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Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Player ratings

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Cristian Roldan had yet another MOTM performance against Portland.

Portland Timbers games are never very fun for me; they’re always dramatic, full of vitriol, and not a congenial rivalry. In this one, Seattle scored early against the run of play and then Portland scored right before the half. The 1-1 score would hold up despite inspired play from the home team after the break, with Seattle dominating and nearly overcoming Portland's man advantage. While this feels like two points dropped, we are now 11 games in a row unbeaten.


Keeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.3

Despite it being a rivalry game, Portland had a hard time getting much on frame and only forced Stefan into two saves on the night. The first came in minute one, on a hard-hit Sebastian Blanco shot that Frei was able to push over the bar. Portland kept up the early pressure, forcing Frei out in the 4th minute to catch the ball in a crowd before finding controlled short distribution.

Although the Timbers were the more aggressive team early, Seattle did well defensively and calmed things down for most of the rest of the half. Frei had some shaky clearances, including a goal kick out of bounds in the 33rd and a punt out of bounds six minutes later. Right before half Portland countered through a diagonal pass and Frei came out well to stop an attempted shot, but got a bit of Darren Mattocks. Mattocks made little play on the ball, and I couldn’t tell whether Stef had made a save before the Portland player pulled up the landing gear, but you can’t give this ref any reason to call penalties against Seattle, and Frei did. He had no chance on the PK.

The second half was dominated by Seattle and other than a 66th-minute catch and 80th-minute save on a Blanco shross, Frei had little to do. It’s a shame that we never got a definitive angle on the PK call nor did Geiger check VAR for confirmation. Otherwise Stef was quietly solid.

Defense

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.0

Nouhou sure packed a lot into a single game. On the positive side, he completed a high rate of his passes (78 percent), created a key pass, and led the team with a massive six tackles. He did many great things in this game, but he still has a lot to work on.

The Hou started off slow, getting caught well upfield in the first minute after a turnover, being outjumped by Dairon Asprilla for a header a minute later and missing Morris on a long pass after an overlap in the 4th. The young Sounder calmed down after that, and was a rock defensively in the 7th minute as Portland repeatedly tried to take advantage of him. In the 16th minute Nouhou stuffed Asprilla again and stole possession, but had a poor cross to finish the play. An impressive curling pass down the sideline opened Morris into excess space in the 28th. He had a poor clear to the middle in the 34th and in hindsight, dropping off Diego Valeri right before half was a huge mistake, allowing the star Timbers player to dial up the dangerous pass that earned a penalty.

In the second half, it was similar play from Nouhou, sandwiching strong overlapping play and crossing with some heavy touches and risky plays in the back that kept his teammates on their toes. A foul conceded in the 65th was a smart decision, preventing Portland forward with numbers. As the game went on and with introducing Rodriguez in front of him, Nouhou had less forward impetus, instead being a defensive stalwart using his speed to allow others to push up high. His 93rd-minute red card was a young player being baited by a veteran, and a damn shame.

Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.5

Marshall has been playing well lately, but not completely dominating games statistically. He still tabulated five clearances, three interceptions, two tackles, and his 92 percent passing was excellent.

Matched up with Mattocks, who is more of a slasher than hold up forward, Chad adequately dealt with the striker's speed. Continually matched up 1v1, Marshall beat Mattocks to entry passes, prohibited him from turning, and frustrated the opponent into rushed, off-target shots. With Nouhou playing high in the first half, Chad rotated over to the left side and covered the space behind the left back. Only once (24th) did Marshall get beat, sliding for a pass and missing, which allowed Mattocks to get in behind him. In the 38th Chad just consumed Valeri, using his size and positioning to easily steal a pass.

There wasn’t a lot of action in the second half with the away team going full bunker and counter, although Marshall was beat badly by Mattocks in the 70th and actually fell down behind the play. When Jeremy Ebobisse subbed in to match up with Marshall, the veteran easily dominated the rookie, standing Ebobisse up in the 83rd and 88th.

Roman Torres – 7 | Community – 6.5

This was Roman's best performance of the season. His six clearances led the team and Roman showed up in the offensive stats as well: three shots, a key pass, and a number of nice crosses from the wing. This was very improved play and bodes well for a player who struggled a few months ago.

Early on Torres had a few miscues, whether it was inadvertently flicking on a cross to the back post defensively, to getting forward in the 5th minute and both missing the ball and committing a silly foul. In the 18th minute Roman was a part of the crazy scrum goal, and helped continue the play for Roldan to finish. Whenever needed Roman was across to help others defensively, whether filling in behind an advanced Leerdam or across to cover for Marshall who at times was on an island. Torres did this nicely in the 24th when Mattocks got behind Marshall and was again in perfect position in the 32nd and 49th as the last defender back. In the 46th minute Torres and Leerdam got split and while they did as much as possible to make Mattocks' shot predictable, the two of them and Frei managed to do enough to concede a penalty.

In the second half Torres was more offensive-minded, but didn’t shirk his defensive duties. He followed the ball after a missed header in the 55th and won it back, and in the 73rd he destroyed Valeri as they both attempted to win a midfield header that Roman easily won. Torres was lucky that Ebobisse didn’t make him pay for losing the Timber in the 80th inside the box. Roman was a late offensive catalyst, showing off his great crossing ability in the 89th and 90th minutes, dropping in exceptional passes that nearly won the game. This was as improved performance from Torres.

Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.4

Leerdam had another effective match where he wasn’t able to influence the game much on either end, but was solid in facilitating the success of others. With a passing rate greater than 90 percent, Kelvin completed most of his passes, but failed to connect with either of his crosses and wasn’t a direct threat from the wing.

Kelvin struggled in the first 20 minutes to get into the game. After losing possession in the 12th I was happy to see Leerdam hustle back and recover the ball nicely, but he was easily outsprinted by Vytas Andriuskevicius in a shocking lack of pace in the 19th. Another poor pass from the back on a break moments later was a rarity, but after these first 20 minutes Leerdam was a rock. His 27th minute defensive movement and anticipation was wonderful, eventually stealing a pass. In the 30th he stopped Vytas down the line and earned a Frei goal kick. At the death of the half Leerdam and Torres were split, and it looks like Kelvin lightly clipped Mattocks who tried to dive into ECS. Enough about that.

The second half was quiet for Leerdam, who was more of a facilitator for the offensive guys than a defender who burst into the attack with devastating overlaps and incisive crosses. He found a rare attack spot in the 55th and his overlapping run earned space and Bruin a great entry pass that was wasted. Defensively Leerdam shut down Valeri (62') and rotated around to help as needed. He was also very close to scoring on multiple set pieces.

Defensive Midfield

Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.8

Ozzie hasn’t looked great since returning to the lineup from injury, and this was his third match in a row with a below average grade. It’s surprising, because looking at stats he was impressive – 98 percent passing, three tackles, two shots, etc. Unfortunately, much of his passing was too slow, too safe, and inconsequential to the game and his penchant for losing the ball in terrible spots was a massive problem throughout.

After mis-controlling a pass in the 1st minute, we saw a lot of trapping and dribbling issues in this game, something rare for Alonso. In the 9th minute he set an awkward screen on a set piece that was easily called, negating a great chance for Seattle. The next five minutes were a mess, with Alonso losing possession dribbling forward into a crowd in the 12th, missing a slide tackle and taking himself out of the play in the 13th, and passing to the opponent in the 14th. It got worse in the 23rd when Ozzie took a knock on his knee after stabbing in on Mattocks, and he looked quite hobbled for a while. He closed out the half dribbling into trouble in the 27th and 35th and missing a tackle in the 46th that directly led to Portland earning a PK. Ugh.

As bad as the first half was, something magical happened at halftime (Coach getting more cover for Alonso by Roldan) and things got immediately better. He won the ball in the 54th at the top of the Portland 18 to keep possession and dribbled out of trouble a minute later, finding Leerdam in space before a great incisive pass to Nico in the 56th. Defensively we saw Ozzie recover against Mattocks in the 70th and each time he won possession looked more willing to attack the middle. There were still issues, but Alonso’s increased effectiveness was mirrored by the team.

I believe a majority of the problems with Alonso’s play are health related. He looks slower, less agile, etc.; these are all things that can be fixed over the international break. If he gets his speed back to normal, I think he’ll be back to dominating games again.

Cristian Roldan – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.2 (MOTM)

While Alonso was floundering in the first half, Roldan was holding the middle together and busting his ass to cover the entire field. He lit up my notebook and the stat sheet alike. Roldan finished the game with four shots (three on frame) a key pass, four tackles, two interceptions, to go with 88 percent completion rate, all the while touching the ball more than anyone else on the field.

In the first minute, he slipped in seamlessly behind a Nouhou run and soon was battling up the left channel with Valeri for possession in the midfield. When Alonso was losing possession in the 12th it was Roldan who immediately rotated over to retrieve the ball. For the entire half whenever there was a leak, Cristian was quickly across to help plug it. When given an opportunity in the 18th to change the score line, Roldan did so, showing amazing determination and vastly better reflexes than those around him. After an extraordinary scrum that saw Roldan beat multiple players to the ball, he eventually poked the shot home. This goal wasn’t pretty but sums up his desire and ability to outwork opponents. For the remainder of the first period Cristian worked hard to connect with others but failed to have a huge impact.

The second half was less effective, as Roldan held behind Alonso more and defended from side to side, only intermittently getting forward. He had a 48th minute recovery for the Hou and forced a Valeri turnover in the 52nd. Offensively Roldan's best chance came in the 54th when a beautiful cross found him alone on the backside but Cristian took too many touches and had his shot blocked. He had a nice pass over the top to Morris in the 63rd and a great shot 10 minutes later that forced a save from Portland Keeper Jeff Attinella. Playing right back near the end of the game Roldan was both back in the 86th defensively as well as mixing it up on a give and go with Dempsey in the 88th that had many calling for a PK. Cristian – as we’ve come to expect – played great.

Offensive Midfield

Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 5.4 (off 83')

Jordan had a very nice game that will be remembered more for what he didn’t do than what he did, which is a shame. What he did do is stretch the field from both a wide position and later on centrally, have three tackles and some very impressive defensive work, and get into incredible scoring position on numerous occasions. What he didn’t do was finish off those chances, especially twice when in alone 1v1 with the Portland keeper. I’m upbeat about his ability to consistently create for himself and others, and I still believe that his goals will come.

In minute 3 it was Morris with some nice hold-up play from a Dempsey clear, keeping possession in a crowd. Jordan missed Dempsey with an incisive pass in the 5th and 7th, each killing a break opportunity. He showed more holdup play, winning a flicked header in the 16th and winning possession on a long punt from Frei in the 25th. After running down a pass in the corner Morris just missed Bruin with a too-high cross three minutes later. Defensively Morris was great, and his pressure in the 31st created a turnover before he found Clint with a nifty flick in transition soon thereafter.

In the second half Morris consistently pushed the backline, which opened up the middle. Starting the second period we saw a 47th minute run putting Jordan in on goal alone, only to telegraph his left footed finish a little too much and get saved by Attinella. He didn’t pout, though, getting a through ball after he RRBH* (Vytas) and creating another dangerous chance two minutes later. In minute 56 it was again Morris' pace and anticipation that created a perfect breakaway, and again he missed his shot. While it was well taken, Attinella had it covered and only an earlier shot or slip pass to open Bruin was likely to score. In the 61st after being moved to the top he still tracked back on defense inside his own 18-yard box. Morris' hustle in the 63rd saved an over the top ball for possession. In the 73rd Jordan had a nice holdup chest pass from Torres pass gently into Lodeiro’s run. In the 79th Morris was back on the deep right again showing great defensive intensity and willingness to track back.

It’s a shame neither of his big chances were goals, because Morris deserved credit for a good game. He offered a lot of two-way play and stretched the field in ways that are important as the season continues.

* RAN RIGHT BY HIM

Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 6.0

Clint had a hard time finding space in the first half, but finished strong, contributing two key passes, three shots, and 87 percent passing completion rate. After some halftime tweaks, there was more space in the middle for him to work, and especially after Morris moved to the top and VRod came in, we saw Seattle take advantage of the final third much better.

Clint played a lot of defense in the first half, hitting my notebook multiple times such as supporting wide in the 3rd minute or helping the left wing in the 8th minute which opened up a 2v2 going forward. The biggest offensive contribution from Clint in the first half was mis-hitting a cross that ended up as the corner that Seattle scored on, as well as occupying two players in the 37th before slipping Nico into space. The second half was much better from Seattle who fixed central midfield issues and some spacing, allowing Clint to do Clint things like find Morris through in the 47th for a 1v1.

In the 49th it was Dempsey playing hold-up, this time opening Leerdam into space before working a pretty give and go with Nico four minutes later. A defensive header in the 69th led to a breakout for his team and it was Clint finding a slip pass into Nico in a dangerous spot. This was a common theme for the second half, with Dempsey and Lodeiro (and later Rodriguez) looking for and finding each other in the offensive third. Seattle nearly earned all three points through a give and go between Roldan and Dempsey in the 88th but it wasn’t to be.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.6

Lodeiro has quietly played very impressive games over the last few weeks: we are seeing more of what we expected out of a player of his caliber. This game was another wonderful display of attacking soccer, with Nico completing nearly 80% of his passes while constantly pulling the strings on offensive thrusts to the tune of 5 key passes. He also added a couple of shots, consistent movement and defensive pressure, all the while gathering multiple knocks from defenders.

Nico's set pieces were very nice against Portland, with a 9th minute free kick into a dangerous spot as well as his dangerous corner in the 18th eventually being shoveled into the goal by Roldan. The first half was a struggle for Lodeiro though, with a few passes coming up too short and missing at least one glaring through ball that I would expect him to make. This was mostly fixed in the second half, and suddenly Nico was everywhere. In the 47th his backheel gave Dempsey the space to find JMo through. Moments later Lodeiro was defending Valeri and stole the ball, before another defensive gem helping out Nouhou in the 51st. After missing a 52nd minute through ball to Bruin, Nico made no mistake, lifting a perfect ball into the path of the onrushing Nouhou into space two minutes later. In the 56th Lodeiro found another through ball, this time onto the feet of Morris in on goal. Three minutes later Nico pulled a pass back through the box and just missed a sliding Dempsey shot.

Nico missed a few through balls, and kicked over on a 77th minute free kick, but he looked excellent roaming, finding weakness, and distributing passes all over the field.

Forward

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 61')

This was a forgettable outing for Bruin, who has struggled lately. He managed only 16 touches, had zero shots, and wasn’t involved in much of the quality chances that Seattle created. He has been a very opportunistic finisher on the year, but against Portland failed to find many chances to do much of anything.

In the 28th Bruin made a nice run, but the Morris cross was too high to get on the end of. He chested a ball down nicely for Nico in the 31st, but when he received the return pass turned it over. Will used the under-utilized back (literal) pass to find Dempsey in the 35th. There wasn’t much else on the positive list, while he consistently failed to hold the ball up with his back to the goal (turnover 7', passed directly to Vytas 30'), wasn’t on the same page as teammates (Dempsey dummy in the 22nd, Marshall over the top pass in the 26th), or just randomly kicked the ball to the other team like in minute 46.

This was a mess, and passes like the one he attempted to give Dempsey in the 48th that was directly into 2 defenders show how compacted the field was when he was attempting to play at the point. The few times he got into attacking positions Bruin was ineffective, and he turned the ball over inside the 18 right before being subbed out. Will tried to run away from the play to create space, but it wasn’t effective and he will need to figure out quickly how to play with a very technical band of three beneath him.

Subs

Victor Rodriguez – 6 | Community – 6.9 (on 61')

Good things happen when V8R is on the field, and this sub combined Morris’ field-stretching ability with Rodriguez’ technical savvy. There were instant fireworks, with Victor winning possession and finding teammates around him. In the 64th he won the ball at the 18 and recycled the offense instead of forcing things, showing great restraint. In the 71st we saw his trademark checking run from the left channel and this opened up options down the line for the Hou as well as for VRod to cut inside. In the 80th he combined well with Dempsey and three minutes later found Nico on a cross. This guy just sees passes others don’t, like a 90th minute look that found Torres open on the right through a crowd.

Victor was beat downfield into the box by Zarek Valentin and wasn’t getting back on defense much (if at all), which may prove to be problematic at some point, but his dynamic offensive numbers can’t be understated. He had 2 key passes and 100 percent completion rate, all the while aggressively pushing the play forward.

Lamar Neagle – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 83')

Asked to come into the game late and do something.... Neagle didn’t do much. He touched the ball 10 times, and completed all of his passes which is helpful for possession’s sake, but many of the passes were tame square balls to Alonso. He did have an 88th minute cross that only made it to the top of the 18 but was an interesting angle. I noted Neagle getting in the way of Nico on numerous occasions. It was a curious sub choice.

Referee

Mark Geiger – 2 | Community – 2.4

I don't know why this guy still has a job. He always calls a PK, red card, or both against this team. Why he got both Timbers games in Seattle this year is a mystery. In fact, in the last 2 years Geiger has reffed Seattle 4 times. He has averaged under a 3 from me. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Geiger made a few good calls. He had 26th and 27th minute no-calls on both Nagbe and Lodeiro that I thought appropriate. His 53rd minute call on Diego Chara was a quality call and the yellow card on Olum was spot on.

Unfortunately, there were just too many TERRIBLE calls. In the 2nd minute he overruled his AR to award a corner instead of goal kick on a completely wrong decision, something he would repeat in the 43rd, totally missing the possession and confusing everyone on the field and watching. In the 22nd Chara made no play on the ball from behind and took out Roldan, but "advantage" was used to ignore a cardable moment. On a 28th minute free kick Roy Miller gave Roldan a two-handed shove with no whistle. In the 34th minute Valeri blatantly dove, and while it was a good no-call, it warranted a yellow for simulation. In the 76th there was a weird advantage call with Nouhou wide open and Dempsey cleaned out, yet again no yellow was given. In the 91st a phantom foul was called 2 passes after the "foul" was committed.

If that were the extent of the problems, it would be a 5 or so rating. Unfortunately, there were a number of big plays that singly may not be too bad but taken in their entirety show a completely incompetent referee. Here’s my list of calls; I can understand maybe one happening and going against Seattle, but every single one was game changing and went against the home team:

14' Larrys Mabiala fouls Will Bruin, hands to face. This play has been largely ignored, but I think it’s a red. He swings the arm directly into Bruin’s face and at the least it’s a yellow (no card given!). There is intent. OK, so hands to face aren’t reds or yellows, just a foul – OK.

20' Blanco cocks his elbow, and aims it directly into Leerdam's face. This is 100% a red card for intent (and accomplishment) to strike the face. He got a yellow for "unsporting behavior" which means he got ZERO penalty for the elbow, but instead a card for standing over Leerdam on the ground and yelling at him. At the LEAST, this should have been 2 yellows (elbow violent conduct, plus the unsporting yellow) and he should have been gone. Looks like hands to face still nothing more than a foul – ok.

46' PK awarded. Geiger is in a horrible position, completely behind the break and screened by everyone in the play. To not use VAR in this situation is insane. It shows a complete arrogance. I think it was a foul, but he didn’t have a clear view and this was more evidence of failing to use his assistants.

88' Roldan works a give and go with Dempsey, and even though the ball bounces off his face, it lands softly enough that he could get to it; he is cleaned out by Mabiala. Maybe a good call, but not even a second glance?

89' Handball in the box, waved off. Again, VAR is a nice option here but he made zero effort to use it. This looked like a penalty to me, with Valentin's arm in an unnatural position and stopping a ball in the box. Again, no review of a potential game-defining play he was in bad position to make a designation on. So eager to call a PK earlier, so reticent to even consider one then.

93' Red card on Nouhou. Nouhou is making a charge up the field and Chara moves in front to shield him via obstruction. Nouhou swims through this instead of going down and INSTANT RED CARD FOR HANDS TO FACE. But we earlier established hands to face is nothing, right? WRONG. YOU’VE BEEN GEIGERED.

Nothing else to say.

Portland MOTM:

Diego Valeri edged past goalkeeper Jeff Attinella for the best Timber on the day.


Really frustrating. I do not want to write about another game against Portland this year, and REALLY hope Geiger is not affiliated with any of our remaining games. LAG comes here after a break and they are ripe to give us our 12th unbeaten in a row. Let’s make it all three points.