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Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy: Player ratings

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Solid and organized, Stefan Frei earned the clean sheet and MOTM in the LA draw.

Going into LA on a five-game unbeaten streak while the opponents were on a five-game losing streak gave us pretty high expectations. While the defense had a pretty good game, the offense failed to put any goals on the board and the game ended a mundane 0-0 tie. The Galaxy aren’t a great team, but with the bump in organization from legendary ex-Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, they were able to hold off a Seattle team that looked a little better over the course of the match. In a vacuum, that was a good result, but we could have had all three points.


Keeper

Stefan Frei – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)

Stefan has been solid this year, making almost no mistakes and holding his team up when they struggled. This game Frei again put in a strong performance and earned a shutout while combining well with the defense.

For most of the first half LA was contained, with Frei rarely tested and doing a great job coordinating his defense. Late in the period he stopped both a weak Gyasi Zardes effort and a Romain Alessandrini shot.

The second half was much more active, and Frei was up for it. It started with a 52nd minute Joao Pedro shot that didn’t trouble a well-positioned keeper, and Stefan was even more impressive in the 64th. On this play, dirty Gio dos Santos tried to illegally slap a ball into the net around a strategically located Joevin Jones. Frei was having nothing of it, saving this “shot” with a fantastic dive to his right. A minute later Zardes was open for a header that forced another low save. In the 70th Stef was out fast to stop any attack, gobbling up the ball before a shot could be taken.

Frei had one kick out of bounds but otherwise was great on distribution. Every time LA managed a shot Stefan was in perfect position to make these plays routine, and each of his four saves was calm and controlled.

Defense

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 66’)

Tasked with marking All Star-worthy Alessandrini for 70 minutes is a tall order, and the young Sounder had mixed results. Defensively, Nouhou has all the tools: His speed allows defensive recoveries, his positioning is usually organized, and his combination of strength and balance allows him to match up physically with any MLS winger. He showed this time and time again, limiting the LAG DP Alessandrini to a dreadful 51% completion rate. Although generally very good, Nouhou was beaten on a few occasions, and he added very little going forward.

The first and only successful time that Nouhou got up the wing occurred in the 8th minute, as the left back chugged up on an overlap and put in a dangerous cross. He may cross better than Jones, but he didn’t push into attack with any regularity. Another opportunity came in the 32nd but after a great long ball trap instead of pushing the action, Nouhou chose a terrible back pass that was stolen and forced the vigilant Marshall to save the day. Otherwise, he found it difficult to both defend Alessandrini and get forward, with Jones camping out in front of him wide and preventing much overlap as well as offering little in the way of defensive cover.

Concentrating on defense, Nouhou again and again showed well, especially in the 31st minute stuffing a diving Alessandrini and giving him a “Mon cher monsieur, vous êtes un scélérat” for his actions. After getting beat right before halftime, the Hou was slow to recover defensively, and noted speedster Svensson flew past him defensively (?!?!). In half two Nouhou picked right up where he started defensively, stuffing a 1v2 break featuring both Alessandrini and dos Santos, eventually blocking the shot after some excellent work. At other times players were able to drift off his back shoulder and find headed shots from crosses with the left back sucked into the center.

Nouhou showed that he can match up with a dangerous winger and hold his own, but the offense missed any cohesive left-sided attack with him staying back and concentrating on defense.

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.7

Chad does so many things right in games, and he is remarkably consistent. He wins every header to a teammate, covers for the defenders around him, and makes smart attacking runs on set pieces. Working with new people on the back line rarely seems to bother Chad, and he has looked terrific with the speedy Nouhou wide of him. A healthy Marshall is a clean sheet waiting to happen.

In the 5th minute Marshall perfectly shut down a give and go attempt from dos Santos to Alessandrini, jumping the pass and negating nice movement by the opponent. A few minutes later he used his wide frame to shield the ball out for a goal kick before forcing another goal kick out of Zardes’ sloppy play. Chad took a minute away from defense in the 30th to nod a header just wide from a set piece before smartly coming across two minutes later to deal with a terrible back pass from the Hou. Chad was everywhere, popping up on the right to support Leerdam who had advanced in the 36th, and just before the halftime whistle stepped up high to win a ball that started a counter.

The second half LA had more effective offense, and Marshall had a few errors distributing from the back in the 49th and 58th after making nice plays to win possession. In the 65th Chad again expertly drifted across to assist an offensive-minded right defense, marking Alessandrini after a rare Leerdam turnover – this time Marshall was skinned 1v1 and the LAG attacker got a great cross off to the far post. When tasked with similar defensive duties in the 72nd, Chad easily dominated Zardes in space on the wing. He did give up a late and unnecessary free kick (95’) but nothing came of this or any of LA’s attacks as Marshall was a defensive stalwart throughout.

Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.2

Roman is improving every game in small ways, and the introduction of Leerdam has enabled him to be more effective with his attacking style of defensive work. His 80% completion rate from the back included a few spectacular cross field passes and some even more important line skipping looks, where Roman shows off his vision and touch to link with Bruin or other advanced players.

With speed and positioning to his right, Torres continues to charge forward to press offenses, and there’s adequate coverage. This was effective in the 4th, 28th, and 63rd minutes, each time with Roman denying Zardes from any possession or ability to bring teammates into the Galaxy attack. Winning balls advanced allowed him to find Bruin directly in the attack in the 17th. This didn’t work as well in the 25th as Roman was forced to foul after being pulled way out from his defensive position, but the Sounders have adjusted to his movement and passing.

Torres showed off nice 1v1 defense in the 62nd and won at least one header from a set piece in a second half that was more hectic than the first. LA found a few strong chances through movement in the middle but the back line and Frei were very strong. Roman looks more comfortable and is not getting beat as often while under the watchful eyes of veterans around him.

Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.7

Statistically, Leerdam was immense. He had a whopping 9 clearances, 2 interceptions and 3 tackles and removed Emmanuel Boateng from the match. His defensive positioning was spot on, and this dominoes into instant cover for Torres wandering or the lack of Lodeiro pressure on the right. At times Kelvin is on a complete island on the right side and shows textbook ability to lock down any opponent breaks long enough to get reinforcements from the center. Offensively, while having 2 key passes and some long throws, Leerdam’s contributions were disappointing.

Kelvin played a CB role multiple times, naturally sliding across behind Torres. Early on we saw a wonderful cross field pass to Bruin (6’) that earned a corner, but it was rare to see Leerdam involved offensively. He did loop in a hopeful little cross in the 46th that created a backline mistake and should have ended with a Bruin goal. In the 60th Leerdam started a counter via slick defending, but 5 minutes later was caught dribbling and his dispossession created an attack into his defensive space.

A majority of Leerdam’s game effect is intelligent movement and positioning which don’t show up in the stat book but allow players like Torres and Lodeiro to roam and be more effective with the confidence that Kelvin is providing cover. He also wins an incredible number of 1v1 duels and headers, often clearing defensive corner kicks via tremendous anticipation and jumping ability. I would love to see Leerdam get into the attack more directly, as other than a volley attempt he wasn’t part of the offensive flow.

Defensive Midfield

Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.5

Goose looks very comfortable in the middle of the field, and he had almost no negative marks in my book after a very cleanly played match against LA. His 5 interceptions led the team and Svensson was a continual menace to any attacks down the middle, negating almost any attempt to even penetrate zone 14.

Svensson works really hard in the middle, and should be mentioned in the Nico/Cristian fitness group: he never stops moving. Seattle’s midfield completely outworked LA’s and turned the game into a battle of the wings. In the 6th minute Goose found a pretty cross field pass to Leerdam that was reminiscent of a few from the previous match, but he didn’t get much opportunity to do more than funnel short passes to mids in front of him until the game opened up late in the second half. This was due to the very deep positioning of Joao Pedro and Jermaine Jones, who allowed LA’s front four to be on an offensive island and consistently attempt to score 4v6.

In the 21st, 44th, and 72nd, Svensson showed wonderful anticipation and effort, each time hustling back on breaks to deny LA chances. These were huge defensive exertions where he outworked teammate and opponent alike, but unlike previous games he didn’t have open outlets to jumpstart counters when winning the ball in deep areas.

Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.6

While Goose was doing Goose stuff, Roldan was equally impressive, cleaning the middle of the field and working in great unison with Svensson. Cristian also had few negative marks and impressive stats: 3 key passes, 2 shots, 4 tackles, 3 clearances, and 6/8 long ball completion rate on the way to 91% overall. He wasn’t an offensive force, but did get forward dangerously on multiple occasions while creating a minefield in the center that dispossessed LA any time they came through the middle.

Roldan seems to have earned responsibility for more set pieces, and he showed great touch on a 7th minute corner and 30th minute free kick, placing both in dangerous spots. In minute 21 Cristian Roldan showed off perfect positioning and stopped repeated attacks while coming away with the ball to push possession to Dempsey. This was vintage Ozzie Alonso stuff, switching the ball away from pressure, opening up wingers into space, utilizing crushing tackles on defense. When Jones got lost in the 75th it was Roldan who popped up at left back, defending perfectly.

Offensively there was opportunity for direct vertical runs that weren’t utilized enough. Roldan did get forward in the 60th and some work from Clint saw Cristian in space for a shot that he put over. Nine minutes later Roldan was back to destroying, easily stealing the ball from Daniel Steres and pushing it wide to Morris for a quick rush forward. Unfortunately, Cristian wasn’t able to reproduce last week’s attacking runs.

Offensive Midfield

Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.8

I think a lot of Jones’ legend is misconstrued. He is a very good player who has rightfully earned a raise from a foreign team. It’s important to remember this is a player who had 3 assists in 61 matches before this season, however. His jump in assists in 2017 to 9 in 21 matches is significant and notable. I personally think he’s a slightly below average MLS winger but well above average left back, which this match illustrated.

Perhaps by design, Jones had little interest in defending against LA from a wide midfield position. He instead, again, stood near midfield and hoped for outlet passes to allow him to surge into counter attacks. This worked a bit, but he was notably less aggressive going forward with the ball, continually turning it back and funneling possession into the middle instead of the direct, attacking play from previous matches. In the 9th minute Jones was completely missing from the defense and 2 minutes later saved the ball inbounds to LA before casually jogging behind the play as the Galaxy attacked. A 17th minute service into the box was bland and useless, although a minute later he followed up with a good forward run into the penalty area from a middle angle.

After probably being (rightfully) reamed at half for horrible effort, Jones looked somewhat more active in the second half for…6 minutes. In the 51st he stood and watched Nouhou defend against 2 players before 2 minutes later contributing directly with a poor back pass that put his compatriot under pressure. In the 59th Jones again left Nouhou on an island, leading to a free Boateng header wide of goal.

In the 71st after moving to left back Joevin had a terrible back pass that created a 1v1 with Zardes vs. Marshall that luckily Chad handled. The move had the effect of making Jones a much more valuable attacker though, and his tremendous cross to Dempsey on the PK spot in the 81st deserved a better header. Jones defensively dominated Alessandrini on multiple occasions.

When asked to be a consistent creative force from the wing there isn’t enough to offset zero defensive desire. From left back, Jones was able to create width and looked much more effective offensively. Jones’ frustration showed with a pointless yellow card late.

Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 6.1

Dempsey was pretty good, but nowhere near the dominant force I had hoped to see coming from a winning Gold Cup performance. He did lead the team with 3 shots and had a key pass but often looked a little lost trying to find space with a number of ineffective parts around him adding to his own struggles.

When Clint came back defensively in the 9th minute and won the ball in midfield before shrugging off two defenders and finding Bruin forward, I thought he was going to be huge, but other than a decent long shot that tested their keeper, Dempsey wasn’t very effective in the first half. He missed a 14th-minute through ball that saw Bruin wide open, and twice when Clint came back to get touches the ball was lost and turned into a good chance for LA. He did try a fancy bicycle kick, showing his attacking mind is still as quick as ever.

The second half was much improved, and although he was slow to find a Leerdam run in the 51st, Dempsey started to take advantage of the soft middle with quick passing though Nico and Cristian. In the 57th, only a great defensive play by LA stopped Clint from putting Jones all alone into the box. A second overhead kick in the 58th went wide before a 60th-minute give and go saw a Dempsey pass find Roldan with space to shoot. His best scoring chance came in the 70th, when Clint found Nico through the middle and continued his run perfectly, shedding all markers and being alone on top of the 6 yard box for an easy finish; Bruin’s pass didn’t find Dempsey. Seven minutes later Bruin mis-controlled a nice chip pass that may have earned Clint another assist.

Almost all of the second half offense went through Dempsey in a central area, and he was much more effective when Morris was inserted for the struggling Jones.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.3

This was another very quiet game from Nico and it’s fair to start asking what happened to last year’s dynamic, dominant force. He still had 3 key passes, but never seemed to get comfortable in the offense. Much of this could have been due to Jermaine Jones trying to break his legs every time he got the ball, but also the lack of movement from Joevin, Clint and Will made it hard for Nico to dictate the flow of the game. Without active runners, he was reduced to making short, safe passes and Seattle was unable to unlock space via his tremendous touch and vision.

The only time Nouhou got forward effectively was due to nice Lodeiro work in the 7th minute, but LA defender Ashley Cole did a good job of forcing Nico to stay home on his right side. The entire first half was a struggle for Nico, who couldn’t link with anyone other than a 19th-minute connection with Dempsey that opened a glimmer of space. LA’s Jones should have been off for a tackle on Nico before half. Instead the home team continued their emphasis on tracking our little DP who kept moving and trying to find space.

After not finding a pass to open Dempsey and Roldan in the 46th, Nico was quiet for much of the second half, dribbling into trouble a few times and generally finding few options going forward. He had a harmless 77th-minute shot. We have to find some way to get more from a guy who should be the best player on the field.

Forward

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.8 (off 80’)

Bruin was really ineffective against LA, unable to get any separation from the defense with regularity. Almost every single pass was away from goal, and his attempts to hold up the ball were a struggle. That being said, he still was involved in the two most dangerous scoring chances for Seattle and remained active in attempting to stretch the field for others.

It was telling how much the Seattle offense struggled in the first half and how little Bruin saw of the ball. With Jones standing around and Nico clogging space ineffectively with Dempsey, Will was left to make awkward, far post runs hoping to pull the defense from the width. Bruin made multiple runs that forced strong clearing plays by defenders Steres and Van Damme, but he only touched the ball inside the box on three occasions. The first was a 12th-minute flick on that the keeper Rowe comfortably caught. The second occurred right after halftime; the LA defense fumbled a clearance attempt and the ball dropped perfectly onto a hustling Bruin’s foot, only to see him shove a hurried shot well wide with a majority of the goal open. The third and possibly most egregious blunder was on a nice run through in minute 70, with Bruin receiving a ball in space with a completely unmarked Dempsey standing on the 6 begging for service that Will failed to provide. A 77th minute chip should have put Bruin into the box for a shot but his trap at the top of the 18 was poor and slowed him enough that he couldn’t even get a shot off.

Bruin worked hard, but there wasn’t much success. He did track back to defend behind the attacking midfield band on multiple occasions, but he was not an effective option going forward.

Subs

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 66’)

Morris subbed on and was an instant energy addition. In the 69th he took the ball directly at goal with pace. In the 71st the confidence from the Gold Cup was apparent as Jordan tried a deep shot that was blocked, but one that we haven’t seen him willing to pull the trigger on this season. In the 82nd minute he RAN RIGHT BY HIM with a direct run and earned a corner when his dangerous cross was shuttled out. Morris almost got on the end of a Leerdam cross in the 91st after another smart run.

Morris was very good at forcing the issue. It was a huge boost to the offense when he entered to inject pace and direct play from the left and eventually up top.

Brad Evans – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 80’)

Evans came on late and immediately did a good job of getting Leerdam more involved offensively, which helped open the middle for Seattle. He lost possession once and looked somewhat tentative with the chaos in the middle, but you could see Evans attempting to change the shape to allow for a more offensive right side.

Referee

Armando Villareal – 3 | Community – 4.2

This was a generally good refereeing job by Villareal, but I rated him at below the USL level because of his inability to pull the trigger on appropriate cards. For example, he called the correct infraction on Alessandrini in minute 28, but failed to show the yellow card for a professional foul deliberately pulling a player down on a break. Alessandrini had a blatant dive in the 31st that was again ignored.

Even more blatant was a red-card-worthy scissor tackle from behind on Lodeiro in the 41st by Jermaine Jones that has to be straight red. Fouls half this bad have been red and anything from behind that endangers the safety should be a sending off. Somehow dos Santos got called for a foul for deliberate hand ball, slapping a ball towards goal, yet failed to get the deserved yellow for this infraction. When Jermaine Jones pulled down Roldan in the 74th, advantage was given erroneously, since the correct yellow/red would have been much more advantageous to Seattle.

Van Damme was sent off in the 86th but only for a second yellow (he correctly got a yellow in the 46th) in what was 100 percent a red card foul. Two-footed, cleats fully exposed, with enough force to seriously endanger the player (Nico again!). This should have been red. Not only that, but he ALSO should have been sent off for his second yellow either in the 74th for coming through Dempsey or the 79th for hitting Bruin with hands to the face. Even the yellow given to Diallo in the 80th was technically correct, but notable that two players fouled Roldan worthy of a card on that play, and the Alessandrini foul was ignored for the yellow on a younger player. If you are keeping track, LA should have been down both Van Damme and Jones with 15 minutes left to play, lucky to still have Alessandrini on, and dos Santos carrying a yellow. Instead none of this happened.

Villareal was decent otherwise with advantage, common fouls, and managing players, but I can’t overlook his inability to properly officiate an LA team that got away with consistent, card-worthy fouls that were not appropriately penalized.

LA Galaxy MOTM

Romain Alessandrini, who has been excellent this year for a struggling LA, gets the nod here with around 54 percent of the vote for the best Galaxy player on the night.


Seattle is still on a nice unbeaten run, plays a team it should outclass this weekend, and is getting players integrated and healthy. I expect big things from this team going forward, and it will start with getting players on the same page offensively to complement the great defensive effort.