This game was a microcosm of the entire 2017 season for me. Sure, we got a point against Orlando, but their equalizer on the very last touch of the game was completely disheartening. The Sounders play very well in spurts, but they’re prone to some disturbing lacks of concentration – and it seems all the breaks go against them. A cleaner finish at any time in the first 90 minutes could have finished off the game, but instead Seattle bumbled around and failed to hang onto another lead. Some of the coaches’ changes should be analyzed, but Sounders players also need to figure out how to capitalize on opportunities earlier and put the game away. This team creates chances, but the failure to finish them puts too much pressure on the defense.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.6
Seattle is hemorrhaging very winnable points, and it starts at the back. Stefan is making good decisions working with a fluid back line, and he comes up with big saves, but the team doesn’t seem comfortable in defense. The last 20 minutes of the game was Seattle just trying to absorb pressure (spoiler: it didn’t work). I would like to see more leadership from Frei, by demanding better from players who are capable of better.
Frei made two great saves, one in each half. In the 5th minute it was Carlos Rivas through 1v1 against the Seattle keeper and he sprawled perfectly, deflecting the far post shot with his trailing leg into the air before catching in. In the 61st again it was Rivas, this time getting through and putting a deflected shot off the chest of Frei, who got big and prevented this chance from 4 yards out. Aside from these big plays I noted 52nd and 92nd minute catches, each in traffic. The latter play ended with a foul from Will Johnson, but the first culminated with a perfect throw long to release Lodeiro on the break. The only negatives I noted were Stefan’s distribution choices, as a couple went to no one or out of bounds. He was particularly off when attempting to connect with Torres on simple passes, which is mystifying. These mistakes were minor, and Frei made enough big saves to deserve a shutout. Two people in a wall was curious in minute 94, and Seattle’s defense as a whole should be better prepared for a keeper to advance late and change numbers in the box.
Nouhou Tolo – 6 | Community – 6.0
A positive aspect to the Sounders’ struggles this year is Nouhou’s arrival. Now past his first start for Seattle, I think it’s safe to say Nouhou is more than just an S2 emergency guy. He handled himself well, showing both a very high upside and already MLS-level talent for the position. He doesn’t yet make the polished attacking runs like Jones, but from what I’ve seen, Nouhou is ready for the full Sounders team and that bodes well for our left back position. He completed 87% of his passes, didn’t force things going forward, and made good decisions throughout.
Nouhou was matched up with recent DP Matias Perez Garcia, who has been playing well. This was a big test for the youngster and I thought he managed well against a solid veteran. In the 5th minute Nouhou was there to help with Rivas who had burst through – his recovery speed helped force the Orlando player into a more predictable save for Frei. Nouhou is already a fan favorite with his flamboyant play, however that’s a double-edged sword. After a questionable 8th minute backheel attempt prompted a Marshall slide to rescue possession Nouhou absolutely trucked a defender, surging forward and playing though the contact before crossing into the box. This youthful enthusiasm was very apparent in the first half, and playing next to the coaches helped him stay home and cover for the big winger hole in front of him. Nouhou showed great touch on a long pass to Bruin in the 16th that displayed vision and control.
The second half was much quieter for the young Cameroonian, although he threw out some fancy 48th minute stepovers. By the 62nd minute Nouhou was playing the entire wing on his own, and showed no issues with doing so. Jones was inserted late to ostensibly solidify the left side, but these two didn’t interact as well as I’d hoped. The big takeaway for me is that Nouhou is ready right now to play MLS minutes if needed.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.7
Chad was exactly what you have come to expect in his Sounders tenure. He just makes everything compact, takes strong angles and controls the ball. Chad ended with 90% passing, 5 clearances, 3 interceptions, 2 blocked shots, 3/4 long balls and looked nearly flawless. There were zero flashy plays, and his passes weren’t particularly devastating from the back, but he was a perfect calm influence on the young man to his left.
The communication with Torres to his right was more of an adventure, and in the 5th minute Marshall and Torres miscommunicated on who would mark Rivas. This led to a perfect through ball from Kaka in the midfield that put the Orlando striker in on goal. Luckily Frei was there, and Roman/Chad cleaned up their communication for most of the rest of the game.
Nouhou tried a backheel drop pass that Marshall saved from being a mess in the 8th and Chad learned from the early Orlando through ball to quickly cut this passing lane down for the rest of the game. The second half was positional excellence, highlighted by shutting down a Kaka shot in the 54th and generally stopping every opponent chance before it came to fruition. Marshall did everything he needed to do to earn a shutout.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community – 5.2
Torres has struggled this year, and this game was no different. He seems to mirror other team members’ odd lapses in concentration and is someone who is clearly underperforming immense talent. He had many defensive actions and his 80% passing included a strong 3/4 on long balls, something that indicates he struggled more with connecting to the people around him than any offensive impetus.
In the first minute Roman conceded an unnecessary corner instead of clearing the ball wide and a few minutes later he lost Rivas on a near goal attempt. The rest of the first half was solid defending and relatively clean pushing the ball forward. An emotional player like Torres could have used a boost from finishing a wide-open corner kick in the 32nd, but somehow he megged himself and missed from 3 yards out.
The second half was very bend-but-don’t-break for Torres. He missed a simple pass from Frei coming out of the break and these two didn’t connect well all match. In the 61st Roman was beat by Rivas and only Frei stopped the Orlando attacker from scoring after he slid inside (goal side) of Torres.
Will Johnson had a 93rd minute header attempt after eluding Roman, and then there was the foul and subsequent score for the away team. I understand Torres roaming outside to help, but when beat he takes a tactical foul in a really advantageous position for Orlando. That entire play was a mess, exhibiting the Seattle penchant for shutting off at bad moments, but it also illustrated some of Roman’s biggest issues this year. He doesn’t know where his teammates are. And normally it’s ok to tactically foul when badly beat in the back far from goal, but Roman had tremendous coverage and Orlando had negligible attackers forward. A good defender is aware of both things and may realize that a foul is the worst option. It wasn’t much of a pull and the hearty dive from Orlando was a bit of gamesmanship that ultimately stole 2 points.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.5
Asked to be a right back again, Roldan has quietly shown that he’s a very competent defender. Seattle leaned on him as an outlet for the offense, and he touched the ball the second most times of anyone on the field. What’s interesting is this completely evened out the attack, as Seattle used both left and right equally. Cristian made great decisions going forward and has a very underrated cross from the right wing that consistently put the ball into dangerous positions all night.
One thing that Roldan does that others should do is look for Morris quickly from deep positions. He did exactly that in the 2nd minute, putting a beautiful pass from the right back to the center of the box and perfectly onto the foot of the Sounder winger. Jordan fumbled the touch, but this pass is so damaging to a team trying to collapse on Nico that I really hope others were taking notes. Roldan found Morris again in the 17th with similarly disappointing results.
On the right side Cristian was strong, stuffing Kaka while pushing into the space behind the Brazilian winger to penalize Orlando for his lack of defensive responsibility. Roldan repeatedly overlapped into space, with a 21st minute run ending in a lost ball and poke to the eye but having better results on a 35th minute cross into the box. Roldan’s service in the second half was again stellar, just missing Dempsey on the back post in the 54th and a 61st minute cross was perfect. Roldan smartly realized an Alonso blunder in the 88th, and slid all the way across to the middle to cover for him. Unfortunately, in the 93rd minute Cristian took a bad angle defensively, overcommitted and was beaten down the line. This was a perfect time to take a “professional” foul, but instead Roldan just ran himself completely out of the play. The foul occurred later down the field and the rest is sad history. This tiny lapse in right back defensive play ended up being huge, and he must do better.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.5
Alonso paired with Svensson to lock down most of the middle, and he was consistent and clean all game. He touched the ball way more than anyone else in the game and combined that with many defensive actions plugging up the middle. The most important thing that Ozzie did also led to his most spectacular stat: Alonso continually switched the ball from side to side, launching long passes to Nouhou or Roldan and opening space to work. He went an astounding 19/19 in long balls, which are compiled as passes of 25 yards or more. That’s incredible, and shows how tremendously Ozzie was at switching the point of attack and releasing pressure, all without ever losing possession.
Alonso started a little rough, missing a 3rd minute pass forward and allowing Kaka too much space in the 5th, which was converted to a through ball that almost scored. After these mistakes, though, the defensive midfielders tightened up the spacing in the center and the passing lanes were cut off. As mentioned, Alonso was a switching master, continually looking to spray the ball to a wide position and attack Orlando from a different angle. Ozzie took a lot of bumps for his efforts, getting knocked around in a choppy game.
With Seattle scoring an early goal the game was condensed at times, and Alonso did his best to break out into support of attacks when able, but wasn’t a factor offensively. He gave up an unnecessary corner after a slip in the 51st and slid and missed badly in minute 88 that could have been dangerous if not for Roldan’s quick thinking. Otherwise, Alonso did Alonso stuff and was a rock in the middle.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.2
Goose had a quiet game, and with Roldan taking on more of an offensive role from the wide back space, Svensson was quick to rotate over to support the back four when necessary. He led the team in tackles and was a defensive stalwart but along with Alonso failed to support the attack with any consistency.
Svensson showed a lot of range in this match, and early on he was over to support Nouhou. Goose got in on the switching game, finding the left back in the 9th minute en route to a tidy 6/7 night of his own. Gustav had very few offensive moments, but his defense was stellar all evening and led to some quick pushes forward. In the 16th he found a steal in midfield and transitioned it ahead immediately, which he repeated in the 31st. Another time a header from the midfield created a shot in the attack via some direct play.
For the most part Goose floated around and stuffed Kaka, shutting him down 1v1 with regularity. He rarely lost the ball but also failed to put his forward passes into very dangerous places. He was a defense-first midfielder without much flair or desire to join the attack.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 4.7 (off 87’)
So, the good news: Morris gets into great spots throughout the game and creates goal dangerous events for teammates. He has an absolutely game-changing pace and can rip apart defenses with smartly timed runs. The bad news is that he repeatedly fails to capitalize on these moments of brilliance and is constantly let down by bad touch or decision making. It’s time to hold a player accountable for lack of production, especially considering the opportunities he is both getting and creating.
Morris will (and should) be remembered for a few huge plays, none of which changed the scoreboard. In the 2nd minute Roldan put a perfect pass from the right wing onto his foot, needing only a trap and finish for an amazing fast start – Morris fumbled it away. In the 56th minute Jordan picked up a loose ball, found a “give and go” with Nico, linked up with Dempsey, and then surged with fantastic pace through the backline unmarked to a 1v1 with the keeper. This burst speed was awesome and ripped apart the defense, however his touch went too long, and Bendik was out to save. These were control issues that he must do better on. A more polished striker finishes both of those easily; Morris didn’t even get off a shot. In the 59th Jordan turned creator, turning the corner into the box from the right wing and showing he can physically demolish most defenders, eventually finding Bruin and a cast of other Sounders for a bizarre moment that ultimately ended with Bendik in control.
Morris had other good moments, turning in traffic and controlling the ball, or just missing teammates with other pushes forward, and those matter too. Perhaps this is part of the problem? Morris has minimal touches per game (~35) yet still manages to create 3 huge chances which is awesome, but it’s frustrating seeing these opportunities squandered every game.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 5.0 (off 91’)
Clint took a lot of flak after the game and looking at stats, that was off. He completed a ton of passes (89% completion), put 3 of 4 shots on goal, moved around and created for others well. But something started to filter out as an overall issue – Clint was a half-step slow in this game. That doesn’t come through in stats, but it might be why people wanted to drop L bombs or question effort. It looked to me like Dempsey was just a little off which prevented him from dominating, but at the same time had a very solid game.
Clint had a couple of times when the ball got caught in the spokes or he had no one to pass to, and he lost possession near the 18 twice because options just weren’t there. A third time (in the 24th) Morris’ run was so late that Clint was forced to hold the ball, but this time he earned a free kick. In the 31st he was unable to separate from a defender, although he again won a set piece. A 38th minute run was dangerous and only thwarted by strong defense from Jonathan Spector.
In the second half Dempsey had a 15-minute stretch where he was everywhere, starting with a 54th minute back post run where he was pulled down from a header chance (where was last week’s ref?) Two minutes later he pulled defenders central and laid off a pass to a streaking Morris through on goal. A few minutes later it was Morris’ turn to create, and after a nifty Bruin backheel Dempsey was in perfect position to double the lead only to be thwarted by some Bendik heroics. Finally, in the 62nd minute Dempsey got off a good shot from the edge of the area that I’ve seen him make; Bendik got down to his left to stop it. This sequence of plays shows that Clint can still do amazing things on the field, but there were other times when he was just too slow to get to a ball or unable to create space because he was a step off.
When Dempsey can’t do the amazing things we have seen in the past, he is much less effective. It looked to me that Dempsey kept almost doing great things, but it’s telling that like Morris, his consistent almosts haven’t ended with the ball in the back of the net. I hope that the slow first step isn’t indicative of a downturn in play.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.3
Nico isn’t producing superstar headlines like last season, and unlocking his effectiveness this year is a job for the coaching staff. Against Orlando Nico was again beat to hell (7 official fouls suffered!) and the strategy of fouling him before he can beat you seems still accepted by referees. Throughout the beating Lodeiro managed 3 key passes and 4 shots and it’s hard to blame a guy who keeps giving others opportunities they squander.
In the 18th minute Nico made a nice looping cross to Bruin that allowed the striker a chance; after a mistake on defense the Sounder striker finished well. Unfortunately, other times Nico put people in good spots but the home team was unable to close the game out. Bruin was barely offside after a 30th minute pass. A perfect corner in the 32nd somehow went through Torres. Another pass to Bruin in a great spot in the 46th ended with a spectacular sliding tackle from the defense. In the 56th Nico fought through a tackle to get the ball forward and he put Dempsey through in the 62nd. None of these chances amounted to goals though, and at times Lodeiro again went down a little easy, likely leading to his lack of calls. Lodeiro missed a few big opportunities as well, with a 53rd minute through ball to Morris agonizingly short of putting Jordan unmarked into the box with Dempsey making a beautiful square run. He missed three guys in the box in the 67th with a lousy cross and when Clint snuck over the top in minute 81 Lodeiro’s pass went to Bendik instead.
Nico is playing OK; however, we know he is capable of so much more. One thing he needs to remember when struggling for results is that a big part of Seattle’s success last season was his defensive work rate, and that has been severely lacking in the last few matches.
Will Bruin – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.8 (MOTM) (off 76’)
Bruin is one of the few players with a very consistent role on the team, and he goes out and fills his duties diligently. He needs to fill space between the center backs, play some holdup, find others, and finish shots when taken. He is doing a majority of this admirably, and I was excited to see 2 key passes to go with his goal. Bruin is still making redundant runs with both Dempsey and Morris and this is resulting in a low number of shots, but the work rate and tactical movements are great.
Bruin doesn’t touch the ball a lot, but when given the opportunity he takes advantage. Starting an inside out run in the 18th from deep, it’s important to appreciate the angle he takes. When the defender misses the ball (helped by a slick nudge) the ball is still inside the width of the 18, as well as far enough away from the keeper to have space because of this angle. Turning to goal suddenly Will’s options are numerous, and he cleanly finished near post. Compare this run with some that Morris has made, and the difference in position is striking – Morris gets the ball outside the box and too deep, forcing himself into a cross-only option.
Bruin wasn’t great with holdup play, but he actively tried. A tad too eager after the goal, Will tried a speculative 30 yard shot into the Hawks Nest, with Roldan wide open next to him. In the 37th minute he picked up a Svensson pass and flicked to put Dempsey in a 1v1 situation, and only a Spector slide tackle blocked another shot earned from good movement. Bruin added a spectacular back heel perfectly into the stride of Dempsey in the 59th that had goal of the week all over it until Bendik happened.
Will was good in this game and did everything asked of him, however he is limited when not getting strong service into the box. His runs are a work in progress in melding with the complex movements of Nico and Dempsey, but when given a chance to change the score, he does, and that’s enough to win MOTM.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 76’)
I have no idea the reasoning behind this sub. Jones isn’t known for being a particularly defensive winger (to put it mildly) and there were other options like Kovar and Shipp who could likely be more of a cohesive wing player while not sacrificing much offense. I don’t know what he was supposed to bring, and the only note is a bad pass that was recovered and put him through late, resulting in his angled drop stolen. Jones added nothing but didn’t actively harm anything.
Henry Wingo – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 87’)
Wingo came in and replaced Morris, which made sense in an energy role. He hustled well on the game-defining play in minute 94, desperately attempting to support the hole Roldan left, but just chased his mark instead of cutting off the angle to goal. He touched the ball once, didn’t complete his only pass effort, and didn’t look like a calming, defensive presence to hold onto a point.
Tony Alfaro – 5 | Community – 4.4 (on 91’)
I don’t know where he was supposed to play. Bringing a veteran like Scott in late as an extra center back made sense because he was an aerial dominant player who had the experience to stay in position. Tony looked lost. He came in and sat in between Torres and Marshall, which makes the Torres foul even more unexplainable, but had no trackable actions.
Ismael Elfath – 6 | Community – 5.4
This wasn’t a well refereed game, but was about what you’d expect from an average MLS center. He called a lot of fouls (15 each) and did a decent job keeping control. His positioning was good and I liked that he used the ARs multiple times.
We saw more evidence that teams are getting away with the “hackaNico” defense; 16 suffered in 2 games is completely ridiculous. Elfath allowed Orlando, and specifically Higuita, to commit a ton of tactical fouls. Higuita was credited with 4, and at least one other was ignored for advantage; this should be a yellow for persistent. Both Rivas and Higuita had very hard fouls that could have been yellow. I thought Kaka deserved a yellow for a cynical pullback foul in the 16th that was far worse than Torres’ similar call late. Dempsey deserved his card after getting nowhere near the ball.
I don’t mind the no-call on Dempsey being pulled back in the 54th but man it would be nice to be on the end of a few more of those calls. Morris had multiple occasions where he fought though much harder contact than the one that earned Torres a card.
ORLANDO CITY MOTM:
Kaká, who of course pinged the head off of Scott Sutter for OCSC’s only goal, finished just ahead of Joe Bendik. They each took about a third of the vote.
This is a pivotal game coming up in Portland. Seattle has a chance to gain some momentum with a solid road result against a main rival, something that would really help the second half of the season outlook and my personal mood.