OK. Catch your breath. If you didn’t leave or turn off that game in the 50th minute you saw the greatest comeback in the history of the league. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how amazing it was to witness the 4-3 win against D.C. United on Wednesday. It was such a rollercoaster because the Sounders yet again allowed themselves to get into a huge goal deficit before roaring back to claim a home victory. The first half was as bland and uninspired soccer as we have seen, highlighted by zero attacking flair and an unusually porous defense. It wasn’t that bad, more just very boring play than actively being thrashed, and DC punished Seattle a few times on very incisive counter attacks. The second half (if I say “the second half” I likely mean after 50 minutes) was as upbeat and exciting as any match I can remember, with constant pressure and much offensive momentum. This was an extremely hard match to rate, and while I considered doing separate half numbers, I ended up rating as normal, with an attempt to average out the massively different first 50 and last 40 minutes.
Tyler Miller - 4 | Community - 4.8
Miller played in the second game last year, and he’s seen some action in Open Cup matches, but this was his first appearance at Century Link. He played like a young goalkeeper who needs more work with his positioning and confidence. In a game like this where DC made quick counterattack shots, Miller needed to stay focused and organized in the back, which he didn’t do.
In the 8th minute Miller was tested for the first time and failed to block a cross right in front of the goal. I thought his angle was off and the cross went right through him. This caught Marshall off guard, and DC scored. In the 27th Ian Harkes did well to create a shot, but Miller was not even close to making a save. In the future as he improves his footwork he might get a hand on those. In minute 31 Tyler was caught leaning the wrong way, and he was lucky that a shot went into the side netting. He did save a shot a minute later. There wasn’t a lot of work for the young keeper in the second half, but I thought his positioning in the 50th minute Lloyd Sam goal was a bit suspect, as he was caught flat footed on the 6-yard box and had Marshall forcing the shot to the near post. Miller excelled in the air, catching over multiple players in the 41st and aggressively catching a ball on the edge of his own 18 in the 94th.
The goals that Miller conceded were all preventable by the defenders in front of him, and he must take some of the blame for the organization of said defense. DC put 8 shots on target, and Miller failed to have any impressive saves. To be at the MLS level he will need to improve his positioning/footwork and fix the holes where anything low gets by him. His distribution was just ok.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community - 6.9
Joevin had one of the most up and down games on the team. He had few positive marks in the first half and no negative ones after 50 minutes. He managed two assists but again, showed some questionable defense.
In the 3rd minute the usually clean-passing Jones airmailed a switch to no one. I noted early (11’, 15’) that Joevin wasn’t recovering on defense, in fact walking back behind the play on multiple occasions. An unnecessary outside of the left foot pass was stolen in the 31st and two touches later hit side net off a Deshorn Brown shot. On offense Jones was overlapping with vigor, but chose to chunk cross after cross into the box from the same angle against a well-positioned United defense without success. In the 41st minute Jones took a lazy touch off a Miller throw and this was immediately stolen and nearly converted into a goal. Early in the second half Jones wasn’t any better, showing terrible flat-footed defense in minute 47 that was very disappointing. In the 49th minute while pushing high, Jones was way too slow to track back on Lloyd Sam, who easily finished past Miller for the 3-0 DC lead. This general lack of defensive effort was hard to watch.
And then, just like that, Seattle turned a switch. Suddenly Jones was receiving a Shipp pass on the left and instead of the same square cross he chose an earlier, angled ball to the near post: Bruin scored. In the 62nd minute the same outside of the left pass that earlier failed miserably was used to drop a pinpoint cross on Evans’ head. Unleashed from any sort of defense, Jones ran rampant up the wing, beating Harkes 1v1 in the 72nd before another devastating cross. Joevin even showed an intelligent off ball run in the 85th, coming across the 6-yard box and nearly scoring from a Roldan pass.
Jones isn’t too dedicated on defense these days, and plays zero D when pushed forward on the wing. This is overshadowed by his ability to create for others, which he did well in the second half.
Chad Marshall – 5 | 5.4
The opening period was as bad a half as I have seen from Marshall, who looked slow, tentative, and possibly hurt. He is coming off an injury and still has immense soccer intelligence, but the entire defense struggles when he’s not there to bail them out, something that happened on all three goals. In the second half Marshall looked more like himself, due to better positioning, defensive support and our additional offense.
In the 8th minute goal the usually staunch positioning from Chad just wasn’t there. This was one of a few moments where the lack of familiarity between Miller and Marshall was very evident. Chad expected Miller to block that line of pass, but that assumption was a wrong one and cost the team. In the 15th minute the usually dependable Marshall made a recovery run to…nowhere? He actively won possession and helped defuse a few dangerous chances by better positioning after that. In the 34th as Seattle was scrambling and down two goals, Chad made a very uncharacteristic bad pass from the back that put pressure right back on the defense. Marshall closed the half out by being completely beat on the backside by Steve Birnbaum which should have been a goal in the 43rd and then handing a free corner to DC two minutes later via a bad pass back in the general direction of Miller.
Marshall did as well as can be expected on the third goal, marking nicely behind the right-side mess and then sliding past to make the Sam shot more predictable. Where was the midfield? In minute 68 Chad was across to slide tackle Lucien Acosta and stop a potential 1v1 in the box. The late sub Neagle ran into a brick wall of Marshall who kept him from having a single stat in 20 minutes.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community - 5.0
Roman again struggled in this game, but he also had some nice plays that showed a glimpse of his potential. He dominated in the air, winning 6 contested headers and being a physical presence. When those around him don’t cover adequately for the holes in his game, though, Torres struggles.
In the 3rd minute he made a very nice line-skipping pass all the way to Lodeiro on the front line, and his passing and vision forward was very good most of the game. In the 8th minute, however, Roman just got abused, first stepping ahead and getting flat footed and then dropping off and allowing a splitting pass to get by him. His angle on the play was also poor, allowing Nyarko to get off a square pass for the opening goal. In minute 15 Torres lost his mark completely on a second header from a corner kick, and was lucky DC didn’t score. In the 49th minute goal Roman not only swung and missed, but he also failed to recover with any urgency, forcing Svensson to come across and leaving the entire middle a gaping hole for Sam to utilize and score.
After this Torres was fine, especially with the alert Leerdam covering for him on multiple occasions. An impressive slide tackle and incredible agility in the 63rd saw Roman surging forward in possession before releasing Roldan toward goal up field. Again, he won the ball in the 67th, only this time he continued his run all the way to the DCU eighteen-yard box.
This might be the Torres we have, and that is a far cry from best defender in the league status that was thrown around some last year. He is positionally… “fluid” and prone to freelancing, especially offensively. Maybe to get the effectiveness you need to let him be his dancing self, but I wonder if Seattle would be more successful with Torres as a stay-at-home defender.
Brad Evans – 6 | Community - 5.6 (Off 70’)
With Evans on the field, we hadn’t conceded any goals - but that turned around quickly in this game. Evans at right back looked slow and tentative, and he struggled to impact the game positively on either end of the field. When moved forward and introducing another technical player to run off, suddenly Brad was in the thick of things.
Brad started out well, calmly turning away from pressure on the sideline in the first minute, getting out of trouble clean. Evans was behind the play when DC scored first, and was slow to recover. He again looked slow in the 15th, unable to produce the pace needed to recover when beat. Two minutes later Brad got forward for a rare attacking foray, only to produce a bad cross to no one. Kovar and Evans weren’t even close to being on the same page, and they failed to connect with any result. In minute 49 Evans made a bad touch, which allowed Acosta to steal and attack (bypassing Torres) but I thought Brad did well to recover goal side, and he rightly forced a pass. Unfortunately, that pass was to an unmarked Sam, who scored.
After moving forward Evans looked much more energetic and effective. Starting in the 58th we saw Brad pressing with Bruin around the eighteen to great effectiveness, earning possession multiple times and pulling the DC back into shambles. Brad did hold the ball too long a few times, notably in the 60th being dispossessed in a vulnerable spot and again in the 66th losing the ball when there was an offensive surge opportunity. Offensively he was connected, linking with Leerdam, Nico, and Bruin on the right, and lurking ominously on the back post in the 61st minute, just missing a Jones cross. He wouldn’t miss his second chance a mere minute later, staying onside and diving at goal to finish after a long throw in was recycled around to a left sided cross. His header was true on a ball through traffic and I called it mere moments prior (Hi Spenser! ;)). Evans sees smart passing angles, one of which was utilized to put Leerdam into the box on a diagonal in the 65th. He subbed out five minutes later, likely due to fitness concerns.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community - 6.6
Just looking at the stats you might think Svensson was amazing. His 8/12 long balls, a key pass, massive 6 tackles, second most touches on the team, and a huge game-tying goal look great. Unfortunately, nearly all of this came after a disastrous first 32 minutes from the big Swede. This included stabbing in horribly in the 8th minute as Patrick Nyarko ran by, on the way to an assist. Seven minutes later Goose put in an errant pass that was immediately stolen and rushed into a shot attempt, while Svensson marked space. This marking of space was a big problem, and at times he looked to be playing as a third CB rather than a midfielder, allowing too much room to attackers. This was the case in the 27th when Seattle had a six to three advantage in numbers of players in the box. Svensson first gave Harkes too much space, then made an unfortunate stab at the ball, whiffed, and couldn’t recover as the DC player scored. There were a few nice plays sprinkled in, with a nifty 12th minute dribble out of trouble and 25th minute long ball to Kovar both reminding us of the guy he was replacing on the field.
After a complacent dribble saw the ball poached off his foot in the 32nd, Gustav settled down and was good for the remainder of the match. I was particularly impressed with how well Goose played as a lone defensive midfield after Roldan pushed up after DC’s third goal. Asked to shield the defense and hold the central midfield on his own, Svensson did wonderfully. In the 66th he tracked back on Acosta, dispossessing him easily. In the 74th Gustav made a sweet defensive one-touch pass to Nico who found Roldan for a shot. In the 74th Svensson tied the game with a fantastic volley into the upper v from a tight angle. This was a wow goal that not many players could have finished.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community - 7.4 (MOTM)
Roldan was completely absent from notable actions in the first half. It may have been fatigue, but he looked slow and not in sync with Svensson at all, often pushing too far up and leaving gaping holes that DC utilized to score from. There were very few defensive tackles, and when Cristian did get into the offensive third to support, his passes were poor. I noted bad distribution in the 7th, 29th, and 31st, while also crossing badly in the 12th and 36th. When DC was scoring their third goal Roldan was nowhere to be found, so far detached from Svensson that he was in front of Nico, well into the DC half; he had no ability to recover defensively.
Roldan did work hard to limit DC’s chances to breakouts, and when he moved forward he was the most influential Sounder in the last 40 minutes of the game. In minute 63 Cristian was released high, overloading the center of the defense. As others tired, Roldan got better and better, including countless direct runs that DC had no answer for. In the 74th Roldan bullied his way forward, working a give and go with Bruin before getting off a rare shot that Travis Worra saved. This earned Seattle an all-important corner kick, which led to the equalizing goal. Four minutes later Roldan burst through the middle after another Bruin flick and after casually cherry picking the last defender went 5-hole on Worra for the game winning goal. This showed so much power and confidence; it was a truly great goal. It’s important to note that both Jones and Bruin had tap-ins if he chose to pass across rather than shoot.
Cristian wasn’t done, first putting in Bruin for a shot with a tremendous through ball in the 80th before overlapping in the 88th and nearly finding Joevin back post for a 5th goal. As Roldan heated up, so did the offense, and this opened others around him to excel.
Harrison Shipp – 5 | Community - 4.9 (off 54’)
Harry was hard to rate this week, not because he had the up and down game that many others had, but because he just didn’t seem to fit in the game at all. Lodeiro continually drifted into areas where Shipp was, and without someone like Dempsey opening spaces it got really cramped for Harry. Overall, I thought he played well, but his role was desperately making space for others and recovering back for others who didn’t defend and he had little effect on the game, especially in the first half.
Harry missed a few passes, but more than anything he just got overwhelmed with Nico, Jones, and even Roldan in his space. The Sounders movement wasn’t good enough or direct enough to have 4 guys in the same space, and it showed. Often with Jones caught high it was Harry who moved back to cover the left side, but then he wasn’t able to get back forward and support effectively.
It was a nice display of doggedness in the 51st minute that saw Shipp fend off two United players and push a perfect pass to Jones to start the first Sounder goal sequence. Just as impressive was his recovery defense behind Jones in the 52nd, dropping back when Joevin stayed high on offense. This awareness and tactical acumen is valuable, but it’s frustrating seeing Shipp fail to fit into the offense very adeptly.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community - 6.2
Nico frankly looked like he was trying too hard, and it was clear that Marcelo Sarvas was getting under his skin from early on. In the first half, he had one nice pass to Bruin (14’) that was taken by the keeper and another (33’) that showed the lack of speed from the Sounders forward. Otherwise Nico was all motor and no direction. He continually clogged up spaces trying to overload the wings and find pockets to work, but there weren’t any attacking options for him to find with his customary through balls, leaving Nico with a lot of meaningless dribbles on which he suffered fouls. Nico finished the half with multiple bad passes that were lucky to not be punished.
The second half saw Roldan and Jones push up into the midfield to support Nico, and he was much more effective playing behind these players, pulling strings from deeper. A tricky shot in the 57th gave Worra a scare and it was a Lodeiro pass from his own half that found Roldan in the 74th which earned a corner. Nico himself took that corner, finding Goose for the tying tally. Two minutes later Lodeiro’s first time through ball nearly found Roldan again. Although seemingly quiet by his usual standards, Lodeiro was credited with five key passes.
I understand the frustration. I counted 10 fouls against Nico in the game, a majority by Sarvas who man “marked” him via kicks to the shin all match. It sucks, and he has been getting absolutely targeted this season. He still can’t allow his frustration to boil over to attacking an opponent. Point at the scoreboard after the game or something, but kicking out is not the right response. Nico showed poor judgement and that significantly hurts the team going into Sunday’s game. He must be smarter.
Aaron Kovar – 5 | Community - 5.4 (off 54’)
Similarly to Shipp, Kovar wasn’t bad per se, he just looked to be playing a completely different match than anyone around him. There was no cohesion with Evans, no linking play with the other mids, and he rarely found Bruin. Aaron supposedly had 100% completion rate on his passes, but none of them were dangerous or into areas that would lead to shots. This completion rate is either wrong or at least completely misleading, as I counted 7 passes in the final third from Kovar into the box and not even one was successful. Contrarily, he connected on every single pass on the rest of the field, linking well with teammates.
In the 8th minute his mark ran straight down the field and I don’t know why he didn’t at least try to support the defense. Aaron has good pace but rarely uses it defensively. The first half was an experiment in futility for Seattle, including Kovar who repeatedly did good stuff only to look up and see Bruin blanketed by 3 defenders as his only target. Chunking crosses into the box in the 20th, 21st, and 37th didn’t work. I did really like a 25th minute cut and curling shot to the far post that nearly scored – if he can dial this in he will be dangerous from his inverted wing position. The last note on Kovar was a 42nd minute cross that almost found Bruin. He was otherwise very quiet and really missed the creativity a guy like Dempsey brings to open him up.
Will Bruin – 8 (MOTM) | Community - 7.1
Bruin straight up worked his ass off this week. His intensity and work ethic from the front was as good as any I can remember from a Sounder. Along the way, he contributed all over the field with 2 key passes, 2 shots on goal, 77% passing, a goal, an assist, and fantastic defending all over the field. His energy carried the team into the second half, but the thankless job of continually running into triple teams in the first half was done with aplomb.
Chances were few and far between in the first 50 minutes of the game, and often Bruin was the only Sounder in the box in attacks, choosing to go far post and try to avoid the multiple defenders guarding his runs. This changed in the 51st and it was a combination of an early angled cross from Jones and a smart near post run from Bruin that got Seattle on the board and made bears of the world dance. The next 30 minutes were a masterclass in hold up forward play: First he released Kovar in the 53rd with his back to the goal, followed by pressing relentlessly up top in the 62nd which led to the Leerdam throw-in sequence for goal #2. In the 74th and 78th Bruin expertly linked up with the vertical runs of Roldan, both times getting his teammate into transition and leading to both goals. He followed up Cristian’s runs with one of his own, diving to the middle of the goal in support. A few minutes later Will checked to the ball, dropped it off and then turned to goal, charged forward and got his own shot off, forcing a save from Worra.
Seattle made some big tactical changes that gave the team more chances to push forward, and it was fueled by Bruin’s relentless work up top, taking on 2-3 guys all game and continually harassing DC. His energy throughout was fantastic and I love having a strong-willed player who won’t quit like Bruin.
Nouhou – 6 | Community - 7.2 (on 54’)
The Hou. What an exciting prospect, who has shown with every appearance that he is already an MLS average level player with glimpses of much more. Nouhou shows zero nerves, and has a casual confidence that is hugely endearing. It helps that he does some pretty good soccer stuff too.
As far as ratings go, he was good but not great in this game, which may come as a surprise. In the 56th he lost Lloyd Sam badly on the back post and was lucky not to have conceded a momentum crippling goal. In the 67th Nouhou was easily beat to the end line by Sam on an overlap, completely flat footed. His defensive positioning and decision making is erratic at best.
But let’s get to the good stuff - In the 58th the HOUTRAIN was chugging up the wing to put in an excellent low/hard cross on an overlap. Two minutes later he ate Acosta 1v1 before making an…interesting give and go into his own box on the way to blowing by Sam on the dribble and finding Nico with a great pass up field. In the 62nd he made a great choice to find Jones instead of the speculative volley; this ended as a goal for Evans. A 77th minute optimistic shot earned ECS a souvenir. After being beat by Acosta in the 81st Nouhou recovered nicely and earned a goal kick for his team.
Nouhou is really exciting to watch, but there are still a lot of iffy plays and enough mistakes to see why the team is taking a sensible approach to his development.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community - 7.0 (on 54’)
While his counterpart was up and down, Leerdam was just up. Other than an errant cross in the 59th, Kelvin was spectacular. Immediately controlling the ball on his wing, Kelvin was a defensive and offensive force. In the 58th he stuck Nyarko and earned possession before showcasing a surprising long throw-in, targeting Bruin and Evans in the box. I loved seeing Leerdam in the 60th minute naturally covering the center of the field, pushing into a CB position when Torres went missing.
Kelvin is stellar with and without the ball and makes smart runs - one of which was picked out nicely by Evans in the 65th, earning a corner for the team when he was released into the box. In the 76th he showed vision to find Nico outside the 18 with an early cross, again changing the angles on the attack. Leerdam won a massive 6 headers and was an unexpected force in the air.
This was a great introduction to the new player, showing him how brutal MLS can be both physically and emotionally. The only thing holding him back from playing time is fitness. He was a huge reason this was the most even-sided attack from the Sounders all year.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community - 5.9 (on 70’)
Asked to play his “normal” position Delem looked very good. He was a constant presence in the middle and clogged passing lanes well. A strong header won started the Roldan goal scoring sequence. He did dive in once on the wing in minute 71, which allowed DC a free kick, but otherwise his positioning and decision making was spot on.
Kevin Stott – 8 | Community - 4.1
Stott was largely a non-factor, which is a compliment to a referee. He played advantage well, carded Sarvas for persistent fouls, and kept the game under control. His 48th minute foul on Torres who led with an elbow was just, and other than an iffy call against Roldan when Franklin made a meal of it, he handled the flow of the match well. His red card for Nico was the right call, although it’s my opinion he should yellow Sarvas for that sequence including kicking the ball into Lodeiro.
DC United MOTM:
There was no clear best player for DC according to our poll, but Ian Harkes edged out his teammates with around 24 percent of the vote.
Time to look forward to Sunday, and while we will likely be without any DPs, we will have plenty of players looking to make a mark either with increased playing time or in a new position.