We wanted a more exciting, upbeat game than the one in Dallas, and we definitely got that. Unfortunately, the continuous rain, altitude, and poor second-half play doomed Seattle to their first loss in 14 games. The Seattle Sounders had some good chances, but failed to finish. Eventually the patchwork defense allowed in goals, and Real Salt Lake won 2-0. Seattle again looked like they were in preseason mode, unable to finish numerous chances and making uncharacteristic errors in the second half.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.0
It didn’t seem like Seattle had a distribution plan from the back, including from Frei, who at times was hesitant on where to go with the ball. He was beat in minute three by an Albert Rusnak shot that hit the crossbar. Other than that attempt, the first half was about managing the game, coming out off his line in the 38th and 41st to handle forward probes by RSL. Near the end of the first half Frei received the ire of both Torres and Rodriguez for playing short to Nouhou after saving a Rusnak shot. With other options, Stefan forced the ball to the young player who contributed to a testy moment when possession was lost in midfield.
After being scored on by an open Jefferson Savarino from seven yards out in the 52nd, Frei staunched the bleeding with a nice burst off his line to get to the ball before Brooks Lennon a minute later. There was not much he could do against an open player scoring in the 66th, but he made a very nice save on Rusnak in the 84th on a well-placed shot. He also prevented a 91st minute goal after a 2v2 situation saw RSL nearly score a third.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 61’)
The ‘Hou struggled against RSL; this is the first game where we saw some of his weaknesses. His 54 percent pass completion rate was very low, and only better than Neagle’s. He went 0/6 on long passes. Without the steady Chad Marshall next to him, Nouhou looked a mess. He was fairly strong defensively against Savarino, but was consistently pulled out of place and was a negative factor going forward.
He made strong defensive plays in the 8th and 11th minutes, as RSL pushed down his side early. In the 15th Nouhou was stuck in possession, nearly lost the ball and conceded an unnecessary corner. In the 18th he was beat by Savarino and fouled the RSL player. In the 24th Svensson had to rotate behind after Nouhou was beat. In the 30th Savarino again got in behind him, and Seattle was lucky that his first touch took him away from goal. After a nice defensive challenge, Nouhou ended the half closing down Tony Beltran in the 42nd.
Nouhou subbed out in the 61st but did little before that in the second half. On the first RSL goal, Nouhou was caught upfield and unable to help. Offensively Nouhou was a black hole, missing a wide open Victor Rodriguez in the 26th after a great overlap — this play illustrates how much work he needs going forward. Nouhou has the pace and instincts to get in good positions, but his decision-making and passing constantly fail him. He is young and can learn these things, but at RSL he was a liability.
Gustav Svensson – 5 | Community – 5.0
Starting at left centerback for an injured Chad Marshall, Goose had a strong game that was punctuated with some very poor plays. His overall stats of 88 percent pass completion rate, 7/10 long balls, four clearances and two interceptions are in direct contrast to mistakes that led directly to good RSL chances.
Svensson was strong in the first half. Punting a long pass to V-Rod’s head was an odd 1st minute choice, but there were few midfield options for Gustav. In the 5th he used a long, incisive pass instead of a safe short pass and found Bruin forward. His long passing was likely influenced by a lack of easy passes through the middle. In the 16th he made a strong defensive play in the box and was quick to clear a dangerous 19th minute pass. In the 24th, Goose helped the needy Nouhou on the left wing before stopping another attack with a slide tackle four minutes later.
The second half was a disappointing performance by Svensson. After winning a free kick, Seattle went short in the 52nd and Gustav made a terrible forced midfield pass that was stolen and countered directly to goal. This was a bad choice made worse by the wide defense being forward because of the set piece. In the 60th Svensson was caught in possession inside the six yard box and made a weak central clearance. He was beat by Justen Glad on a back-post header a minute later, continuing his aerial struggles on set pieces. A number of good plays included finding some strong passes forward from the back to open up the center. In the 66th minute RSL scored their second, and Svensson was caught in no man’s land between stepping to the ball and marking a runner; instead he just marked space. This is a recurring problem (he did the same thing in the 75th). When confronted with a break defensively, he drops into a space and marks it, leaving opponents to move freely around him. He closed the game out in the 84th by mis-controlling a ball to Luke Mulholland, leading to a Rusnak shot and diving in on defense, missing the last man in the 89th.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community – 6.2
While the left defense struggled, the right wasn’t much better. With an okay 80 percent passing rate, Roman looked for over the top passes and big switches that failed to do much for the Sounders. In the 4th Torres was too slow to step to Rusnak, allowing a shot that hit the crossbar. Six minutes later he put Alonso in a terrible spot, forcing a short pass to the midfielder surrounded by RSL players. In the 19th Roman chunked a ball upfield to no one that was headed immediately back at him for a Salt Lake break. After a rough first twenty minutes, Torres calmed down and played well for the next forty, including some great 21st minute anticipation to stop the ball and thwarting Joao Plata in the 32nd by stopping a through ball.
The second half was punctuated by some domino-effect defending that earned RSL goals. A 64th minute pointless Torres pass was to no one and easily stolen, and he compounded this error by following the pass and leaving a hole behind him. Seattle was lucky not to concede, but then did two minutes later. Torres was in the middle of that play, failing to recognize a left-central midfield run and allowing Mulholland to get inside of him. He had time to get much closer and was instead caught in between a wide open Mulholland (who scored) and a less dangerous far-post runner.
Roman again was effective on offense, overloading the right side in the 38th which culminated in a shot for V-Rod and even showing fancy footwork on the ball in the 62nd within the middle scrum. Torres has been very good lately, but like Svensson, he will be remembered for his errors in this match.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.7
RSL didn’t attack a ton through Leerdam’s side, and he had a quiet game defensively. Plata, who was largely marked by Leerdam, was very quiet against Seattle. That being said, Leerdam had a sloppy game and was ineffective, failing to complete any crosses and offering very little going forward. He still is not connecting with Lodeiro with any kind of consistency.
In the 9th minute Kelvin won his 1v1 matchup with Plata, and did so for a majority of the match. He followed this with a bad pass in the 16th and missed an open Lodeiro a minute later in the penalty area. In the 33rd he found Nico on the far post, but his cross was right to keeper Nick Rimando for RSL, killing a great opportunity. He kept his shape well in the first half and contributed to more spacing on the right.
The second half saw Seattle struggle and Leerdam was part of the problem, failing to take advantage of the right wing that was again open for him to use. I marked him down for losing possession three times on the right, and he especially struggled to find Bruin in combination. Leerdam passed to Dempsey at the top of the box for a chance in the 54th, and his 80th-minute dribble to the end line and cross back to Dempsey would have been a goal if not for strong RSL defensive work and Rimando’s save. The last few games have illustrated the strengths and limitations of Leerdam’s game.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.0
Alonso looked very strong last match and followed that up with an average game this week. He led the team in touches and had 93 percent completion on his passes, but none were very incisive (zero key passes). He did little to join the attack and help Seattle get numbers forward. Defensively Alonso remained central, allowing Roldan to float more, but failed to cover the centerbacks well in the second half.
The first half Alonso dropped centrally and played destroyer. After losing Rusnak for his 4th minute crossbar-rattling shot, Alonso showed great 8th-minute patience in the box to defend Rusnak. In the 10th he lost the ball to Kyle Beckerman in a bad spot after being unable to dribble out of a jam that Torres put him into. Ozzie looked a little slow in the center, but won midfield possession in the 26th and turned a break back late in the half with a well-timed tackle.
Savarino ran right by Alonso (☹) to score early in the second half, as again Ozzie struggled to contain direct runs from the middle. A few minutes after the goal Alonso had a great switch to open the field for a Leerdam run, but Seattle was unable to capitalize. Late in the game Alonso’s energy was lacking, and he was lucky that a 74th-minute pass didn’t get him into trouble. I was unsure why he played Marshall’s feet on a break in the 89th, and much of his decision making in the second half was questionable.
Cristian Roldan – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.6 (MOTM)
In the first half Roldan was a monster. He was clearly the best player on the field and roamed around creating havoc with both offensive and defensive actions. He ended the match with a 93 percent completion rate on his passes and a shot, but it was his massive eight tackles that stood out. Cristian completely dominated the game in the first half, stopping anything that RSL tried while at the same time pushing the Sounders into the attack.
In the 3rd minute Roldan introduced himself to Rusnak, dispossessing the RSL DP. In the 15th Cristian was back to help support Nouhou on the left wing. The 20th minute started a trend of Roldan beasting shoulder tackles, first against Plata, then four minutes later against Savarino, and against Mulholland in the 25th. His strength and balance in these plays is magical and shows a great toughness that Seattle needs in the middle. Roldan is also fast, and he showed this with a recovery run preventing a Rusnak shot in the 27th before winning the ball in the 32nd on the wing. In the 34th Roldan just abused Lennon, first stealing the ball before shielding it and earning a foul on the sideline.
The second half was nearly the complete opposite, as Roldan was taken out of the match by smart tactics from Salt Lake coach Petke. Cristian still worked hard, but he got caught forward a few times, which stressed a defense that was counting on him to save the day. Roldan got more and more frustrated, committing a foul after losing the ball in the 60th, earning an elbow to the face, and just being generally ineffective. He did get into the box in the 65th but was the victim of a shoulder tackle similar to those he’d been dealing out, and no PK was awarded. To be a superstar, Roldan must remain relevant even when the other team prevents him from having an impact.
Victor Rodriguez – 7 | Community – 5.6
Victor had a fairly strong game that nearly won MOTM and was one of the bright spots on a team that struggled for stretches of the match. Early on he was effective as an offensive creator with three shots and a key pass, but was also very impressive defensively (six tackles!) This two-way ability had been a concern, and after this outing Seattle might consider a more offensive-minded left back behind him. In the 91st minute, V-Rod’s extreme hustle to get back in a 2v2 break for RSL showed a dedication to defense. Victor was one of the few players to play well in both halves.
In the 5th minute Victor had great tactical awareness, dropping into the left-central channel to receive a pass and immediately looking vertical before putting a perfect pass to get Bruin on goal. This was great movement and vision and it deserved a goal. In the 12th minute a poor cross from V-Rod was quickly countered and he needs to be more accurate with these (1/5). A minute later Victor attacked up the wing, cut into his right and … saw no options. Seattle really struggled to get any numbers into the attack, with only Bruin and Dempsey at times even close to the RSL area. After poor control V-Rod popped up in the box and put a nice shot on goal through traffic that was saved by Rimando in the 38th.
In the second half Rodriguez was one of the few Sounders who played well, showing off a nice run in the 54th and good defense in the 59th and 62nd. Victor combined nicely with Dempsey (it can happen!) in the 68th before putting a shot wide. Another 80th minute shot was also just wide; it’s really frustrating to see how many shots were close but outside the posts. Although they worked okay a few times, Clint and Victor need to get on the same page and start connecting passes. At times the front four look like they’ve never met each other.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 5.0
Clint was again involved in most of Seattle’s good chances, but he failed to score. The usual 77 percent passing, key pass, 2/3 shots on target stat line looks solid. Yet the team was shut out, and there were fewer consistent, strong opportunities than you would expect from a front line with all this talent. Clint does not connect with Nico or Victor very frequently, and it’s infuriating to watch these talented players fail to complete passes to each other in good positions.
In the 5th minute it was Dempsey playing holdup forward, winning possession with his back to the goal to bring the midfield into the game. He followed this up two minutes later by badly over-hitting a switch out of bounds. In the 13th he missed Nouhou who was trying to overlap, but a beautiful backheel connected with Nico in the 20th and gave his teammate a ton of space to work. A minute later a short corner kick found Dempsey with a near-perfect one-touch diagonal pass to Nico in on goal but the Uruguayan was too slow. Clint forced a shot in the 28th that was blocked, couldn’t connect with Nico on a short pass in the 33rd and missed both Bruin and V-Rod on a throughball in the 40th that was very similar to the one RSL used to score their second goal.
In the second half Seattle’s attack dried up, but Dempsey still had two excellent attempts that were stopped by Rimando. His 80th minute run across the box and shot was goal-bound until defender Justin Glad got a touch on it, redirecting the ball into the wingspan of Rimando. Smartly taking a quick free kick in the 93rd, Dempsey placed the ball neatly inside the far post only to see Rimando make a spectacular diving save to prevent a late Seattle tally. This attack needs better connections between the stars, but we are quickly running out of time for them to get acquainted.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 86’)
Nico had one of his worst games as a Sounder versus RSL; he looked slow and lost at times. He completed only 70 percent of his passes, and while he had three more key passes, his enormous key pass collection is rarely creating actual goals. We can and should expect more out of this attack, with Nico failing to register a shot or create any consistent pressure in an underwhelming outing. He looked tired, and maybe that’s part of why he subbed out of a game for the first time.
Early on Nico did not track back defensively at all, leaving Leerdam on his own, but it was his roaming movement that opened up Bruin to be in alone on the goal in the 5th minute. It was hard to watch Lodeiro fail to combine with his teammates, missing pass after pass. In the 5th he missed Dempsey, in the 9th backheeled to RSL, in the 24th missed V-Rod on a through ball, a minute later missed Leerdam; it was ugly. Nico frankly looked slow, unable to get on the end of passes and failed to pass to teammates adequately. Two chances in the 17th and 21st minutes went wasted when he couldn’t summon the pace to get on the end of dangerous balls. In the 25th Nico killed a break with a turnover, and two minutes later mis-passed a wide ball. In the 26th Nico had a nice cross that Bruin did ... something with. Near the half Nico was visibly walking, something that is rare to see.
The second half highlight for Nico was a great 51st minute pass that just missed a central V-Rod run. A 55th-minute sequence summed up his night — he ended the play with a terrible cross out of bounds over the keeper’s head off of a recycled corner. Lodeiro had a 6v4 numbers advantage in the box and punted it out for a goal kick. It was Nico’s mis-trap in the 65th that started the second RSL break. I don’t know what to say about this performance. The connection and chemistry these players should have by this point in the season is not there.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 4.4 (off 72’)
Bruin struggled again, botching a huge chance and not offering holdup or aerial play to support his teammates. He completed 2/3 of his 15 passes, and had two shots. Unfortunately, he did little to be a dangerous option after the first 10 minutes of the match. In the 5th minute Bruin made a stellar direct dive to goal and received an impressive pass from V-Rod. He promptly took a bad touch to the side into defender Glad and lost a huge chance to get Seattle on the front foot early. In the 9th minute Nouhou yelled at him to check to the ball, something a forward should be doing instead of standing at the corner of the 18 and watching.
Bruin held a nice high line in the 17th and found Leerdam wide, but three minutes later did everything wrong on a failed holdup attempt from a Svensson pass. After being sprung forward into the box a few minutes later with possession and Seattle with a numbers advantage, Bruin took a weak, badly angled shot right to Rimando. In the 26th Bruin was in the way, and then when presented with a nice Lodeiro cross promptly headed the ball down into his own feet. A few minutes later Will crowded Dempsey’s space before being out-tackled by the “massive” Plata in the 34th. He did chase down a long ball and win possession right before half.
Before being subbed Bruin managed to lose a free kick pass with a terrible run before the culmination of his night in the 62nd. With everyone around him moving in the attack, he received a pass in the box and stood on it before attempting a bizarre backheel that was easily stolen by RSL. This was a poor outing for a player who hasn’t looked good for quite some time.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 61’)
I’m not sure why Jones isn’t starting at left back, but he was brought in to play a sort of hybrid left back/wing in this one and failed to do much offensively or defensively. I liked seeing his 63rd-minute direct dribble into the box on a diagonal, but he immediately lost the ball. A moment later he had a direct cross to Rimando. In the 64th he stepped on the ball in attack, and when RSL eventually gained possession, Joevin showed zero hustle back as the home team scored through the left defense. When Jones decided to play defense he was excellent, like in the 81st when he used his pace to stop a dangerous break. Jones created zero offensively.
Lamar Neagle – 4 | Community – 4.9 (on 72’)
Long forgotten is the LA Galaxy goal, but somehow Neagle still gets minutes. He managed an open header three minutes after subbing in, and he both missed it and was called offsides. He lost a dribble on the break after stumbling over his own feet and lost the ball in the 86th to Mulholland before standing around idly watching. He had a great flick on in the 87th to RSL, which contributed to a dismal 43 percent passing rate. Toss in a yellow card for good measure. Neagle created less than zero offensively.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 86’)
Sorin Stoica – 7 | Community – 4.9
Overall, I thought Stoica did a fairly good job refereeing this match. With the heavy rainfall, there was plenty of slipping and physical play, which he did well to adjudicate. Unlike a number of his colleagues, Stoica remained in charge of the game and never seemed out of his depth when dealing with heated players. He also was consistent with his calls and remained cohesive to the play, making his calls justifiable for the most part.
I thought his 18th-minute foul call on Nouhou was correct. Most of the night Stoica allowed advantage play, and he was pretty good at allowing action to continue when necessary. A 34th-minute advantage given to the Sounders when Rodriguez was dribbling towards his own goal was a bit harsh, since he had possession but wasn’t gaining any advantage. Good advantage was played in the 44th to allow RSL to hit a throughball after a midfield foul. I’m not sure why Dempsey was denied taking a quick free kick in the 38th after a foul. The shoulder tackles allowed to Roldan were all great calls and telegraphed what he was going to allow in the match.
In the second half things got more heated, with a number of physical altercations to decide on. I thought Mulholland should have been reprimanded for an offensive slide tackle in the 53rd that took out Nico right in front of the referee, but play was waved on. A 57th minute high hand from Leerdam was given a yellow card, and with hands to face rules it’s hard to see that as a bad call, although there wasn’t much in the contact. It was much less serious than the Plata elbow to Roldan in the 76th, which to me looked to be aggressive and deliberate. I have seen the first not receive a caution and the second get a red, but both being yellow is pretty easy to defend. Instead Plata received nothing, on a clear play right in front of the 4th official, which is disappointing. I don’t expect a red there, but no cards make the yellow for Leerdam ridiculous.
Stoica allowed Sunny to come into the game and hack everyone for a few minutes, culminating in Neagle getting a yellow for defending his teammate on a fantastic flop. Sigh. This was above average merely because the average ref has been much worse this season.
Real Salt Lake MOTM
Nick Rimando didn’t have a ton to do in this match, but when he was called on he denied the Sounders’ few decent looks at goal, including Deuce’s attempt to sneak the ball by him on a free kick. Rimando easily earned the MOTM with over 58 percent of the votes.
Bye bye streak. There are huge issues with scoring right now, but nothing a little midweek shelling of Vancouver won’t resolve. We dominated our northern rivals last meeting and were quite upset to only tie; however since then the two teams have headed in different directions. It sure would be nice to get back on track toward a high playoff seed with a win at home.