Once again Seattle rode a strong start on the road and held on against a struggling team. The Sounders accomplished their first ever regular season win at Houston. The Dynamo don’t have a great record, but their 55 goals for shows their strong offense: while they are 18th in the shield standings, their -1 goal differential is 12th best in the league. The 3-2 victory wasn’t pretty, and at times Seattle wasn’t the best team on the field, but good teams find ways to win, and Seattle is a very good team.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.0
Frei had a lot to do against a formidable Houston attack. Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, Tomas Martinez, and Mauro Manotas are exceptional offensive weapons, and they made Frei work for the win. He had six saves, and another he was forced to punch wide of goal. Frei did well to keep Seattle in the game on multiple occasions when a slip-up would have drastically changed the momentum.
One thing I liked: Quioto was a beast in this game, and twice he had great chances to tie the match: first in the 41st and then in the 83rd, but Frei came up huge with quality saves that kept Seattle in the lead. Both times Seattle scored soon thereafter, and the momentum-saving efforts from Frei were excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: Stef’s distribution was rough, especially early with short clears in the 20th and 23rd going awry and either to the opponent or out of bounds. He didn’t always get the best balls served to him but needs to clean up the play from the back.
Going forward: At one point I thought Frei would get another shutout (he’s only had seven) and at another point I thought the Sounders might lose the match. In the end the dependable Frei was beat on a backwards header off a set piece and a deflected shross.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.6 (off 82’ for Francis)
Nouhou had a tall order, playing against some of the biggest, fastest attackers in the league. I thought he did well, and the stats backed it up: two tackles, two interceptions, and five clearances. His 81 percent passing was indicative of a back line that struggled more than normal to get the ball through the midfield. Hou versus Elis was a war. I documented every time these two were matched up and it was just fantastic soccer on both sides from guys who are 21 and 22 years old respectively. I noted Nouhou winning 6-4 in 1-v-1 matchups in the first half and Elis winning 3-2 in the second. That is pretty much even with a lean to the guy making some $600k less. I loved watching these two go at it over and over and young Nouhou not only didn’t back down, he dueled the star DP to a standstill. I’ll take it.
One thing I liked: Nouhou’s slide tackle started a break in minute 25 and his near post cross seconds later earned the opening goal-scoring corner. He also won the corner in the 49th minute that Seattle scored on to go up 2-nil.
One thing I didn’t like: After playing physical with Elis for 70 minutes Alberth got inside Nouhou due to poor defense on the opposite side and he was forced to foul. I understand the “professional” foul, but I would rather a shirt tug and nothing involving kicking out. Not losing his cool after was also appreciated.
Going forward: Nouhou wasn’t great, but it’s telling that Houston’s best chances came from the other side of the field even though he was matched up personally with their best player. Of concern is the kinesio tape already on his inner thigh that he pointed at prior to being subbed.
Chad Marshall – 8 | Community – 8.0
In the second game in a few days Marshall was tremendous. He held together a defense that struggled at times, and he stepped up offensively as well. To go along with his goal, he had three key interceptions and four clearances, while winning five aerial battles in the back. The entire defense struggled to pass and keep possession, and Marshall had trouble of his own with an uncharacteristically low 73 percent passing rate.
One thing I liked: His defense was great all match and he slid across to cover for anyone who needed it, threw in a stepover at one point, and scored a huge first goal to put his team in the lead — Chad does it all.
One thing I didn’t like: Early in the second half Marshall made an odd choice to dribble, and he got dispossessed well out of position. Multiple times he struggled to get the ball to a midfielder.
Going forward: Chad scored, which might help his CMOY candidacy, but most importantly he helped his team win and looked strong doing it.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 7.0
Kim did fairly well defensively, with a team high five clearances, but struggled at times to mark runners through his right channel. Distribution was also an up and down affair, resulting in a rough 67 percent completion rate from the back. Through it all he continued to step up authoritatively and consistently prevent counters.
One thing I liked: In the 38th minute a vintage counter-killing step across was displayed as Kim charged into the midfield and completely nerfed a Houston break before it had time to materialize.
One thing I didn’t like: Manotas was excellent at getting looks on goal while earning five shots, and in the 12th minute he got behind Kim for a wide-open header that could have completely changed the match. Kim seems to struggle with headers.
Going forward: A set piece goal and a flukey goal were all Houston scored, but the Seattle back was constantly busy. The duo of Kim and Marshall did well in the middle and showed little weakness.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 6.3
Leerdam put up his second rough outing of the week and just looks a little out of sorts. While he led the team with four tackles, he was repeatedly victimized by Quioto’s speed and physicality, and the Sounders’ right side was a sieve for much of the match.
One thing I liked: Leerdam probably deserved better in the 5th minute when he took a short corner from Nico and dropped a great far post pass that was missed. Kelvin has a number of fantastic offensive plays each game like this one.
One thing I didn’t like: Quioto was a menace, with the Houston attacker badly beating a combination of Leerdam/Cristian Roldan/Kim/Gustav Svensson/Osvaldo Alonso in the 33rd, 46th, 62nd, 78th and 83rd minutes. In the 89th Leerdam lost Quioto once again and he scored a goal for his troubles.
Going forward: Is he carrying a knock? Leerdam seems to be playing very high lately, and creates a few chances a match. Defensively, he’s struggled to put together strong, consistent performances, which is a concern.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 6.8
Alonso clearly looked like he was playing his second game in a week, and his range and movement was noticeably limited. What was great to see was Ozzie adjusting, using the ball at his feet, and passing to cover some of his mobility issues. He had an excellent six dribbles, often weaving out of trouble with full control of the ball. His passes weren’t vertical but they were safe.
One thing I liked: When Nouhou struggled against Elis, Alonso stepped across to help. When the team was playing desperation defense, it was often Ozzie who cleared the ball or blocked the shot due to great hustle and leadership.
One thing I didn’t like: Alonso was often camped right in front of Marshall and Kim and failed to support forward at all in the second half, and at times his lack of mobility made it hard to move the ball between the lines.
Going forward: Ozzie doesn’t try to do what he just can’t anymore, and that is making him a more composed player. This game displayed some of his limitations, but it also showcased how intelligent he is holding the ball and supporting others instead of being a playmaker. After the last two-game week when he looked awful, this was a huge improvement.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.1
Svensson looked rusty or tired upon returning to the team, but you can’t deny that his hustle was fantastic. Svensson was everywhere in the midfield and often was the player to break up Houston as they tried to move the ball through the center of the field. When Seattle needed it, he seamlessly dropped into a fullback position and calmly went about assuring the victory.
One thing I liked: With Raúl Ruidíaz/Nicolás Lodeiro/Roldan/Víctor Rodríguez/Alonso, Seattle has a ton of short guys who don’t win vertical challenges, and Goose just flew around winning every single midfield ball in the air for them. That attribute prevents teams from just being bigger than us in the middle, and his six aerials won was enormous. Oh, and he scored a goal too.
One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t have as much range as we are used to seeing, and he was late a few times to help on the right where Seattle struggled to contain Houston’s attack.
Going forward: Goose is back and he continues to do all the little defensive things that make this team great while adding some sexy offensive scoring flair. He had a key pass too!
Víctor Rodríguez – 6 | Community – 7.1 (off 88’ for Delem)
Another player who looked a bit tired after a full game midweek was Rodríguez, who was back on his left side and again linking up beautifully with teammates. He is such a great complementary offensive option, and in this match he had three shots, two key passes and 85 percent passing in a performance where he attacked with nearly every touch of the ball. He had a nice two tackle, one interception defensive effort in support of Nouhou as well.
One thing I liked: In the 51st minute V-Rod collected a ball in his own half, drove with pace on the dribble directly down the heart of the field at the Houston defense for 50 yards and found Raul for a shot. This is the kind of direct, dangerous offensive attitude he brings.
One thing I didn’t like: He was less effective in the second half and faded in and out of the match at times.
Going forward: Víctor is such a great addition to the offense because he increases the effectiveness of those around him, and he’s a must start when healthy.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM) (off 92’ for A. Roldan)
Lodeiro returned to the lineup and did a lot of vintage Lodeiro stuff. He had three shots, six key passes and 85 percent completion rate as the main creator for the team, continually collecting the ball and finding others in great spots to attack the goal. His movement as usual was great, and his passing map is insane, completely covering the entire offensive half of the field from sideline to sideline, continually pushing the team forward into dangerous spots.
One thing I liked: Lodeiro has struggled at times with his set piece delivery but he was fantastic against Houston. Not only were both of his corner kick assists near perfect passes to the 6 and on the noggins of teammates, but he had a number of other set pieces where his delivery was incredible.
One thing I didn’t like: Although Nico was great offensively, Houston pushed into the gaps he left when roaming and at times this made Seattle’s midfield vulnerable.
Going forward: This guy is amazing and continues to earn high marks in every single match while making those around him even better. Seattle will go as far in the playoffs as Nico carries them, and that’s a good thing.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.7
I thought this was one of Roldan’s worst performances on the year, which isn’t saying a ton as he has played at a high level for much of the season. In this game he struggled to be effective, and his partnership with Leerdam looked shaky both offensively and defensively. His 83 percent passing was okay, he touched the ball fourth most on the team, and he had two shots, but he didn’t create any chances for others and his single tackle and clearance were paltry numbers for a right side that struggled for long stretches.
One thing I liked: In the 10th minute Cristian chased down Elis, bodied him, and won the ball, and in the 84th he made a gut-busting run from the back, shrugging off players and keeping possession on the dribble. Both of these were impressive plays for a defensive mid.
One thing I didn’t like: In minute 54 Roldan fought off DaMarcus Beasley, won the ball and charged into the box unmarked attacking the heart of the defense. He then put a tame left-footed shot right at the keeper. This shows his limitation as an attacker, as he had multiple options at his disposal but missed on a huge chance that could have killed the game.
Going forward: This guy plays 100 minutes a game at a high level, so if he was tired I have no problem cutting him some slack as he, Goose, and Nico run more than the rest of the team combined. I do hope he can reclaim some of the cohesion on the right we saw a few games ago and continue to improve on “winger” specific skills.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 7.1
I originally thought Ruidíaz wasn’t super active in the game but that is only half true. He did only touch the ball 27 times, but his movement and integration into the attack was excellent, and of those touches, five of them left his foot as shots. He was clean linking up, completing 14 of 16 passes and most importantly, putting the ball in the net.
One thing I liked: It doesn’t take RR but an inch to score. A rather innocuous possession by Nico in the midfield led to him finding Raul in the 87th minute at the edge of the box and somehow Ruidíaz controlled the pass full speed and lashed a left footed shot through the keeper and into the goal to put the good guys up 3-1. He got so much power — even off balance, with his “off” foot — that it squirted into the goal and became the game winner.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few times he either missed wide or didn’t get on the end of a ball that I thought he might have done better with.
Going forward: Raul is the master of contributing without needing the ball a ton, and he’s tremendously efficient. Have we seen him at his best, or will he continue to get better as we enter the playoffs?
Waylon Francis – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 82’ for Nouhou)
I sure didn’t see Francis playing twice in a week but he was brought in for (the injured?) Nouhou and did a serviceable job as the outside defender in a five-back line.
One thing I liked: Interestingly enough, Francis didn’t touch the ball. And frankly, that’s a compliment to his play as he was matched up on the same side as Elis and he played strong, consistent, goal-side defense for 10 minutes and helped his team get the win.
One thing I didn’t like: There must have been one time where he could have touched the ball, earned a stat of some kind, right?
Going forward: I haven’t been the biggest Francis fan and this game did nothing to change that, but for a defender, sometimes no news is good news.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 88’ for Rodríguez)
I didn’t even notice Delem subbing on, which is likely a good thing. He didn’t do a lot, touched the ball twice and helped try to solidify the middle.
One thing I liked: Jordy won a nice aerial in the center, which helped clear some pressure.
One thing I didn’t like: Of his two passes, Delem only completed one, and didn’t record any defensive actions.
Going forward: Jordy Delem played exactly how you would expect and did okay, and the team should feel comfortable in knowing what he can give in the future.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 92’ for Lodeiro)
I think this one was just time-wasting, but Roldan made the most of it, with a couple notes in my book in a short appearance.
One thing I liked: Matched up 1-v-1 with Quioto, who had been terrorizing the right defense, Roldan forced the Houston player to pass in the 93rd minute, a definite win for the younger Roldan brother.
Another thing I liked: A minute later Frei booted out a goal kick and Alex nicely controlled the ball, keeping possession along the sideline for a beleaguered Seattle team.
Going forward: He didn’t play long, but Roldan did a nice job with his few minutes.
David Gantar – 5 | Community – 5.4
This game was played on a terrible field, and the ref struggled to get the early calls right that would have kept the game from being a near-brawl by the end. Allowing players to get away with consistent fouls allowed players like Eric Bird and Nouhou to increase the intensity of the match and resulted in a lot of crummy late calls (or lack thereof).
One thing I liked: With Seattle rushing forward in the 74th Gantar played excellent advantage as Boniek García creamed a player behind the play but the Sounders were allowed to play on. When the attack didn’t go anywhere, the yellow was shown with the ball brought back for a free kick.
One thing I didn’t like: An early, unnecessary Alejandro Fuenmayor shoulder to Ruidíaz’s head being allowed just escalated the physicality of the entire game and failed to protect a player. This continued to increase tension after Elis pulled Nouhou down, Alonso knocked a guy, Nouhou knocked Elis down, etc. There was no rhythm to the match as 24 fouls were called with only two yellows handed out for professional hacks.
Going forward: Gantar should have taken earlier control of this game. As it was, it devolved into a mess.
Houston Dynamo MOTM
Elis wins player of the game for being a menace throughout the match (and for menacing Nouhou while somehow avoiding a card).
One more regular season game that can bring Seattle its most coveted trophy of the year. Although San Jose has struggled this season, it’s imperative that the Sounders keep their foot on the gas and win at home to continue this fantastic run right into the playoffs (and a 2 seed! I can dream :D)