Sigh. There is much to unpack from this match, but frankly I’m exhausted from this season with its highs and lows and frustrating finale. The Sounders won 2-1 in regular time, followed by 1-1 in extra time for a 4-4 aggregate score. This led to a shootout, which Seattle lost 4-2. The Sounders completely dominated in stats such as possession (~70 percent) and shots (21-11), but a few key failures on each end of the field let Portland take advantage of their few chances. Ultimately, the Timbers prevailed in the shootout and ended the Sounders’ season.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
Frei didn’t have to make a save until the 60th minute. He was rarely tested, which may have aided Sebastián Blanco, who fired in a devastating 78th minute shot through traffic.
One thing I liked: Late in the match Lucas Melano slid a shot back across the goal and Frei did well to save. This 92nd minute shot was a save I would expect Frei to make, but he did great to keep the rebound minimal, keep Seattle in the match, and allow the team to make their comeback.
One thing I didn’t like: I don’t know who Portland had after Dairon Asprilla in the shootout, but it can’t have been anyone great. If Frei had gotten just a tiny bit more on the Asprilla shot and Nico, etc. got to shoot, things might have been different. We will never know. ☹
Nouhou – 9 | Community – 7.3
Nouhou had his best performance in this game. Finally trusted to play in a one-off match, the young left back delivered spectacularly. Call me a Nouhou shill, I don’t care; he was an absolute beast defensively with a game high seven tackles (and didn’t lose any contested tackles), on the way to a massive 28 defensive actions. Comparatively, Kelvin Leerdam had five. Offensively Nouhou was constantly forward to add width and produced a number of quality crosses into very dangerous areas that went unrewarded. He still maintained an 85 percent completion rate for the match.
One thing I liked: Nouhou just kept getting stronger, showing incredible stamina and effort. After 12 passes in the first half of extra time he added 10 more in the second, never tiring or missing out on plays. He was everywhere on both sides of the ball, making 96th minute bicycle clearances as the last man back, consistently winning the ball on defense and rushing into the offensive third to support the attack.
One thing I didn’t like: Other than a 94th minute foul on Asprilla that gave Portland a dangerous free kick to try to win it late, Nouhou was tremendous in this match. Could he have said “임 노우 우는 저주받은 공을 치우는 중에 나간다” In minute 78?
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 5.6
Kim was asked to play left center back and right back in this match, and didn’t seem super comfortable with either. The communication with Nouhou and Torres might have been some of the issue, but against a team that parks the bus and then looks for surgical counter attacks, it was a problem. Kim’s passing was great (88 percent) and he often looked to get into the attack and offer more direct play from the back.
One thing I liked: For about 90 percent of the match Kim was great, finding clean passes forward and using his speed to remove any Portland counter attacks. He consistently had good range across the backline to cover for teammates that were pushed forward.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 31st minute Jeremy Ebobisse was able to control a cross in the box in front of Kim and in the first period of extra time Kim didn’t get goal side of Asprilla, allowing a huge headed goal. These are issues in positioning and dealing with crosses that have plagued Kim all season, and while he was playing right back in the latter, he needs to do better.
Román Torres – 7 | Community – 6.2
Torres was better than expected, sliding effortlessly into the right central defense and having a great match. His four interceptions and three clearances highlighted a strong defensive effort and he somewhat surprisingly had two key passes and a shot on goal of his own.
One thing I liked: Román consistently won his aerial battles, often redirecting to teammates for good chances. Although he looked big and out of shape, he didn’t play like it, with his errors being in positioning and communication, not fitness.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim and Román both seem better fits at right center back and it was clear these two had some communication issues throughout.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.5 (off 84’ for Bwana)
Leerdam still looked to be less than 100 percent in this match, and his lack of defensive actions (five, including a single tackle) highlighted his inability to make his mark on the game. He often got into decent spots but the cohesion with Harry Shipp in front of him wasn’t there and again Kelvin looked out of sorts for much of the match.
One thing I liked: Leerdam had a nice far post cross to Torres in the 54th minute that was nearly redirected to Raúl Ruidíaz.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 32nd, 54th, and 55th minutes Leerdam had great chances to impact the match offensively in dangerous areas, and he didn’t create anything. A terrible pass on the last one avoided an open Ruidíaz and was harmlessly pulled back from goal. After a beautiful Shipp pass in the 57th he appeared to quit on his run, allowing for a goal kick. Leerdam wasn’t subbed out till the 84th!
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 6.0
Alonso followed up a rough outing in Portland with another one in Seattle, finishing with a dismal penalty try. A couple shots and a key pass were nice, but he lacked defensive presence, recording a meager five actions (three “successful” tackles, one unsuccessful tackle, and one clearance over 120 minutes). His 92 percent passing was great, but unproductive as most were just passing around the back with high percentage looks that didn’t meaningfully attack the goal.
One thing I liked: In the 51st minute one of Alonso’s few defensive actions was a key one, stepping up to stop a Blanco breakout.
One thing I didn’t like: He was down hurt in the 69th minute. A minute later he gave up a yellow as he was completely run by and had to grab Blanco. Alonso didn’t have a single recorded interception in this match, showing how incredibly immobile he was. He was ineffective, tired, and not covering ground early in the second half. Why was he not subbed?
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.5
On the flip side, the Goose was quietly great in the middle, making up for Alonso’s deficiencies and doing everything he could to patch holes. He had five tackles, three interceptions and stayed deeper than Ozzie to cover the center backs and remove the holes that Diego Valeri likes to sneak through. Svensson was everywhere to hold the middle together and did a good job combining with whoever was around him.
One thing I liked: In the 106th minute Svensson at left center back found a beautiful over the top pass to Bwana that might be a goal next year. Seattle severely under-utilized the depth of the field in this match, and it was nice to see Goose try to exploit this hole.
One thing I didn’t like: Throwing Will Bruin onto the field pushed Goose back, exposing Alonso terribly in the middle and helping contribute to the goal against in extra time. The midfield got absolutely shredded until Jordan McCrary was brought in to push Svensson back into the middle.
Víctor Rodríguez – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 105’ for McCrary)
A lot of people were down on V-Rod, but I saw a ton of good movement and combination as well as tremendous defensive work rate throughout this match. Rodríguez continually pushed the issue, attacking at angles into the heart of Portland’s defense. He ended with a tidy three shots, two key passes and 81 percent completion rate while earning Seattle five free kicks for being hacked. He did rely on crosses too much, going a rough 3/13.
One thing I liked: Behind Nouhou and Goose, it was Víctor’s four tackles that led Seattle defensively. He also had two interceptions and 13 recoveries, a wonderful defensive performance from a player not known for his defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle struggled all night to deal with Portland’s massively negative tactics. While Seattle had 70 percent of the possession, they also struggled to break down the defense. In the 93rd minute Víctor didn’t step quick enough to Valeri, providing him time to get in an assisting cross. He looked ready for a sub well before coming out.
Nicolás Lodeiro - 8 | Community – 7.6
This was a superhuman effort from Lodeiro. He touched the ball nearly twice as much as the highest on Portland (Valeri) and his 173 touches was 30 more than anyone else in the match. He was everywhere, with three shots, three key passes, three dribbles and he won four free kicks, and had three tackles and two interceptions defensively. He did everything he could to break down the bus parked in front of the Portland goal. Seattle lacked that tiny bit of magic to break the game open via Lodeiro’s efforts.
One thing I liked: He was just everywhere, helping defensively, offensively, linking up, earning fouls, allowing teammates to rest, never stopping and never slowing down. It’s amazing, and in this game, he worked as hard as I have ever seen a player work over 130 minutes to win a soccer match. It’s a shame he didn’t get to take a penalty kick at the end.
One thing I didn’t like: Lodeiro took 24 crosses. He completed three. This 12 percent isn’t terrible (remember, it includes corners, of which Seattle had 14), but it shows the lack of support from holding midfield in combination with wingers that forced the Sounders into crossing toward Ruidíaz instead of working quick one-two combinations to burst up the middle.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.8 (off 80’ for Bruin)
Shipp was okay in this match but was ultimately unable to leave his mark on the game. His connection with Leerdam was lacking, and I’m unsure whether that’s due to whatever injury Kelvin has or something else, but these two weren’t in sync. Shipp had a respectable two shots and a key pass but failed to record a defensive action outside of three recoveries and struggled to get into the flow of the offense running through Nico.
One thing I liked: There were glimpses of great Shipp play, with a brilliant 57th minute pass to Leerdam splitting the defense. He scared Jeff Attinella into fumbling the ball in the 68th for Seattle’s first score. Harry was one of the few players putting in constructive passes from the width and not just chunking in long balls.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 48th minute he magically danced around two defenders but then flubbed the pass. Clearly tired and rumored to be subbed out multiple times before, he was first beat down the middle in the 78th and eventually failed to step quick enough to Blanco who scored. With Seattle exhausted and clinging to a result, for the second game in a row the sub was reactive, not proactive.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 10 (MOTM) | Community – 8.8 (MOTM)
You can’t ask any more of a player. Ruidíaz was phenomenal. You might look at his 40 touches (just two more than Frei ) or his 80 percent completion rate and wonder why the high rating but this guy did everything. Five shots, a key pass, three goals (with his converted PK in the shootout), won four aerials (!!?!?), had stellar holdup and linking play to support his defense and nearly carried Seattle into the Western Conference finals on will alone.
One thing I liked: It only takes an inch for Ruidíaz to score. His ability to be the first to the ball in the box and get enormous, accurate power on his shots directly led to both Seattle goals in regular time. He nearly scored multiple others, continually pressuring the Portland goal throughout every minute of the match and extra time. This was a masterclass in how to be dangerous, and Seattle needs to spend the offseason figuring out how to maximize his chances in the box.
One thing I didn’t like: Season’s over for this guy. You could see how hard he was playing, how much it meant to him every time he scored, pulling Seattle back from the brink. He did everything he could, and if not for a bad call and some poor execution by teammates he would be the truly recognized hero as the Sounders moved on.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 80’ for Shipp)
Jordy Delem, ready to sub in five minutes earlier, was scrapped and Bruin frantically tossed in for an exhausted Shipp. Bruin was ostensibly brought in to help the offense but did little offensively. He touched the ball 10 times over the next 30 minutes, and completed one of his three pass attempts. He was recorded with a shot on a header that went into the stands. Adding Bruin ripped apart the center of Seattle’s formation.
One thing I liked: His pressure in the 100th minute was nice to see.
One thing I didn’t like: For some reason it was RR who dropped back to defend as Bruin wandered around the front and did little to help Seattle. He did try to dribble out of the back with a wide-open Bwana to pass to in the 106th, which directly led to a turnover and Portland scoring. Oh, and he missed his PK.
Handwalla Bwana – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 84’ for Leerdam)
Bwana came in and had as many key passes as Nico. In 149 less touches! This was an excellent outing from a player who was passed over the previous game. His defense still needs work, but the two completed dribbles and shot show a refined offensive skillset that helped Seattle press late.
One thing I liked: In the 106th he had an over the top run that with a little more experience may have been a goal, and his 120th minute diving header pass into the box showed offensive creativity that will help earn him more time in the future.
One thing I didn’t like: The narrative that he wasn’t strong enough or old enough to play in that away match against Portland was wrong, as Bwana played hard, strong, physical soccer and was more than capable of making a difference for Seattle. Think he was overwhelmed? Watch his PK body language and result and compare it with that of Bruin and Alonso.
Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 105’ for Rodríguez)
Jordan came in to unbreak both the midfield and fullback lines. Adding him pushed Kim back inside, and more importantly, Svensson back to the middle. This solidified Seattle’s center and allowed them to push in the second overtime period for a winner, which nearly came.
One thing I liked: McCrary attacked the middle consistently, obviously seeing a vulnerability in the Portland defense and refusing to be sucked into weak, hopeful wide crosses.
One thing I didn’t like: Why was this sub saved till there were only 15 minutes left in the match? Why was an overtime game ended without Seattle using its fourth sub?
Jair Marrufo – 4 | Community – 4.6
It’s so frustrating to see a match reffed like this. When Marrufo refuses to call any fouls (no fouls on Portland till the 40th minute and then it was a yellow?) it aids the team playing defense. It is much easier to foul someone on defense and stop an attack than foul during an attack and get an advantage, and thus Portland was fine with parking the bus and letting both teams hack at each other with nothing whistled. This all changed in the second half as more whistles came, but by then I had counted seven with no whistle. Valeri was especially hard done as he was fouled three times with no call. V-Rod was fouled five times in the match and there wasn’t even a warning for repetitive fouls, even though there were at least that many uncalled.
One thing I liked: The 96th minute handball on Blanco has to be (and was) called. He had his hands up by his head, in an unnatural place, making his body bigger and gained an advantage.
One thing I didn’t like: The 113th minute Ruidíaz goal should have been a game winner. Taken into context with how the match was refereed, it has to be allowed. Instead it was called back and RR was given a yellow for deliberate hand ball. A number of things are wrong with this. First off, he makes no discernable play on the ball with his hand. It is not “hand to ball,” nor did he attempt to gain advantage. In fact, the ball was misplayed by the defender (Larrys Mabiala) and hits his hand so rapidly he had no time to adjust. Anywhere else on the field this isn’t called a handball, and it shouldn’t have been here just because it’s in the box.
Examples in this same game: In the 18th minute the ball hit Liam Ridgewell’s hand in the box; it was called unintentional and waved off, a good call. He did gain an advantage as it hit his hand and stopped, but intention matters. Prior to Seattle getting the Blanco hand ball, there was another hand ball in the box off an Alonso header, with the ball bouncing off Mabiala’s chest and into his arm. Again, this was not intentional, he had no chance to get out of the way nor were his arms in an unnatural position. PK shout waved away. So, in light of the precedent set by this very match, the only reason this goal was taken away is because it was an offensive player who gained advantage instead of a defensive player. That makes no sense. I’ll even go further: if the roles had been reversed and Ruidíaz had flicked that ball onto Mabiala’s hand in the same fashion instead of the other way around, no one would have been clamoring for a PK. IF IT’S NOT A PK WHEN THE ROLES ARE REVERSED, THEN IT’S NOT A FOUL ON RR AND THE GOAL SHOULD HAVE STOOD.
Portland Timbers MOTM
Blanco gets MOTM for scoring the away goal that would have put Portland through, were it not for some Ruidíaz heroics to force extra time.
The Sounders season is over and I’m sad. But this isn’t the end of ratings. I will do team and player recaps during the offseason. I’ll address the “going forward” part of the ratings you probably noticed wasn’t included above. If you are interested in any other specific data or information, please mention it below and I will take those ideas into consideration.