Playing expansion side Minnesota United for the first time had all the makings of a trap game – away, doing well, relatively healthy, against a supposedly lousy team. Instead of falling into that hole, Seattle came out en fuego, with multiple scoring opportunities in the first five minutes. Although there were many back and forth chances in an open game, the 4-0 final score reflected the play on the field, and we could have scored 6 or more. The Sounders outclassed Minnesota at nearly every position on the field, and did exactly what a veteran team should do with their early lead: add to it and keep a clean sheet.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 7.8
This game was vintage Frei. When Minnesota tried to get back into the game, he was up for the test, including two huge saves in a five-minute period. He doesn’t get beat cheaply, and when the home team needed something great to get back into the game, Stefan calmly parried away their chances and preserved a now quite lengthy scoreless streak.
Frei was credited with 4 saves, but he stopped at least that many promising attacks by ranging to the edges of his penalty area in support of the defense in front of him. In the 5th and 17th he came out to stop passes that had a chance to get in behind the centerbacks. Frei was completely beaten by Kevin Molino in the 8th minute, misplayed a cross and allowed the United player a free goal to head into. Luckily, Molino headed it harmlessly wide. In the 22nd Ibson had a curled shot that was blocked from Frei’s sight but Stef handled it cleanly. Even while being undercut in the 35th Frei kept his concentration and caught a ball in traffic, receiving a hard bump for his troubles.
Early in the second half Minnesota had two great chances and both hit the great wall of Frei. The first was a kick save on Abu Danladi on a break out, getting his foot on the ball and forcing the shot wide. He equaled this effort 4 minutes later, lunging to his left and barely pushing a Sam Nicholson shot over the bar. These were both fantastic saves and kept Seattle firmly in control of the lead while crushing any comeback hopes for the home team.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 6.6
Jones put on a complete defensive performance, and it was one of his quietest games on that side of the ball. He stayed home for much of the game but cleverly picked his opportunities to get forward and join the attack. As a result, Jones looked much more dangerous offensively, and at the same time more active defensively.
When playing within himself like this, Jones is a terror. After shutting down service from his wing, Jones burst forward on multiple occasions to join the attack and present a viable wing presence, offering 2 key passes from the left side. One was a patient pass to Nico on a cutback in the 7th minute that really illustrates how refined Joevin’s offensive contributions can be when he waits to find passes like that one. Even better was the sequence on his assist in the 73rd. Starting with good defensive positioning, Jones found an outlet pass to Nico and then continued his forward momentum with great pace up the field, eventually receiving a return pass. Upon getting deep into Minnesota territory, Jones patiently waited for the delayed run of Dempsey, and found him with a perfect pass. Deuce did the rest.
It’s this kind of play that makes Jones so awesome, the ability to destroy a team down a wing from a deep starting position without shirking his defensive abilities – not constantly camping out dumping pointless crosses or ambling around the wing lost. When Jones brings this defense-first mentality it seems to help his decision making going forward, and while it was clear that Jones was picking his spots to join the attack, his timing choices were impeccable.
Chad Marshall – 8 | Community – 7.1
Chad is good at this soccer thing. He filled the stat book with 3 tackles, 5 interceptions, 3 clearances, 87% passing and 4/5 long ball completion rate. Add to that a header going into goal that earned him an assist, and the opportunity to teach young Danladi about size, positioning, and geometry.
In the 12th Marshall came across calmly (obv) to brush aside a Minnesota attack, but a minute later some miscommunication saw both Chad and Roman lose a mark through the box. This happened again in the 17th, with Marshall uncharacteristically caught flat-footed on defense. He more than made up for this mistake a minute later, perfectly redirecting a Svensson cross towards goal. I love the angle on this pass as a header on goal likely gets saved by the keeper, but this slanted pass either scores or has a Sounder get on the end of it. Marshall had a bit of a desperation slide after being caught out of position in the 28th but his repeated anticipation cut off so many Minnesota first half chances before they could become dangerous that I lost count.
Chad had less work in the second half but showed off great instincts to push Danladi wide in the 54th. Marshall’s recovery run on this breakaway chance forced the Minnesota striker into a predictable shot that Frei could push away. The rest of the game was more of Danladi running into Marshall, and Chad using his size to repeatedly steal possession.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 75’)
Torres had a horribly rocky first quarter of the game before settling down and showing better. He did have a huge 9 clearances, which was a byproduct of some desperation defending.
In the 5th minute Torres showed some terrible decision making, following a man to the middle and allowing a wide-open run in behind him. In the 8th minute Roman didn’t track Molino at all on a run right down the middle and Seattle was lucky that the United player missed his free header. Four minutes later a fortuitous offside call saved a badly beaten Torres from allowing a 1v1 with Frei. The elusive Nicholson would lose Roman a minute later and nearly found a goal for the home team. In the 24th Roman was caught watching as Danladi roamed unmarked. Five minutes later it was again Torres with a mistake, whiffing on defense attempting to stall a counter attack.
Roman calmed down after this and showed good 1v1 defense in the 34th and 40th, and he was much more calm in the second half before being subbed. He still tended to chunk passes forward, but the positioning was much improved. Almost all of Minnesota’s attacks were going right through Torres and it was everything his teammates could do to help slow the flow of dangerous attacks through the right centerback position.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.8
Looking at the stats for Leerdam, not a ton jumps out at you, although 3 tackles and 4 interceptions is strong for an outside back. His passing was just OK (68%) and he didn’t get into the attack a ton or show dynamic long throws against Minnesota. What he did do, though, was work smartly across the back line to support a hugely struggling Torres while at the same time getting width and offering a right side option to release pressure.
Early on, it was everything Leerdam could do to support Roman, and he was across in the middle playing centerback in the 2nd and 5th minutes, both times behind an advanced Torres. Leerdam doesn’t charge up the wing like Jones does, instead silkily flowing out of the back to pop up on the advanced right. His passing on offense is very intelligent, and he has a knack for finding Dempsey on top of the 18 with feet, as an alternative to chunking in hopeful crosses. He did just that after a perfect 20th minute overlapping run. In the 33rd Dempsey looked for an outlet on the right, but Kelvin wasn’t advanced enough to join the attack. Kelvin did cross direct in the 43rd and earned a corner. Right before half Leerdam was quite advanced, even stealing a pass intended for Bruin and getting off a shot.
The second half was quiet for Leerdam, although I loved his patience in the 53rd to wait for a quality pass instead of crossing aimlessly; a better shot came and Seattle almost scored. The right side duo of Evans and Leerdam was an impressive pairing; the defensive shape with both players on the same side was phenomenal. Their ability to read the play and cover for each other is something to watch for.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.4
Roldan had a “quiet” match and still managed to touch the ball 70 times and complete 86% of his passes. What wasn’t quiet was an incredible EIGHT tackles, as Cristian just laid to waste any attempts to come through the middle. A majority of what he did was plug holes in the shape, allowing the ball to move quickly to the Sounders front 4, who peppered the Minnesota goal with shots.
I didn’t have many specific notes for Cristian, although in the 24th and 35th he lost possession when attempting to help clear pressure. He did have an assist right before half that was erased when his perfect cross was finished by Morris but ruled offside.
The second half was similar, with Roldan going about his business efficiently. In the 53rd he popped up on the right wing, beat a man and sent in a great pass that found a recipient in a Will Bruin diving header. A minute later, though, Cristian sent a regrettable drop pass in the general direction of his own goal, a pass that was stolen by Danladi and turned into Minnesota’s best chance of the night. Luckily Dad and Frei were there to prevent the goal. In the 59th Roldan stole a ball in the middle and kickstarted a great rush up field for Seattle.
Cristian did a ton of awesome defensive midfielder stuff, but didn’t have much impact going forward. Against Minnesota, that didn’t matter.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.9
Goose did well to combine with Roldan, held off many dangerous attacks, and was a consistent option in the middle of the pitch. While Svensson didn’t do anything to blow up the stat book, he was a dependable figure in the middle of the field as a two-way player.
When Seattle scored in the 9th minute it was directly from Svensson clogging the passing lanes and deflecting an attempted United pass with his face to a teammate. Nine minutes later Seattle scored a goal with Gooseprints all over it. This time, the Swedish defender took a short corner and lofted a perfect far post cross that earned himself a secondary assist.
Svensson had a 28th minute tackle at the top of the 18 that was a little scary, and he was beat immediately prior to Nicholson’s heavy shot in the 57th. The second half saw the two defensive mids be much more cohesive, and they shut down any attempt to create through the middle.
Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 7.2 (off 76’)
Healthy Jordan Morris is amazing to watch. Looking limber and fast, Morris got off 3 shots, had 2 key passes, led the team in headers won, and showed the kind of pace teams must adjust their entire tactical plan around.
Jordan should have had an assist 4 minutes into the match, RUNS RIGHT BY HIM on the left wing and dropped a perfect cross to be flubbed by Bruin. Morris had 3 more passes that could have been assists, the best a 51st minute slip pass that allowed Nico a wide-open shot. He did find the net twice, the first a strong 44th minute header deemed offside and the second a 71st minute nutmeg of keeper Bobby Shuttleworth. The goal came while playing striker, with an inside out run picked up by Nico who delivered a perfect pass in space to allow Jordan to go get it and head towards goal with pace.
Morris missed a pass during a 69th minute 3v1 break that Seattle should have finished off. Jordan looks rested, healthy, fast, and direct. His willingness to take a long shot from outside the box, crossing with his left foot, and scoring a goal are all good indicators that his confidence is high.
Clint Dempsey – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.4 (MOTM)
Remember when we weren’t sure Dempsey would play this season? This was his most complete outing of the year. Clint had 2 goals and an assist, with a team high 6 shots along with 4 key passes. In addition, Dempsey consistently played a ton of defense in support of his teammates.
In the 4th minute Clint was also wide open on the Morris cross, but it was his skill on the 9th minute goal scoring play that made it all possible. On a 2v5 with only Bruin as an outlet, Clint drew FOUR defenders to himself before slipping a pass perfectly into Will’s run. Nine minutes later Dempsey was
poaching making certain Seattle scored for a 2-0 lead in under 20 minutes. Clint lost two dribbles in the first half, and in the 29th and 34th minutes we saw him track back with purpose defensively, joining Torres and Marshall as the farthest back defenders in the latter. He wasn’t just defending on turnovers either, I noted Dempsey consistently playing defense on the wings. Clint put first Morris then Leerdam in on goal on either side of halftime.
Clint could have had 6 goals in this game, and he missed twice after give and go’s with teammates found him unmarked in the box. The first, with Nico, was in the 51st and the second courtesy of Evans was in the 66th. In the 71st Dempsey did find the net again, this time after a strong vertical run and finish in traffic. The 79th and 84th minute attempts were either saved or wide of goal.
Dempsey was fantastic in this game, both scoring and setting up others all the while playing strong defense as a dropping advanced player.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.1
Another 4 key passes saw Nico pulling strings from all over the field, setting up others and getting off multiple dangerous shots on his own. Lodeiro really showed off his vision and the ability to thread passes forward into spots that released teammates onto goal. In addition, he chipped in an awesome 5 tackles as a strong defensive player.
In minute 7 Nico had a golden chance to open the scoring, receiving a diagonal pass from Jones and creating enough space to get off a shot, though it was wide. After this Nico was connected to nearly all the Sounders’ big chances, included dropping a short corner to Svensson on the 2nd goal buildup.
In the second half, I was happy to see Dempsey and Lodeiro connect often, including a give and go between them that should have been a goal for Clint and assist for Nico. Lodeiro did get his assist in the 71st, showing fantastic deep-lying playmaker skills via a wicked through ball that put Morris into space alone for a calm finish. A similar pass to Jones a minute later ultimately led to goal #4. Nico was very effective running the offense, and Minnesota did a lousy job containing him.
Will Bruin – 7 | Community – 7.0 (off 64’)
Bruin scored in this game and had 4 shots. I thought his hold up play was just OK this week, however, and Will had a few unforced errors that nearly hurt the Sounders, namely missing a few chances to put Minnesota away early.
In the 4th minute Bruin missed an absolute sitter. While maybe not the SIMPLEST of finishes, the bouncing cross from Morris only needed a touch to be redirected into the goal, and Bruin flubbed it. Will did press Shuttleworth into a turnover two minutes later. Even better was his run and finish in the 9th, as he and Clint turned a 2v5 offensive disadvantage into a goal punctuated by a quality Dempsey pass and well-placed Bruin shot.
Will moved a lot in support of others, but he was subbed before too long in the second half after losing some effectiveness. Bruin is an opportunistic finisher, and again he made the most of a chance to score. Another shot from Will forced a strong save from the opposing keeper, and Bruin’s defensive work rate was stellar.
Brad Evans – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 64’)
Almost immediately after subbing in, Evans found Dempsey for what could have been another goal. In fact, Brad earned 2 key passes in only a third of a match. I especially liked how well he and Leerdam traded off, taking turns getting forward on the right as well as locking down the side completely after Brad entered. Evans set up Dempsey for a second time with a stellar drop pass after making a smart 84th minute run.
Tony Alfaro – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 76’)
Alfaro looked solid, with a 79th minute press on Molino that saw the young Sounder hold his own 1v1 with the Minnesota star in the open field. After a rather disastrous effort a while ago, Alfaro looks back to being a reasonable option for spot minutes at center back.
Aaron Kovar – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 76’)
Kovar got into the match and looked the part. His runs were direct and when given 2 free kicks, both were placed nearly perfectly into dangerous spots inside the box. I was really impressed with a 91st minute sequence that saw Kovar playing defense near his own 18. After gathering possession, Aaron found Nico with great vision as an outlet pass, but then hustled all the way to the Minnesota 18-yard box to support the attack.
Jose Carlos Rivero – 5 | Community – 5.8
There were two notable plays from this game, and how you think the ref did on these is likely how you rated him. Every game has big moments, but this was by far the lowest number of referee notes I have had for a game, as there just weren’t many things to write down in a clean game.
A closer score line would have had many more people outraged about a 7th minute PK that wasn’t awarded to Dempsey. On the play, he was cut down and with the aid of replay (something the referee has access to) it looked to be a pretty clear penalty that went uncalled.
The second big call came in the 23rd, as Morris was either fouled by Francisco Calvo or vice versa. The referee went with the latter, but by my vantage point it looked like a foul on Calvo. Jordan really has had bum luck this year on breakaways. This was a huge call, because if whistled against Calvo would have been DOGSO red with Seattle up 2 goals already. The final is likely close to double digits if that happens.
I think Rivero missed both calls, but was otherwise very good. He ignored any soft dives, protected players when necessary, and allowed advantage when applicable. The score line being so lopsided made many of his small mistakes less damaging, and it was refreshing to see a relatively clean game decided on the players’ merits.
Kevin Molino has been a bright spot for struggling United this year, and he just edges out his fellow Loons with nearly 30 percent of the vote.
Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate anything like a clean game this weekend with SKC and their brand of thuggish tactics inbound. The good news is they will be playing their third game in a week, and many of their starters went 120 minutes in the Open Cup on Wednesday. I don’t look forward to the fouls, diving, grabbing, and ugly soccer, but Seattle should earn points this weekend.