For at least one game, the spacing I’ve been talking about for months was there. Guys had room to work, and boy did it work. Matched up with a very good Vancouver team that had won five of their last seven games to go first in the Western Conference, Seattle played them off the field. The stats were telling, with Seattle parlaying 60 percent of the possession into a massive 20-8 shot advantage. Seattle played so dominantly that Vancouver was reduced to fouling to try to stop them, committing a total of 21. When the dust cleared Seattle had a 3-0 win. The Sounders played strong defense, moved the ball quickly through the middle, and were consistently dynamic and goal-dangerous on offense. This game showed the confident, multifaceted team that many expected to be on display all season.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 8.3 (MOTM)
With a strong defense in front of him holding Vancouver to a single shot on target, there weren’t a ton of fancy saves or consistent pressure to rate. Stef played consistently short and controlled, especially in the first half finding his deep midfielders often on dead balls and roll outs. Other than a 6th-minute cross that was allowed to go all the way through the area inside the 6, Frei had zero negative marks.
On the positive end Stefan played Leerdam quickly in the 16th to start a push and came out to catch a cross in the 21st. A minute later Frei made the smart decision to come out of his box and head an over the top through ball wide. With Seattle holding onto a lead but under pressure, Frei made a spectacular diving save on a magnificent Fredy Montero free kick. Similar to THE SAVE, Frei somehow hurtled to his left to get a hand on this goal-bound shot, pushed it into the crossbar and out and neatly corralled the ball after the initial save. This was a fantastic and hugely influential play in a game that was still contested.
In the 44th a similar ball was kicked out by the Sounders keeper, who smartly took no chances. The second half was even less busy, with a nice play in the 57th showing an alert keeper ready for a Nouhou header back; Frei saved the team giving up a needless corner. Stefan was again out to catch cleanly on a cross in the 81st. Only the one free kick challenged Frei, but what a great play it was.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 7.2 (off 76’)
Welcome back dynamic Joevin Jones! Jones is by far the best attacking left back in the league. The first half was textbook overlapping play from the Seattle defender. Without shirking his defensive responsibility, Jones pushed forward at the perfect opportunity and allowed VRod to cut inside and combine with the other attackers. In the second half, Joevin was pushed higher but showed improved tactical positioning and better wide defending than we’ve seen lately. He ended with 85 percent passing, two key passes and an assist.
In the 6th minute his defensive positioning on a cross was perfect, on the back shoulder of Marshall and covering goal side. In the 8th minute his defense impressed again, on a backside run tracked nicely. Both Jones and Rodriguez were fantastic in controlling huge Torres switches, and Joevin did so in the 13th before unleashing a dangerous low cross high on the left side. There were a couple issues defensively later in the half, like when Bernie Ibini got inside in the 31st on a cross, but Jones recovered well and tackled the ball away.
After being pushed into the wide midfielder spot Jones showed just how intelligent he can be when attacking. In the 61st he earned his 11th!! assist with a pass through the box to Nico, but it was his patience to stay onside to open the space for the run he made that really impressed. In the 66th Joevin worked a nice give and go with Nouhou. In the 68th Jones won’t go in the scorebook but his run on the Dempsey goal was fantastic. He started on the right side, and drove his run into the Vancouver defenders dragging two across before pulling a third with a dive at the near post. He did this all while staying connected to the play. In the 72nd his hustle attacking nearly earned Vancouver an own goal.
When Joevin plays like this it’s so smooth, he just glides into the right spaces. His decision-making in the final third was really impressive against the Whitecaps. It’s clear that he can work behind Rodriguez, and this game showed how valuable a left back he is.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.1
Marshall was quietly awesome. Coming off a bit of a knock, he returned to the starting lineup to lead the team in passing efficiency (96 percent) and clearances (seven), while putting Montero in his pocket for most of the match. He also chipped in a shot on goal and had a hockey assist as well.
In the 6th minute Marshall was in perfect defensive position to bottle up Montero. In the 13th he stopped an attack with great anticipation. After an Alonso turnover in the 22nd, it was Chad who rotated over to stuff Yordy Reyna. All of the first half Montero was juggled between the center backs and they never allowed him space to turn to goal. Marshall nearly scored right before half, flicking a low corner directly on goal, only to have it saved off the line by David Ousted.
Chad got a bit of a knock when Montero repaid his strong defensive anticipation clear with an inadvertent foot stomp. Marshall recovered, continuing to deny Reyna and Montero any service or room to turn. In the 61st it was Chad who stepped up to steal a midfield pass and quickly found Vrod, who orchestrated the second Sounders goal. Four minutes later Marshall won a foul from Montero, likely for owning him so hard on defense.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 7.1 (off 78’)
With Marshall rock solid and connecting every pass, Torres was free to float around and be the offensive pest we know he can be. Seriously. He “only” completed 77 percent of his passes, but on many of these passes Roman looked to skip the lines, switch field to attack, and cross into dangerous areas. His communication with Marshall was seamless, each taking turns covering behind the other and perfectly moving in unison in the center of the defense.
In the 7th Roman won a ball in the defense and carried it with a spirited 30-yard dribble up the center of the pitch. This may have looked a little wild, but on the play Seattle ended up with six attackers inside the 18-yard box on offense, which was impressive. Torres consistently plays long, crossfield passes and his two back-to-back in the 12th and 13th minutes were impeccable, picking out first Jones then VRod and singlehandedly changing the shape of the attack. In the 28th Torres almost got on the end of a far post corner kick run.
Multiple times with the Sounders pressing in the second half Roman made very smart decisions to press high on Vancouver players, reading the situation well and gambling in order to keep the ball in the attacking third. He did this in the 56th and 61st; his header on the second was a beautiful ball into the corner for Leerdam. It looked like his sub was already in the works but I really hope it wasn’t due to injury, as Roman has been playing his best games as a Sounder lately.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 7.1
Leerdam is a huge reason behind the resurgence of Torres, with steady lock down defense and positioning affording the big man room to call his own plays. Kelvin just doesn’t get beat very often, and yet still manages to get into good offensive positions. I have been critical of some of his decision-making wide, but this game saw him very composed and a part of multiple great offensive chances to complement his great defense.
In the 8th minute Kelvin popped up on the right with a well-timed run and used a low cross to nearly pick out a teammate. Early on I thought Leerdam struggled to integrate with a strong offensive showing, forcing an 11th minute pass into the box, and missing a 21st minute switch to VRod, but he combined well through the middle while removing Christian Bolanos from the game. Leerdam clearly did his homework and was especially cognizant of Bolanos’ ability to cross, often pressuring the Whitecap into passing instead of letting him dial in crosses. Right before half Kelvin found a ball while lingering around the far post and his direct shot missed barely over.
In the second half Leerdam came alive offensively, starting with a 48th-minute underlapping dribble that put immense pressure directly at the Vancouver central defenders. He found a square pass that nearly was converted into a goal. In the 66th Leerdam controlled a far-post cross in the box and put a goal bound shot that was only prevented from scoring by a defender’s leg. He may have had Dempsey for a pass across the middle but I don’t mind him being goal direct there. Kelvin made up for his 21st minute pass, picking out Victor beautifully in the 77th across the field. Soon after this Leerdam found himself on the ball and beat two defenders, earning a free kick. Kelvin had his best offensive game as a Sounder, while still being effective defensively.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 45’)
With everyone around him playing well, Ozzie would likely also have had a big second half, but instead he was injured with a quad problem near the end of the first half. Up to that point he was just ok, with strong passing including a key pass, but some defensive errors.
In the middle Alonso showed a nice burst, attacking through the middle of the field with the ball and finding Dempsey. Ozzie made a poor decision and looped a crummy switch to Torres (wide on the right wing) that was stolen and led to a counter attack. In the 13th Alonso was caught flat footed, and was easily dribbled around by Reyna. I did like seeing Ozzie turn the tables 4 minutes later, patiently keeping possession and working the ball through in buildup. Alonso’s ability to take two dribbles to break into the hole behind the Vancouver offense was repeatedly an asset, as he drove into that space with his head up and then found a checking Dempsey or Nico.
In the 22nd Alonso tried a dangerous header from midfield all the way back to Frei, and it was a little short, forcing Stefan into an awkward header clear. A moment later Ozzie lost possession in the middle and while crying for a foul watched Vancouver break 2v2 towards Seattle’s goal. He got a yellow card in the 35th and then had a rather testy foul a moment later that made you hold your breath. The ensuing free kick did the same, with Montero nearly equalizing via a beautiful shot that Frei saved. Alonso asked for a sub after missing a long shot attempt in the 42nd, clearly aware that he was done for the night.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.0
Svensson didn’t do anything spectacular, but he did nearly everything very well. He had four tackles, near 90 percent passing in the midfield, and seamlessly worked to make the Vancouver midfield a non-factor all match. He was a perfect combiner with first Alonso and then Roldan in the defensive middle of the pitch, working with both to keep the attack dangerous all match.
In the 6th minute Svensson showed his range, getting tackles in on both sides of the field and filling gaps in the middle. In the 17th he did a really smart thing, stepping up and forcing Vancouver into a turnover and preventing the Whitecaps from clearing pressure. This directly led to the first Sounders goal and was essential to giving Seattle a numbers advantage in the attacking third. In the 28th he had a nice flick on a corner kick that just missed connecting to a teammate on the far post. The rest of the first half was mostly moving around to close down space and let Alonso and Roldan push into the attack higher.
The second half saw a return to the Roldan/Svensson combination and they looked tremendous. Goose was great at recycling possession quickly, trying different angles to get the ball into the attack with pace. In minute 50 he did just this, making a direct vertical pass that picked out Nico in an advanced position. He repeated this again five minutes later, finding Joevin on the wing. Svensson missed a few passes, one in the 53rd that was stolen and turned into a nice Vancouver counter attempt, but generally was strong on the ball. I loved seeing him make a 50-yard sprint back to cover the right fullback position in minute 67 with Leerdam caught upfield. This was another game where I was very impressed by Goose’s conditioning, and he seemed to be everywhere especially late.
Victor Rodriguez – 8 | Community – 8.0
This was a fantastic display of goal-dangerous soccer orchestrated by the offensive stars of the team. VRod was in the middle of everything, and nearly every touch he took was toward putting the ball in the net. Starting on the left wing and playing more in the center after the half, Rodriguez was part of a very fluid attack that was impossible to stop, floating from side to side and attacking any gaps in the Vancouver defense. While spraying passes and linking near flawlessly going forward, Vrod had 78 percent passing, three shots, a key pass, a huge opening goal and again he impressed with some solid defending.
Victor started out the game beating defender Sheanon Williams up the left sideline and earning a foul, and he’d continue to abuse Williams all match. In the 7th Rodriguez showed his direct desire, taking a low shot that was blocked in a sequence all started by his defensive intensity. Another blocked shot in the 16th didn’t dissuade him from continuing to fire, and it paid off a minute later. After some great combination play VRod found a sliver of open goal and placed a perfect left-footed ball into the net to score. Similar to Giovinco, Rodriguez’ short stature hides the power in his hits, allowing him to snap shots that are quickly in the goal from either foot. Victor continued to link up well, finding space with the overlapping Jones and combining with Dempsey dropping into the middle channels.
The second half saw a formation change with VRod playing more of the 10 role, but as in the first half he integrated seamlessly with others and moved around to poke holes in the Whitecap defense. Almost every first touch from Rodriguez is immediately goal dangerous, and he did this beautifully in the 47th, pushing directly forward into the attack. A minute later he popped up on top of the box and nearly slipped Dempsey in on goal alone. Not relinquishing his defensive duties, he stepped into the midfield and a sliding tackle not only earned Seattle possession in the 60th, but led to a Dempsey shot off the crossbar. A minute later again it was Rodriguez’s first shot attacking the goal, this time finding space as Victor sped into the attacking third before releasing Joevin to do Joevin stuff. Up two goals he wasn’t done, and in the 68th the maestro first slowed down Nouhou, controlled the pace, then found Dempsey in an advanced position en route to goal number three. In the 79th VRod was still pushing, beating a man in the box and crossing to a dangerous spot.
Rodriguez showed how tremendous he can be in space. There were a few mistakes, like missing Jones wide in the 46th and losing a dribble in the 53rd, both which killed off attacks, but his offensive skill more than made up for the few errors. This was an excellent display of how effective this guy can be while using a dizzying array of technical skills to dominate.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 8.1
Roldan was very good this game, and although he was overshadowed by the guys with the fancy stat lines, he was as usual the guy continually setting up others for success. He had two key passes, a shot, nearly 80 percent completion and led the team with five tackles. He was everywhere in the first half, popping up on offense in great spots, making space for others around him, and also dropping in to overload the defensive midfield when Vancouver tried to push.
Early on it was clear that Cristian would be making runs wide, angling to the left corner in the 1st minute and the opposite one three minutes later. These diagonal runs from the center pulled Vancouver into the corners and opened up huge swaths of space for his teammates to work. When not running into space he was popping up in the middle of the goal after a far post angled run (13’) and nearly redirecting a Jones cross on frame. Roldan combined defensive work rate from an advanced position with the ball skills to join into the quick transition play that Seattle was employing. In the 16th he beat a man and took an opportunistic left footed shot that hit the far post, nearly scoring. A few minutes later Roldan found himself ahead of Dempsey and after pushing the line headed back neatly to Clint.
The second half saw Cristian back in his customary defensive midfield place and as usual he was nearly flawless. His defensive ability was on display in the 53rd, matched up with Reyna 1v1 in the corner it was Roldan who came out with the ball and pushed upfield. In the 61st he kept the ball in the attacking third with some nice anticipation but then offered up a poor cross while ignoring an open shot. Ten minutes later he lofted a pretty switching pass to Leerdam in space. Roldan got stronger as the game went on, which is doubly impressive knowing he hurt his arm in the 19th minute and looked visibly bothered by it.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.2
What a bounce-back performance from Nico. After some struggles against RSL, he was completely dominant midweek vs. Vancouver. Afforded the space to work, he showed just how incredible his vision and technical ability can be. Lodeiro absolutely thrashed the stat book: 87 touches, with 88 percent pass completion, two shots, four key passes, two assists, a goal, two tackles, and helping an offense look nearly unstoppable.
In the 3rd minute Nico ran into space behind Dempsey and it was in stark contrast to previous games where that space simply didn’t exist. Lodeiro didn’t close down opponent Jordan Harvey in the 6th minute, allowing a very dangerous cross. From a central position, Nico showed great defense in the 11th to steal and start a break right up the middle. Six minutes later Lodeiro looked up VRod in an advanced position and Rodriguez did the rest. With more options on set pieces he isn’t asked to take as many, but I was impressed that each corner found a Sounders player. In the 41st it was time for Lodeiro and Rodriguez to combine through the left side, ending with a near goal from Leerdam coming all the way into the attack on the right.
In the second half Nico was everywhere, but his movement looked more purposeful, drifting into nooks and crannies opened up by the strong distribution of Dempsey. Nico was able to get the ball going towards goal much more often, and parlayed that into directly dangerous play. All his movement paid off in the 62nd, following up a great combination play on the left with a perfect unmarked backside run into the box and clinical finish for the second Sounders tally. Seven minutes later Nico’s motor was on display, and he NEVER STOPS MOVING. This time finding space on the left wing he charged into the box before dropping a perfect diagonal pass back to Dempsey to finish off the scoring.
Every goal had Nico’s fingerprints on it, either making space for others, finding the tight pass to break open the play, or getting on the end of a cross and finishing true. His combination play with Dempsey and VRod was exquisite, and much improved from recent past. This is the dominant DP we have been waiting for.
Clint Dempsey – 9 | Community – 8.0
Dempsey was incredible on Wednesday, showing advanced playmaking skills and the ability to facilitate others beautifully. From the front he had 90 percent completion on his connection and drop offs, which really led to Seattle keeping dominant possession. Clint managed a massive seven shots, a key pass, and a goal, but more importantly combined with others in the front in a fluid, hydra attack that was at times unstoppable.
Playing a sort of a false 9, Clint actually was a dominant hold up forward and consistently brought others into the play, via direct dives at goal. Instead of holding the ball and turning or dribbling around to find teammates Dempsey did something wonderful: He was a central vertical target for the ball from the back, but found the darting, incisive runs of Nico and VRod as they sprinted past him towards goal, or dropped square to defensive or wide mids, before quickly turning and joining the attack. He did so with deft first-time flicks, backheels or close control and passes to feet. This was so smart and it jumpstarted transition play, something he repeated SIX times in the first 15 minutes and consistently all match. It got the ball quickly to the feet of playmakers heading at goal at pace, something that changed everything about the Seattle attack. A 16th-minute backheel led to Nico pushing forward and Roldan shooting off the post. In the 23rd, with Vancouver cognizant of Roldan’s slashing movement, Dempsey dropped off into the pocket and found space for a shot that went just wide. In the 30th Clint found Nico wide and then posted up midway between the 18 and penalty spot, a place these two would remember later in the match.
The second half really opened up the game and after a 48th-minute square pass from Leerdam, Clint nearly got in on goal from VRod’s skill. Minute 61 saw Dempsey in space and he had a go, beating the keeper but hitting the crossbar. Not hanging his head, Seattle scored a minute later, with Clint clearing out the box and occupying the giant Kendall Waston; unmarked Lodeiro scored behind him. With the attack flying, Dempsey was on the playground, dropping sexy flying heel passes to open up Jones up the wing in the 64th and 71st. In between these plays he checked into the hole, found one of those direct runs past him (Nico this time) before recycling into the same spot he found earlier in the game. Lodeiro found him and Clint made a really hard left-footed first-time half volley look simple to cap off the Sounders scoring. In the 79th Dempsey just missed a deflected shot, and in the 91st minute was heading the ball to himself and starting a 1v1 breakaway that forced a yellow when the defender hugged him.
This attack is unquestionably the most dangerous we have seen this year and one that highlights just how good a guy like Dempsey can be when he has the right spaces to work. He really made everyone around him better, while still dominating his individual battles as well.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.5 (on 45’)
Coming in a lot earlier than expected, the Hou looked great. Completing 89 percent of his passes, he chipped in a key pass and five clearances, with nice composure on both sides of the ball. He showed a bit of defensive magic in the 48th and controlled the ball nicely with Montero draped all over him. The train was chugging up the left for a cross in the 50th but he failed to get a cross off. In the 57th Nouhou chose a smart controlled header back to Frei to keep possession. In the 66th after a one-two pass with Jones he put in an excellent cross. Two minutes later he flew out of the back with pace, the ball, and intent, only to be reeled in by VRod who then started a goal sequence. Nouhou nearly earned an assist with a 79th-minute cross that just missed Dempsey and Marshall forward. Very strong outing from Nouhou, who connected well with others.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 5.4 (on 76’)
In the 79th Will worked hard to recover an overhit free kick. This led to one of his five touches in the near 20 minutes he was on the field. He was beat by Harvey in the 82nd defending a corner, lost Waston in the 90th allowing a wide-open look on another corner, and was too slow to get on the end of a Nico pass in the 92nd. I did like seeing him step up to have Nico’s back when he was fouled unnecessarily in the 89th.
Tony Alfaro – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 78’)
Honestly, I kind of forgot he even played. He touched the ball more than Bruin (seven total) and completed 100 percent of his passes. Had a clearance. Did nothing bad, nor good, which is fine for a late defensive sub in a 3-0 match.
Robert Sibiga – 8 | Community – 6.7
Sibiga had a strong outing, in a game that featured one team (hint: not the Sounders) being called for 21 fouls amid some very physical play requiring consistent calls. For the most part I thought the referee did well. My biggest complaint was the severity of the challenges: some might have called for more punishment than given.
In minute 5 Kendall Waston came through the back of Roldan after the ball was well away and this was one of the few instances Sibiga completely missed a call. In the 14th when Waston pushed Roldan again advantage was played, and similar advantage was given on another Waston foul on Dempsey two minutes later. Guess who in the 17th knocked Roldan? You guessed it, and by that point Waston needed to be penalized. By calling advantage on these fouls Kendall somehow ended the game with but a single foul committed. He finally got the deserved yellow in the 26th, after what admittedly looked at first like a Roldan dive. Sibiga alertly conferred with the 4th official and issued the booking for Waston, which made a huge difference in the physicality of the match afterward. Tony Tchani was unfortunately willing to pick up the slack after this, committing five fouls and deserving a stronger punishment for accumulation in my opinion.
I thought a 22nd-minute no-call when Alonso wanted a foul was correct as was the Reyna dive earning a yellow two minutes later. Alonso earned a yellow of his own for a cynical foul, but was given a generous warning moments later for a challenge. I appreciated that Sibiga gave the warning to Alonso then did the exact same thing to Reyna after a foul on Goose. A healthy foul from Reyna on VRod in the 66th should have activated this “last warning used” yellow card but none came, likely since he was already carrying a card (ugh). Finally, we saw our first use of VAR and everything looked good to me. It was quickly and assertively done; the correct call was made (100 percent red for me) and the ref handled it well.
Other than a few lenient calls both ways I though this ref did well to penalize tactical fouling as well as allow consistent advantage when it was in the best interest of the attacking team.
Fredy Montero didn’t score, but as usual there were plenty of plays where you felt he might find the net at any moment. He probably got a little former Sounder bump as well, taking 48 percent of the vote.
Now that’s how you play a rival at home with the playoffs looming. Unfortunately, the team going to Philly is already much different than the one that played midweek at home (VRod and Torres definitely out), and it’s time for some of these bench guys to show they can step up and support the starters. A good result in Philadelphia would be excellent and set us up to charge into the playoffs on a roll.