfield congestion and opened the right back wonderfully into space. This pass was repeated again in the 27th to an angled run from Morris. With Marshall occupying multiple players on set pieces, Svensson adeptly used the space created to be dangerous on dead balls all afternoon. In the 35th minute we saw an aggressive run from Gustav on a corner kick and he not only won a header but forced a great save from RSL keeper Nick Rimando. In the 42nd minute he wasn’t to be denied, touching the ball 4 times on another corner attempt: putting in a blocked shot, then a pass, and sticking with the play to fight for a composed drop off to Shipp that earned Gustav’s second assist of the season.
Goose wasn’t just an offensive force, he continually made great decisions defensively. In the 9th minute he stepped up smartly to prevent any turn and counter attack from RSL. He repeated this often, preventing any quick passes by closing down space immediately. In the 65th Svensson was across to help Evans in the box and a nifty slide tackle won possession vs. Movsisyan in the 79th. I was greatly surprised to see startlingly fast acceleration in the 86th minute as Gustav closed down Plata to ensure a Sounders goal kick. This effort at such a late point in the game was exceptional. Svensson showed a good mix of positional defense and offensive passing precision en route to a MOTM performance.
Brad Evans – 7 | Community – 6.7 (off 66’)
The difference in tactical positioning between Evans and every other right back this year was incredible. In the stats he had a very solid 88 percent passing, a few crosses and defensive actions, but the change in the Sounders’ tactical shape was phenomenal. He picked his points to attack smartly and was a general on the field, consistently waving people into position and communicating with great results.
In the 3rd minute, sensing an opportunity, Brad charged forward on the right wing to latch onto a skilled over the top pass from Svensson. When matched up 1v1 with defender Justin Schmidt, Evans went right at him on the dribble, earning a dangerous free kick after thoroughly beating the former UW Husky defender. There were so many intelligent decisions Evans made that filled up my notes, such as in the 9th minute perfect reading of Shipp’s outside-in run, taking the wide space created immediately, throwing the RSL backline into chaos. After finding Shipp ten minutes later in space and tucking inside as an option, Brad was very patient in the 30th. He refused to give into the allure of a blind chunked-in cross from the wing, instead recycling the ball into a more dangerous position. In the second half Evans looked a bit tired, but this only resulted in a positional change to remain more defensive. Even so, Brad still read the defensive shape and put a quality pass forward in the 53rd that Morris turned into a PK opportunity. A few minutes before subbing he was back forcing Plata into a predictable shot for Frei to save.
Brad Evans brings so much more than defensive shape (which was strong) or offensive ability (also strong). He infused a calmness to a position that has been sporadic. He tilted the field in the Sounders favor with his positioning and communication with others. He was opportunistic going forward. His long throw is yet another weapon the Sounders can utilize on offense, and his distribution from the back relieves the burden on the defense. I am really enthused about what a healthy, fit Evans can do for the potential of this team.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.7
Alonso had a quiet day, but a quiet day from him still leads the team in passes with a 90 percent success rate. As usual he was calm in possession, and with the offense clicking there wasn’t a large demand for Alonso to push forward aggressively. Ozzie was tasked with keeping the ball and filtering it around, something he does better than anyone in the league.
I noted a few more poor giveaways than usual against RSL. It started in the 6th minute, missing Nico 3 yards away. In the 8th, 17th, and 45th he also made inexplicable passing errors, and there was some definite rust showing from his day off in the last match. A wicked looking two-footed tackle in the 19th was a scary moment, but he escaped without reprimand. None of these errors harmed the Sounders, and as usual his interaction with partner Cristian Roldan was near perfect.
A few moments of lax marking allowed Savarino space in the 68’, but Alonso was outstanding in covering for a lagging right side. Starting with his 1v1 defense in the 74th, followed by a great move in the midfield to create space and hold the ball in the 78th, Alonso finished up a dominant 10-minute spell shielding the ball out against Plata to earn a goal kick in the 82nd.
It’s nice that Ozzie can have a relatively quiet day where he isn’t tasked with saving the defense or being an offensive dynamo and the team can still win.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)
Roldan continues to be the most consistent Sounder and is so impressive in his continual improvement. With midfield partner Alonso hanging back, Roldan was tasked with being the more offensive of the pair and was quite effective as such. His 88 percent passing was more vertical than Ozzie’s, including a sparkling 5/7 on long balls, many over the top to Morris to press the RSL backline.
Cristian was immediately over to support the wing after a 2nd minute lost possession, and was up to the task of banging with a combination of Sunny and Kyle Beckerman in the center of the park. He destroyed Joao Plata in the 7th defensively, and wore Sunny as a cape up the field 4 minutes later, beating the player and fending off his feeble attempts to get possession. He kicked into offensive gear next, putting Morris into the box in the 26th before a beautiful left-footed, over-the-top pass again found Morris in the 37th.
The second half was more of the same, first owning Plata in the 47th before a perfect shoulder-to-shoulder tackle in the 59th introduced Savarino to the future of US soccer. In the 62nd he quickly anticipated pressure from Alonso, and covered behind him to win the ball and turn up field. Roldan is making such quick decisions while also controlling the pace of the game through the middle. His ability to look forward is potentially a dangerous weapon in the midfield.
Harrison Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 63’)
Shipp was tremendous in this game, and used his soccer intelligence to find holes in the RSL defense to exploit all evening. He didn’t touch the ball a lot, but Harry was able to impress his presence into the game via off-ball runs and vision. Each touch was dangerous, and there was a definite “glue” feeling about his work off ball.
In minute six, Shipp was cutting diagonally to the center on a splendid run and just missed getting on the end of a Dempsey pass. Harry linked up flawlessly with Evans on multiple occasions, such as in the 12th minute. On this play, Shipp had drifted in off the right wing to support the shape. Upon receiving a pass and realizing Evans had taken that open space, Shipp fired off a great switching pass to put Brad into the attack with a head of steam. In minute 19 Harry crossed a ball to Nico on the near post. This effort just missed, but when Shipp got the ball back he was able to get a shot off that was also close.
Harry had an open look at a volley off a corner kick and put it over in the 26th, but he didn’t hang his head. When presented with another shot opportunity in the 42nd on a similar play, he slammed his shot home. Good things happen when you put the ball on frame, and this took a fortuitous bounce before nestling into the net behind Rimando. This goal was so huge for a team that has played so rarely with a lead, especially so because it was prior to halftime and allowed the team to rest and prepare for the second half comfortably.
When Nico and Dempsey split wide, Harry immediately camped in zone 14, and when he got an Alonso pass in the 49th he put Dempsey in 1v1 with Rimando. The second half was a bit quieter for Shipp and he subbed in the 63rd, although I didn’t see any real drop in performance to warrant it. Harry looked much better directly attacking goal and being more “greedy”.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 81’)
If a few guys had finished passes, Clint likely has a higher rating here, but this was an uncharacteristically sloppy game from Deuce. For a guy with great touch, he seemed to fumble the ball a lot and at times his passing was erratic at best, leading to a “just OK” 81 percent completion rate.
There were a lot of sloppy passes and miscontrols that aren’t usually a part of his game, and some were pretty gross. A 31st minute shot into Hawks nest was flanked by a 26th minute loss of possession and a 47th minute horrible pass to RSL in the attack. When Shipp put him in perfectly in the 50th minute, Clint just missed a normal control and was forced to recycle the ball instead of finding a wide-open Lodeiro for a tap-in goal. A 61st-minute error and 63rd-minute bad pass was just crummy execution from Deuce.
Even though he was struggling with some simple stuff, Clint was still making positive things happen as well. A 6th-minute over-the-top ball to Shipp was pretty. In the 26th minute he cleared out expertly for Morris, but again the pass was blocked. A minute later Deuce somehow missed a tap-in far post from a near-perfect Jones cross, just unable to reach a ball that trickled wide of goal. In the 33rd minute Dempsey dropped a perfect pass over the top to Nico who attempted a difficult volley first time. This was a precursor to two passes that got Morris in on goal. One was in the 39th minute that Morris took wide, and then a 40th-minute pass, a simply sublime one-touch chip from Clint, put Morris in on goal with a defender draped all over him. The touch on this second pass was special, and quite in contrast to his control issues that plagued him all afternoon.
In the 55th minute Dempsey missed a PK. It wasn’t taken too well, but did require a nice save from Rimando. This was a killer because the miss looked to take a lot of the air out of the Sounders, who have a bit of a fragile psyche. Clint subbed out of an up-and-down performance after destroying 2 players with a fancy dribble and earning a yellow card on Beckerman.
Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.6
Lodeiro started this season slow but has improved each week and looked really good against RSL. He remains the motor of the team and his work rate is unparalleled in the league. This game was a lesson in constructive movement, as Nico motored around the field finding pockets of space. The shrewd movement of Shipp and Evans similarly filled the gaps he vacated.
In the 4th minute Lodeiro was about an inch away from a goal on a direct free kick, saved by Rimando but indicative of a dangerous day from set pieces. In the 13th he found Morris’ head for a redirected shot that just missed before hustling back to defend the wing. His two-way play continued, combining defensive work rate with pinpoint passing through the entire half. In the 22nd he combined with Shipp to open up Evans on the wing, and his pass in the 27th put Jones into the box unmarked. Joevin’s cross just missed being converted. He closed out the half with a half-volley attempt wide from a nice Dempsey pass and a number of dangerous corner deliveries, one of which ended in the net.
In the second half Nico was the most consistent attacker, putting passes into good spots and regularly testing the RSL back line with penetrating balls that on another day lead to goals. His 53rd minute pass to Morris was one such pass, that frankly deserved better after putting the striker into the box unmarked. There were some attempts that went awry, resulting in a 74 percent passing clip but he also had a whopping five key passes. If he had done better with a 37th-minute wide open shot this game might have been a blowout.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.5
This was one of Morris’ best outings on the year, and yet he struggled mightily inside the box. This just shows there is a ton of room for improvement, and that perhaps Jordan has turned the corner on some of the injury issues that have plagued him for the last month or two. His 42 touches were an increase, and while only 2 shots on goal were recorded, Jordan was active and chipped in 3 key passes for a very encouraging performance.
Morris was active throughout the first half, with a 13th-minute flick header forcing a Rimando save on the back post. Moments later the RSL keeper was again called to action, coming far off his line to prevent Jordan from reaching an overhead pass. Showing some quick feet in the box, Morris beat 3 on the dribble and laid a pass back for a Shipp shot in the 19th. One part of Jordan’s game that looked immensely better was his off-ball running, and in the 26th he illustrated his great improvement. He still ran inside out, but this time the run originated centrally, and Morris received the ball all afternoon in good positions inside the width of the 18. He was very impressive finding Lodeiro in the 34th and 37th minutes, each time setting up the Uruguayan star for a quality shot attempt. In the 39th he should have earned a PK with a straight vertical run to get on the end of a Dempsey chip; he was pulled down while attempting to shoot. There was no such miscall in the 53rd, and his acceleration simply beat defender Aaron Maund to the ball to earn a PK.
Jordan was much, much better in this game and hopefully his struggles were indeed injury related. He did still show off poor decision making and his energy level greatly dropped after half, creating increasing bad choices as his body tired. I would love for Jordan to be even more goal hungry, even selfish, and just take some shots when presented with the opportunity instead of holding up looking for the perfect pass. At times, he is still running out of dangerous spots to his left and limiting his angles to finish, which is severely restricting his effectiveness.
Alvaro Fernandez – 6 | Community – 5.4 (on 63’)
For the first time in a long time Flaco got brought into a situation that he could excel in. Making a name for himself as a defensive sub, Fernandez came on and did just that. In the 64th he showed quick recovery defense and a willingness to track back. In the 73rd he again hustled into position to help a lagging Delem. Flaco was very active as RSL pushed numbers forward, and even managed to slip in behind once to retrieve a throughball from Roldan, but his cutback pass didn’t find any takers. A smart slide tackle in the 93rd kept the ball in Seattle possession and prevented any last-minute attack.
Jordy Delem – 3 | Community – 4.1 (on 66’)
I was pretty confused by this sub, and unfortunately this confusion turned almost immediately to dread. Delem struggled mightily, and the away team was quick to pounce on his indecision. He was lost position-wise, and repeatedly needed Alonso, Fernandez, and Svensson to rescue him after being caught non-goalside. In the 72nd he was caught way up field, and a minute later Plata skinned him. In the 78th he made a terrible pass from the back that somehow Flaco managed to control and keep. In the 80th Delem failed to adequately shield the ball out of bounds, instead committing a turnover in his own goal box. 2 minutes later he kicked a ball that was going out already into touch, gifting RSL with possession. The worst (and luckily final) bad decision from Jordy was a completely horrendous touch pass back inside the 18 which was a terrible decision and nearly led to an equalizing goal. Utterly awful outing that nearly undid all the good Evans did prior.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 81’)
Bruin came on in the unfamiliar position of being asked to hold the ball and kill clock, something that he isn’t completely adept at. He did show decent holdup play in the 84th minute but often was caught making the same runs as Morris and was ultimately ineffective as much more than a space-taker. He was a tidy 5/5 and worked hard. I hope his elbow injury doesn’t set him back too long.
Kevin Stott – 4 | Community – 4.8
Stott did a fairly good job of getting the big calls right, such as the PK for Seattle, but I thought he missed a lot of small things and when RSL resorted to hacking the Seattle midfield, he didn’t adjust. Instead, he called well over twice as many fouls on the visitors without giving anyone a card for persistent infringement.
I thought Schmidt deserved yellow for a 3rd minute cynical pulldown of Evans, and this was yet the first example of Stott failing to give appropriate punishment. Multiple times a card was warranted but didn’t get shown. I feel he didn’t book Schmidt due to how early in the game it was, just as I think he failed to give Sunny a persistent infringement card after his FIFTH foul called because he was already on a yellow. In the 70th Sunny was called for a foul on Nico, then in the same minute he fouled Roldan but advantage was called and a minute later he fouled Nico again with no call. This series illustrated how the advantage seemingly erased the foul from Stott’s mind, somehow allowing this obvious persistent infringement to go unbooked. The same goes for Beckerman, who somehow managed to stay on the field even after deliberately kicking out on Dempsey in the 16th and consistently getting “lucky” with advantage being played and no cards being issued, only being booked in the 75th after Dempsey pantsed him. This was the same guy who had received a warning in the 5th minute! A terrible hard foul on Bruin by Maund was definitely deserving of a caution, but this 91st-minute foul was apparently too late to bother with cards.
Stott did ignore a Rusnak dive at midfield that almost always earns a card and shrugged off cries for an RSL PK when Roldan hulked up and dominated Savarino in the box. The Sounders had at least one Svensson foul ignored in the 79th but they definitely were more greatly affected by the lack of consistent calls.
This match was another no-brainer for voters, who picked RSL ‘keeper Nick Rimando in a 92 percent landslide.
The ability shown against RSL to dominate a home game and get the first goal has to be in appearance again this weekend. The Portland Timbers are deadly on the counter and Seattle has shown a huge weakness defending this tactic. I think having Jones be a bit more defensive as well as the play of the central four defenders will be crucial. I am attending my father’s funeral instead of this game – please inspire our boys to a hugely important win.