The Seattle Sounders welcomed one of the worst teams in the league into CenturyLink Field Sunday, a team that the Sounders had just beaten four-nil two weeks ago. With Minnesota United FC not having won a single road game and Seattle dropping just one at home, this had blowout written all over it. So of course the Sounders got behind early, struggled all night, and barely pulled off a last-second win from the penalty spot. In some ways this game resembled the first half of the season, where Seattle was clearly the better team but didn’t play well together, struggled to break down a packed-in bunker, and failed to finish opportunities that would have completely changed the game. In the end we got the break that didn’t go our way early on in 2017, and the three points earned put Seattle atop the Western Conference standings.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.5
Frei was credited with a whopping zero saves against Minnesota. That isn’t to say he was bored, in fact the counterattack of the Loons kept him on his toes all night, but the finishing and skill to put shots on frame were clearly lacking from the visitors. Seattle had the ball for long stretches of time and there were few chances to use Stefan as an outlet.
In the 4th Frei pushed an already wide shot out for a free corner, which was a safe but curious decision. Minnesota got their goal in the 21st minute and Frei was beat near post, which is rare. A lot of the play was failure in front of him, but Frei was caught flat-footed.
The rest of the game Frei was very solid, starting in the 23rd when he came out and forced an Abu Danladi shot wide while blocking most of the goal. Two minutes later he was brave to come out and make a save; he got a kick in the chest for his troubles and Danladi earned a card. With Minnesota trying to slip Danladi in behind, Frei was smart in the 44th to come out high and help sweep away an attack at the edge of the box. The second half could have started out horribly for Seattle, with an errant back pass giving Danladi possession inside the box, but Frei came up huge, forcing the rookie back and into a harmless wide shot. A few minutes later Stef was out to catch a cross but wasn’t troubled for the rest of the game. His distribution was smart and to good spots all game.
Seattle didn’t defend well in front of Frei, and without him this could have been ugly. He kept the team in the game and gave them a chance to come back, which they did.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 6.0
Jones has had a very up-and-down season, and this was a definite down match. While his passing was strong (93 percent completion), Jones struggled to impact the match either offensively or defensively. His crossing was an abject 2/9 and he wasn’t the threat wide we know he can be. A 5th-minute play summed up his night: After making a good 1v1 defensive stop, Jones missed a wide-open Morris, stood on the ball, and slowed play to a crawl, eventually dropping a pass back and killing a chance to push the tempo. In the 9th and 12th Jones crossed to no one, and had trouble all match finding targets from the wing.
On the 21st-minute Minnesota goal, Jones was really poor. He failed to get goal side of Ethan Finlay, then showed zero urgency to do so, and finally took a halfhearted stab at defense, allowing Finlay to get into the box and have an uncontested shot. This defensive effort was terrible, especially because it failed to make Finlay even a tiny bit predictable, putting Frei on an island and unable to save. Jones didn’t learn from this, again being completely lost two minutes later, and he failed to adequately defend nearly the entire first half.
The second half was better, with Jones supporting an attacking run in the 61st but failing to get a pass off. Six minutes later he found a great early angled cross to pick out Bruin on the back post. Jones even picked up his defensive intensity, showing off a nice play in the 75th minute as the last man on defense to stop a counter. Late in the game Joevin ran out of gas, wandered inside and was ineffective at much more than clogging the middle of the field. His corner kick in the 93rd was short.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.9
Marshall struggled with Danladi’s pace for much of the night, especially after taking a knock in the 10th minute. I was happy he continued playing after a Minnesota player rolled up on his knee, but Chad was definitely gimpy for a while. Marshall never looked his dominant self in the back, struggling at times to connect with teammates, and while his passing percentage was a wonderful 91 percent, poor positioning and decision making allowed United multiple great chances.
Chad was uncharacteristically beat in the 25th, had a lousy pass in the 26th, and a minute later had another terrible give away right to Kevin Molino and was lucky that the Minnesota player failed to capitalize. This series was right after they scored; it was disappointing to see a veteran defender make mistake after mistake and allow so much momentum to an inferior team. Marshall did make my pregame prediction true however, scoring off a header in the 31st and completely changing the game back in favor of the home team.
The second half was quieter from a defensive standpoint, although Marshall was caught flat-footed on a pass back from Svensson in the 51st after conceding a throw-in a minute before. The rest of the game Chad won every single header, had nearly half of his team’s clearances with seven and was back to the defensive rock that we are used to.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 5.7
This was another good game from Torres, who looks stronger and more confident than earlier in the season. This confidence showed up in an amazing 93 percent pass completion rate, including an incredible 9/12 for long balls. Many of these were towering, cross-field passes, and Roman really showed off his ability to change the angle of attack by picking out passes that opened teammates into spaces up the pitch.
Early on Torres got caught upfield a few times, and needed to adjust accordingly with Kelvin Leerdam pushing so high up the right. Roman was active offensively through long switches and missed a 10th minute header on a corner with the goal gaping. Torres’ biggest blunder came in the 23rd, as he misjudged the bounce of a pass and allowed Danladi in behind. Luckily the rest of his defense bailed him out, and he was across two minutes later to support Marshall who made a few curious mistakes.
In the second half Torres did a great job of distributing the ball well and even getting into attack when able. In the 51st however, he was needed to support a terrible back pass, and did well, sprinting to the near post and covering with Frei to stop a potential second Minnesota goal. In the 73rd Torres showed excellent anticipation to steal a long dribble and even displayed his quality crossing ability with a nice far post look that nearly earned him his second assist. An 85th-minute bicycle kick was inspired, but wide.
Kelvin Leerdam – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.0
Because of Jones’ dynamic attacking ability, nearly every game for Seattle has tilted to the left side of the field until this one. Seattle was hugely right-sided in its possession in this game, and Leerdam had a monstrous 109 touches. He won five aerials, had five interceptions, three clearances, a key pass, and was involved in nearly every scoring opportunity. At the same time, he ran the entire right side of the field, with Nico often meandering to the center and left. Leerdam had a low 81 percent completion rate, and much of this was due to failing to connect on any of his seven crosses attempted.
Kelvin needs to improve his crossing, but the rest of his game was nearly flawless. In the 3rd minute he combined well with Nico, and continued to do so all match, which kept the DP from wandering away as much as usual. After seeing Torres caught upfield early when he overlapped, Leerdam stayed home and covered for Roman in the 8th minute. The right back darted forward to get on the end of a quick restart in the 24th minute but missed an open Morris, instead cutting back for Roldan. Kelvin closed out the half with a thundering shot that had the power, but not the placement.
The second half was the Leerdam show up the right wing, constantly linking with teammates, getting into space, and filtering attacks back into dangerous places. In the 47th minute, good anticipation earned him a steal and transition attack, while 10 minutes later he had the energy to catch a Minnesota counter from behind and stop their advance. A few moments later another attack started through Leerdam’s aerial domination, heading down to Nico who found Morris in space. Although his crosses didn’t connect with anyone, I thought they got better as the game wore on, with 66th- and 89th-minute attempts being the best of the bunch, each nearly finding a teammate.
I didn’t expect to see Seattle have 48 percent of their attack through the right side this season in any match, and while Jones was ineffective, most of this discrepancy is because of Leerdam’s skill. He was magical in connecting with teammates both offensively and defensively, and is an underrated target on set pieces as well.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 6.1
The lack of fitness and polish from Alonso was clearly evident against Minnesota. He looked slow, got pulled easily out of position, and both his trademark hard tackles and lateral agility were absent last weekend. Even so, Ozzy still had 95 percent passing, touched the ball 108 times, and did many good things.
The first half was a mess for the Seattle midfield, and Alonso was all over the place. He kept getting sucked way wide, and it was clear he hadn’t played with Leerdam, who doesn’t need a defensive mid clogging up his spaces. Ozzie gave up a corner in the 1st minute, missed Nico wide open and instead shot harmlessly in the 18th, and was consistently out of position in the first 30 minutes. This contributed to the Minnesota goal, with a free runner coming in behind Alonso who was caught flat-footed on defense and slow to cover the middle.
Seeing Alonso lose a physical battle with Ibson was a surprising way to open the second half, and so was a pointless backheel to the opponents. There was a period in the beginning of the second half where Alonso consistently failed to play quickly enough, slowing play down to pass backwards, and there was no urgency or dynamism in his play going forward. This changed when Roldan was inserted behind him, allowing Alonso to push forward and assist in the attack. Now his square passes were in the attacking third and opened Leerdam and Morris into space instead of going to Torres or Marshall.
Ozzie could get into the box later in the half, and his touch in the 93rd deflected to an opportunistic Dempsey. Overall, this was not a good game for Alonso; he wasn’t fast, agile or well connected to Svensson, and he was often too wide, allowing runners right up the gut. I hope this is just fitness.
Gustav Svensson – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 65’)
Svensson also struggled in the defensive midfield and had trouble forming a cohesive unit with Alonso. His passing was just ok (77 percent) and rarely dangerous while his positioning was a mess. Most of the time Svensson tried to stay central to offset Alonso’s roaming, and Goose’s reaction time was slow a few times.
In the 3rd minute Minnesota went right around Svensson’s traffic cone defense, and Seattle was lucky to not concede. In the 11th minute Goose won a midfield header, and this was to be a trend, with the Swedish defender winning a ton of aerial challenges that often won Seattle possession in the Minnesota half. Svensson had a nifty pass up to Leerdam wide in the 17th which showed great vision. In the 23rd minute, after Torres made a huge defensive mistake, Goose showed awesome effort to get back defensively, making up nearly 10 yards on Molino and helping force Danladi into a harmless near-post miss. A pass there probably is still a tap in for Molino, but I loved seeing the effort to make a young player think, and combined with Torres allowed Frei a predictable shot to cover. Right before half it was again Svensson whose track-back defense was huge on a break, covering a potential disaster.
Gustav played an absolutely terrible ball back in the 51st minute, and although Marshall was napping, Svensson never should have played a drop pass there directly to Danladi. He was better at staying connected with Alonso, but it wasn’t surprising when a defensive mid was subbed first.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.3
Roldan is an incredible player, but his strengths in the middle of the field far outshine anything he has been able to do on the wing. This game was an example of that. He wasn’t bad on the outside, but left winger is not where we need our best performer. Roldan getting fewer touches than Jones and Torres is disappointing. When moved back to a central position the entire shape of the Seattle attack changed, fueled by Roldan’s incredible range. This opened the wide players, pushed Alonso up where his lack of mobility was hidden, and allowed numbers to funnel into the attack. Near the end Roldan was playing in between the center backs, covering about 40 percent of the field single-handedly.
In the 3rd minute Roldan won a nice shoulder tackle and added some physicality to the wing. Cristian looks for Morris a lot, and in the 23rd it was forced and stolen, immediately turned into a counter that nearly scored. Another late game play was similar, but I do appreciate Roldan looking quickly for Morris, something only Clint and Nico seem willing to do. Right before moving to the middle, Roldan got a nice centering touch from Jordan and hit a low, hard, sheltered shot that forced a bobble from Bobby Shuttleworth, but no one followed up.
After Cristian moved to the middle the game opened, and it was mainly due to his range and anticipation. With the entire field in front of him, Cristian could sit deep and stop attacks while transitioning forward. He pushed Alonso upfield to be more goal dangerous, and with him (and later Nouhou) hanging back, everyone besides Marshall was free to join any attack at any time. Roldan as a free safety is a thing to behold, possessing the quickness and anticipation to cut out attacks early, the toughness to win physical battles, and the hops to win aerial encounters. He had a few bad passes, but the big story was how well his central play opened teammates to be immediately goal dangerous.
Clint Dempsey – 7 | Community – 7.0 (MOTM)
Another game, another Dempsey goal, and he is on quite a scoring run. Sure, his goal was a penalty kick, but he got off a game-high seven shots, had a key pass, 87 percent completion rate and was part of most of the best Seattle chances. He even got some defensive actions, including two clearances.
In the 18th minute Clint put a tremendous pass forward to Morris. In the 27th he was back helping defensively behind Leerdam. Three minutes later his hustle coming back won possession for Seattle in the final third, and in the 35th he dropped a perfect slip pass to Morris in the box. In the 39th Clint controlled a pass and found Jones nicely up the wing into space. Dempsey had two bad turnovers right before half, but luckily neither hurt the Sounders.
Clint started the second half similarly to the first, opening Morris into the box in the 46th before getting wide and showing Leerdam how to cross 10 minutes later. Jordan cut one back that Clint will rue missing, as he had an open shot from about 12 yards out that he put over. Dempsey got a back-post header in the 66th, but couldn’t get enough power on it. At the end of the game it was again Dempsey who first missed another header in the 91st before finding a loose ball in the 93rd and smashing the shot that earned a penalty. His PK take was on frame, which was enough to beat Shuttleworth and rescue all three points.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 6.0
Two of the three DPs struggled in this match, and even though Nico had a game-high 111 touches, he failed to turn those into many cohesive chances for his team. At the same time, his movement wasn’t as functional as usual and he didn’t connect with wide players very well. He did get nine more fouls (five called) committed against him and the hack-a-Nico strategy was on full display.
Nico’s introduction to the game was a terrible back pass right to Finlay in the 4th minute for a Minnesota shot. He looked slow both in movement and in decision making. He didn’t come to a pass in the 16th and it was easily stolen in front of him, something we rarely see. Nico also dribbled into trouble a lot (24’, 30’, 62’, 75’), each of which saw him dispossessed and a break the other direction. Lodeiro had some quick thinking in the 24th though, finding Leerdam leaking out on a quick set piece and created a big chance. Seven minutes later when presented with a short free kick from the end line, Nico picked out Marshall’s shoulder and assisted on the equalizing goal. Unfortunately, this was the exception to his service, with poor corners in the 36th, 57th and 69th not getting over the first man on defense.
Lodeiro was good and bad on through balls, missing three clear chances in the first 65 minutes but also nicely finding Morris in the 54th, and Bruin twice as well. A 61st minute backheel to Jordan was inspired and shows just how quick his soccer brain works; this happened at the speed of a Morris sprint. The second half was more choppy play, with Nico getting into space but not finding the killer pass we are used to him making. In the 89th he had time, failed to shoot, dribbled around the box and lost possession, with the game on the line. He did get a head to a short Jones corner in the 93rd to keep the game alive. Not a great outing.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 83’)
Morris was more effective up front than many people give him credit for. He pulled the defense back, but without service from the midfield he continually ran into Jones and Alonso standing on the ball. He led the team with three key passes and did an admirable job of holding up the ball when asked to do so.
It didn’t start out great, with Jordan getting a nice pass in the 5th minute and proceeding to dribble to the corner and lose possession. He improved after, showing a nice holdup in the 20th and earning a corner in the 35th after a cut-back pass was blocked. I’d like Morris to stay more central when he plays forward; he drifted wide at times. His runs in support of the wide defenders was to the far post, and this simply isn’t a pass either of the fullbacks can complete. When Morris dives near-post good things happen. Jordan helped back on the left side in the 37th, combining with noted defensive stalwart Dempsey to lock down the left that was curiously empty.
In the second half Morris RRBH* and then tried to cross, which was blocked. Man, I would love to see him just have a go more often, it just might work. He chose to cross in the 54th after a pretty through ball saw him in space, and it was a perfect cut-back that Dempsey missed. Seven minutes later Morris combined flawlessly with Nico, but missed a wide-open Jones on the wing while fumbling a dribble into the defense. Jordan missed an open header late and had a cross to no one.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 65’)
Immediately upon subbing in Bruin pressed Shuttleworth into an error and did well attacking the back line. Soon thereafter he had a nice header back across the middle from a great angled early back-post cross. Will lost possession in the 88th, but hustled to win it back. Other than these plays he was just there taking up space more than anything.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.2 (on 83’)
CHOO CHOO. Nouhou had two great crosses in the 84th and 91st, and he used his speed to free up everyone else to attack while he played free safety.
Ismail Elfath – 3 | Community – 5.6
Elfath is one of the worst referees at calling fouls. Add to that his reluctance to brandish cards, and this game degenerated fast. Minnesota scored an early goal and then did everything they could to muddy up the game, including delays and rampant fouling. The end total was 20-6 in fouls against each team, but Elfath called “advantage” play on at least eight MORE fouls. When one team is fouling another five times as much, there should be many more cards given. A kick to the face in the 25th and the PK handball in the 93rd were the only fouls deemed card worthy? A warning in the first half for Shuttleworth meant nothing, as he earned another warning in the second half and never was penalized for consistent time wasting for 75 minutes.
I liked that the 3rd minute shoulder tackle from Roldan, the 14th minute shoulder tackle against Roldan, and other similar hard but fair challenges were not called. Unfortunately, this was the only type of call that was made with any consistency. In the 38th Sam Cronin took out Nico at the top of the box and tried to get Dempsey at the same time yet no call. I was immensely frustrated at the lack of calls for undercuts (Alonso in the 4th, Torres in the 38th) and the advantage play was some of the poorest I’ve seen. For example, in the 31st Dempsey is fouled at the top of the box and the ball squirts free towards the corner flag and Elfath calls advantage. How is it more advantageous to have the ball going away from goal to the corner? This not only happened seven more times, on at least three the fouls should have been yellows. If you are going to give advantage, you MUST go back and give those cards as well. If not, you are just allowing cardable actions to be repeated.
I agree with the yellow for Danladi for kicking Frei who had control of the ball, but then why is he allowed to get four other cardable actions (the worst a foul in the 78th) without a second card? Multiple times players deserved yellows for professional fouls in the midfield meant to stop play and they were ignored for advantage. Michael Boxall went over the ball in the 78th two footed and just because Dempsey didn’t roll around Boxall didn’t even get a CAUTION. I thought it was red cardable.
Look, Seattle had 64 percent of the possession, so it’s reasonable for the team constantly on defense to commit more fouls. To allow Minnesota to commit nearly five times as many fouls with no repercussions in the form of cards is insanity and dangerous. He got the PK right.
Newly-aqcuired Loon Ethan Finlay takes this one, with over 70 percent of the vote.
I am not going to complain about three points, no matter how ugly. Seattle needs to be much better on the road in Canada on short rest this week, and it will be a great test of the team depth I believe we have. At least a point on the road should be the minimum expectation no matter who we play.
*RAN RIGHT BY HIM