There’s a feeling that Seattle has turned the corner, and getting all three points in Colorado is more evidence that Sounders are playing better. This was a dominant performance for a majority of the match; however as fatigue and the effects of elevation set in, it took some magic to finish off the game strong.
The 3-1 score line could have been even more lopsided had we had competent refereeing. Sounders managed a great result while dealing with road travel, a tough environment, injuries to two key players in the first 25 minutes, and an abysmal job by the referee.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 8
Frei was very good in this game; he had zero negative marks in my book. He was consistent in his command of his box, and in the first half was rarely tested. A 6th minute catch was easy, and even after the loss of Alonso and Marshall, Frei was able to keep his inexperienced defense relatively organized.
In the 28th minute Stefan punched away a corner kick to a wide area and was in full command on the few Colorado attacks in the first half. After the break Frei was again very composed, offering an outlet to the defense but smartly going long when available. As Colorado pushed for offense late in the second half, it was Frei who came up with an incredible save in minute 77 to keep the Rapids off the board. This was a magical dive to his right and instinct save that somehow denied Alan Gordon from mere feet away, pushing the ball off the crossbar.
Unfortunately, this only delayed Colorado from scoring, as the home team cut Seattle’s lead in half a minute later. Still under intermittent pressure, Frei lofted a perfect goal kick in the 85th minute, finding Bruin’s head and the back of the net via some Dempsey magic. It’s hard to track goalkeeper offensive stats, but that was the only assist I could find for Frei, and it came at the perfect time to deflate any comeback aspirations from Colorado.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.3
Nouhou is not only getting starts, he’s returning regular “league average +” outings. As he matures he should correct some mistakes, but there were plenty of quality moments to display his enormous upside. With Nouhou starting, there is a more balanced attack that isn’t so left-channel dominant. Defensively he was good, with 7 clearances and 3 tackles to go with an 87% completion rate, one of which earned him a key pass.
Nouhou has remarkable speed, and it allowed him to recover after being beat in the 4th minute. This happened again in the 27th and it’s nice that even when he’s out of position the pace covers some of that up. Although the Alonso injury was a fairly innocuous play in general, I was sad to note that it began with a forced pass from Nouhou into pressure, compelling Ozzie to attempt to regain possession.
Nouhou was lucky to have the vigilant Svensson, who repeatedly helped the left back out of jams, such as a 38th loss of possession to Kevin Doyle, which the Swede cleaned up. For a large part of the first half and start of the second Nouhou was unbeatable, turning back attacks down his wing with strong physicality and positioning. Like many teammates Nouhou faded in the last 20 minutes, badly losing concentration while allowing Alan Gordon inside him for a tap-in attempt in the 75th. A few minutes later, however the Rapids didn’t waste their opportunity with Nouhou badly out of position. The Sounders left back had time to recover but didn’t do so adequately, and Colorado promptly scored through his wing.
Nouhou has a calmness that belies his age, but he is very unorthodox in many aspects of his play. His defensive instincts are very good, and his pace allows him to protect huge swaths of area. He defends the back post better than the near one, and he looks very comfortable working the ball out of tight places while still offering a unique blend of offensive and defensive skills.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 6.2 (off 22’)
I doubt Colorado could have scored if Marshall had been on the field. He does so many special things and is very hard to replace.
Although Chad only had 3 passes, one was a phenomenal 1st minute skip pass to Dempsey, bypassing the midfield and finding Clint in space. After a 3rd minute collision 1 on 1 with Dominique Badji, Marshall came up limping. He won the ensuing free kick header and went about his business until the 10th minute, when Badji needlessly raked the back of Marshall’s legs as Chad shielded the ball. The combination of these two and another Kevin Doyle foul was enough to force Marshall into an early first half sub. Let’s hope he heals quickly; he has been very good lately.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community – 5.9
Roman has struggled this year, and this was another game where he didn’t look good for long stretches of the match. Torres had the worst pass completion percentage (42.9%, worse than Frei!) on the team, showing how much he struggled to connect to his teammates. When paired with Marshall he looked ok, and it was the removal of his central partner that started his struggles.
Roman had trouble jumping, maybe due to his knee or weight. There was a consistent issue with Torres being unable to head the ball clear from danger. In the 23rd minute Torres missed a header in the box and was lucky no one behind him was lurking with intent. In the 39th Roman chased Kevin Doyle all the way into Colorado territory, opening a huge gap and pulling the Seattle defense into a messy situation. Another missed header in the 58th was due to the constantly fouling Doyle. In the 65th I noted Torres’ third attempt in 2 games to head a ball at knee height, with similar effectiveness. A final missed header in the 77th allowed Gordon open access in behind him.
All of these header issues led to struggles around him, but otherwise Torres was competent in the back, especially surrounded by all the kids. He leaned on the experience of Frei and Goose, often found communicating with Svensson to drop into the space just in front and to the left of him. There were moments when Roman looked vintage defensively, but other times where he still seemed just a step off.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.4
If anyone benefited in the first half from the anemic Colorado attack it was Delem. Clearly still uncomfortable with outside back, he managed to put in a hardworking shift that consisted of some bad positioning but much improved recovery. Delem has learned better angles on defense, which allows him to remain goal side more often than not, a huge improvement. While not much of an option going forward, Delem was able to hold down the right side defensively just enough to limit Colorado who failed to take advantage of him early. The second half was another story, as the Seattle defense tired and Colorado surged in intensity, putting much more pressure that exposed the weaknesses on the back line.
In the 11th minute I saw a fantastic splitting pass find Nico that frankly, I didn’t think Delem could convert. This was about the extent of Jordy’s offensive support, and he concentrated smartly on staying home and supporting the defense. His quick decision to step to the middle and win a ball in the 18th was impressive, but his touch let him down to give it right back. Delem was caught too far up field in the 39th and when beat by Dillon Serna there was plenty of space for the opponent to maneuver; this ended in a shot on Frei. On another occasion, strong 1v1 defense forced Serna into a pass backwards. Delem ended the half with a near disastrous clear to the middle of the field.
After the break, fatigue and an energized home team led to more pressure than Jordy could handle. A desperation slide in the 58th minute in the box stopped a shot. In the 68th his mark got goal side on a corner kick and Delem was lucky that he wasn’t scored on. A 76th minute needless pass to no one forward was immediately brought back into pressure. In the 77th Delem was very slow to rotate defensively, allowing Gordon a wide-open header that only super Frei kept from scoring. A minute later Colorado did score, with again Delem late and beaten far post, nearly scoring the goal for the Rapids himself. In the last 10 minutes Jordy was tired, lost, and drastically out of position on multiple occasions.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 6.2 (off 17’)
There wasn’t much to rate for Alonso in his brief Colorado experience. He completed all 5 of his passes and was part of what looked to be a strong midfield pairing before getting his leg stuck on a hard but clean tackle in the 10th minute. While the tackle was legal, it’s important to recognize that Colorado had an obvious game plan of over-aggressive behavior, and there was simply no need to follow through as violently as they did on many plays, this one being a prime example. The old school “purists” would call this “finishing off the tackle” and while not always against the rules, it’s completely unnecessary to finish off every play hard, especially when the ball is long gone. This was actually one of the cleaner plays in a game full of dirty tactics, but was still unnecessary for obvious reasons. Get well soon buddy.
Gustav Svensson – 8 | Community – 6.9
When Alonso went down you might have thought that ended our midfield dominance. Up stepped the Goose to remove those fears. Svensson was a revelation as a deep defender underneath Nico. Our offensive stars played great but otherwise Svensson was the best player on the field; he stepped up fantastically as a lone stopper in front of the defense. He was both tidy (85% passing) and strong (6 tackles!), controlling the play from a deep position all the while dealing with Lodeiro’s erratic movement. This was an impressive match and there were a plethora of positive notes and no negatives.
When Alonso got subbed off Gustav increased his midfield actions, immediately winning ball after ball in the middle. With Marshall injured and lagging, Svensson dropped back to CB naturally, holding the defensive position until subs could be made. I was impressed with his 35th minute defense across the field, and Svensson earned the ball plus one of many Doyle kicks for his efforts. After Nouhou lost possession in the 38th it was the ever-present Swede to again deny Doyle.
The second half was more of the same, with Goose wrecking passing lanes and funneling the ball both away from the defense and to Lodeiro. It worked very well, and until late as people tired this was almost like the early-years Alonso single defensive midfield play. A 57th minute burst of speed allowed Svensson to recover to position, play stout defense, and win possession back for Seattle.
Gustav somehow managed to cover both young left-sided players, while at the same time holding down the middle, linking passes with Nico, and being a general rock solid calming presence that was always exactly where he needed to be. This was an impressive effort; what a fantastic signing he has been!
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 7.0
This was a mysterious performance from Jones. Many fans will point to 87% completion rate and an assist and say he was quite good, while others might mention his lack of notable defensive contributions (4 – compared to 11 for Kovar). I ultimately came up with a grade in the middle for a player who looked slightly better on the wing than previously but still has some large holes in his play when starting from an advanced position.
In the 2nd minute Jones checked to the middle of the field to receive a pass and attempt to be a deep central playmaker a ’la Nico; this was a disaster. Jones smartly stuck to the width after this, and was hugely impressive in the 6th minute goal. Jones expertly keeps space on his runs forward, and this is a perfect illustration of how mature he is in attack: while dribbling with pace up the wing, Jones’ head is always up, and he’s incredibly patient to allow the play to open up. This was as good of a soccer play as we’ve seen Joevin make, and while not fancy or overwhelmingly athletic, displayed a maturity in thought process that is hugely exciting. In minute 29 Jones again made a calm, controlled run up the left and slipped a pass into the box, again displaying great perception of transitioning tactics midgame. Defensively Jones was just ok, failing to close out once in the 32nd which almost allowed a cross to find purchase in the box.
Going forward in the second half Jones found space but not many targets. A nice 62nd minute play involved a quick-thinking Frei finding Joevin leaking out the left and Jones and Bruin working a pass that nearly found a goal. Joevin was one of the players most laboring in the second half, and he repeatedly left Nouhou behind him to deal with defensive issues on his own. There should be more effort to be a defense-first winger when up multiple goals, but in the 75th once again Jones completely quit on defense, standing about 35 yards out idly watching as wave after wave of Colorado offense poured into Seattle’s penalty area. This was a measured and effective effort from Jones offensively, but he lacked any intensity as a two-way player.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.3
Lodeiro was asked to play a more defensive role against Colorado, and he showed that he is still effective even when away from the goal. This is encouraging to see him succeed from a deeper-lying playmaker position. Lodeiro had plenty of long balls, but also completed many (70%) on the way to a very productive outing.
The 6th minute Sounders goal started with Nico nutmegging a Colorado player in the midfield before smoothly playing a perfect ball into the run of Jones on the wing. He didn’t quit to admire the pass, instead he pushed forward and made a diagonal run into the 18 that pulled a defender away and opened room for Dempsey to ghost into the area and score. Similarly, the 30th minute goal started from an innocuous free kick that the Rapids not only allowed to be played short to Lodeiro, they failed to pressure him at all. With plenty of space and vision, Nico dropped a ball over Clint’s shoulder for an assist. Eight minutes later Lodeiro again opened up Dempsey into huge space on the right, and Seattle nearly scored. He wasn’t done, finding Bruin over the top into space in the 43rd and again jumpstarting the Sounders into great attacking positions via through balls that ripped open the Colorado defense.
The second half was slower for Nico, who failed to be as effective as Seattle bunkered to deal with the fatigue and Colorado’s increased attacks. Nico was too personally aggressive at times, forcing long shots twice, once with Jones wide open to his left in the box. In the 83rd Lodeiro didn’t have nearly as much defensive responsibility as Svensson, but he was great in stepping back on defense, continually showing off his fantastic fitness by returning towards his own goal and thwarting Rapids attacks via recovery tackles. The effort he put in to cover ground and be a constant option to move the ball forward was impressive.
Clint Dempsey – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.8 (MOTM)
The last few games have reminded us just how incredible Dempsey can be, and that should put a lot of fear into opponents moving forward. He blew up the stat book putting all 3 of his shots on goal, adding 3 key passes, 85% passing, 2 goals, an assist, and most importantly displaying that when the Sounders most need it, he is capable of doing the amazing.
In the 6th minute Dempsey smartly filled the space in behind a great Lodeiro run and when given the ball in the box, he finished neatly. This was such a fast play that keeper Tim Howard had little chance; Clint took a soft control touch and launched a left footed shot into the far post side netting, never even looking up to see where the goal was. In the 29th minute Clint ran forward and just missed Jones’ pass in a similar spot. He made up for it a minute later, making a sublime delicate redirection from a long Lodeiro ball perfectly into the stride of Bruin. Somehow, he made this incredibly tough pass from a 35-yard ball over his shoulder look simple. Dempsey wasn’t done in the first half, checking to the ball in the 35th and releasing Kovar into space before again finding the willing Kovar a few minutes later, after chasing down a Lodeiro through ball on the wing. Clint would have had his second goal much earlier if not for desperation defending by Mike da Fonte, whose last-ditch slide denied Dempsey from 6 yards out.
Seattle was put under more pressure after the break and didn’t have as many shots, but in the 71st minute (and still up 2-0), Dempsey had a great claim for a PK after being pulled down by da Fonte after a smart header flick from Bruin (foreshadowing!).
It’s frustrating that, like Morris a few times, Dempsey seems to have been penalized for getting the shot off when being fouled in the box. Just as Colorado was making a strong push to equalize, Dempsey and Bruin again hooked up on a flicked long ball, and (ignore what Keller says) Clint made a world class run and cross-body volleyed finish with his left foot both over Howard and into the side netting. It was an incredible finish that completely shut the game down. Take a bow, sir.
Will Bruin – 8 | Community – 7.7
While Dempsey was doing THAT, Bruin was quietly dominating the Colorado defense for 90 minutes. This was a masterclass in smart movement as Will constantly drifted off Dempsey or into space, ripping holes in the overmatched Rapids backline all game. Bruin ended up with an amazing FOUR key passes, to go with his goal and assist in a very impressive match.
In the 10th minute Bruin was able to outpace the defense on a long ball and showed as a willing runner to the width all game. He did exactly this in the 19th, chasing down a Nouhou pass and finding Kovar. In the 30th Bruin was in perfect position to support some Dempsey magic, and when given a shot from deep inside the box he didn’t hesitate to double the Sounders lead. He nearly earned an assist in the 43rd minute, finding Dempsey on the 6-yard box after getting a slip pass into space.
Bruin continued to work very hard, occupying two or more defenders with consistent diagonals while winning header after header on offense. In the 62nd minute it was a slick dummy that freed Jones forward into tons of space on the left. I loved seeing Bruin, Dempsey and Frei figure out that they had something going, and by the 71st minute it was a clear strategy to find Will’s head to Clint that nearly scored. In the 85th not even the ref could deny this threesome from combining on a game-clinching goal, with Bruin’s flick perfectly into the space for Dempsey to do Dempsey things.
Not all games will be so open nor have center backs that Bruin can punish both with speed and physicality, but I was very impressed with Will’s ability to figure out their weaknesses and exploit them time and time again.
Aaron Kovar – 7 | Community – 6.7 (on 17’, off 84’)
The Alonso injury was unfortunate, but having Kovar come on and play so well was a luxury few teams have. I thought Aaron was fantastic, and especially great in knowing exactly what the team needed from him even though brought on as a first half emergency sub. This shows his vast tactical acuity.
Even though he was defending a ton (10 defensive actions) it was his pace that really injected the Seattle side with needed energy after the injuries. In the 19th minute Kovar made a supporting run and just missed a curling shot to the far post. In minute 36 his great run was thwarted only by a miscue in the box as his pass went awry. Getting forward again in the 38th Aaron’s pace and direct run got on the end of a Dempsey pass; unfortunately his right footed shot went just across goal from a tight angle.
Defensively Kovar was great at covering for Delem, completely flummoxing Serna time and time again, often beating him (58’, 78’) on defense then transitioning past him, leaving the Colorado player sprawling after tackling air. Serna did get backside of Kovar on a cross early and Aaron had an unnecessary retaliation foul in the 25th that I could do without, but otherwise Kovar is making a great case for more playing time by being a strong two-way player every time he subs in.
Tony Alfaro – 5 (on 22’) | Community – 5.7
Similarly to Kovar, Alfaro was asked to sub into the game in pretty tough circumstances, and he also performed well. He managed near 80% passing completion rate and more importantly kept his defensive positioning very well. Almost absent was the roaming, attack-minded player from recent weeks, and Tony also kept his feet more often instead of going to ground for fantastic tackles at every opportunity. This bodes well for the young defender’s development.
Alfaro for the most part played very solid defense next to Torres. He did dive in, requiring intervention behind him from a quick-thinking Nouhou (35’) but wasn’t badly beaten in the first half. Late, however, Tony got tired and disappeared from the game. In the 75th Badji had a tap-in try via Tony completely losing his mark, and twice in the last 10 minutes my notes simply said “where is he?” regarding Alfaro disappearing from correct defensive position. These late lapses in concentration should be a talking point with the coaches, as it’s clear Alfaro is both willing and able to work on deficiencies.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 84’)
Shipp came in to help lock down a win with a broken hand. I’m not sure he thought he would play in this game; but when he got creamed by Doyle in the 88th it looked very painful, and Harry was massaging his cast afterwards. Shipp filled his space, played defense, and moved the ball to teammates well in a short substitute appearance.
Hilario Grajeda – 1 | Community – 3.4
I won’t take much time reviewing the ref. There are two pages of notes, mostly negative, and he earned the lowest grade I’ve ever given a referee. This is because I STRONGLY believe a ref is there for the protection of players first and foremost. Grajeda failed to do this, and to me that is unforgivable.
Instead of posting time stamps of the FIFTY notes on Grajeda I will say this: Colorado came out with a game plan to play hard, finish off tackles, and be overly physical against Seattle. It is a disgrace that a referee did not immediately recognize this and regulate the gameplay in a way to prevent escalation. Both teams had fouls that were allowed to play on because of advantage when cautions would have been much more useful in managing the game. It was clear to me within four minutes that Colorado was kicking out, fouling behind the ball, and using excessive force in common plays. Grajeda even recognized that, calling fouls and even yellow-carding players in the first 25 minutes.
Unfortunately, he stopped protecting people and guys like da Fonte were allowed to brutalize Sounders during the competition and behind the play. There were so many hip checks, elbows, two footed tackles, studs up plays that weren’t appropriately penalized that to me, this was a complete failure as a referee. Two or three of Badji, Boateng, da Fonte, Gordon, Calvert and/or Doyle should have been sent off, with multiple ejections appropriate before the 60th minute.
This was an absolute and complete failure of a referee to keep players safe.
News of the injuries from the match is about as good as can be expected, and luckily, we have a nice break to work on the increased health of the entire team. Enjoy your break!