I hate playing Portland. It’s not fun to watch, and certainly isn’t fun to rate. Is anyone surprised that again we played Portland and again we have head injuries? This rivalry creates such wild tension from the players that they overexert and people get hurt. The 1-2 loss at Portland in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals did little to change my opinion of this rivalry. Credit the team and coaches for stopping the bleeding in the second half and limping home with a chance on Thursday. It was an ugly game framed from a Sounders perspective, starting well but quickly growing terrible with the injuries of two of our best players and two goals against.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.5
Frei didn’t have a ton to do, but also failed to do much on his chances to make a big play. Goalkeeping is cruel that way. He was credited with two shots saved and two goals against.
One thing I liked: The 76th minute save on a long hopeful Diego Valeri shot was nice, but I really appreciated his control of the match late. An 87th catch in traffic and 89th minute punch removed any chance for Portland to increase their lead late, and with Larrys Mabiala back Thursday, he will need to stay on point.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei had two huge opportunities to change the score line and was tentative on both. Caught in no-mans-land on the offside first goal, he was unable to stop Jeremy Ebobisse’s shot. With the pace of Kim Kee-hee (and hindsight), I would have liked to force Ebobisse to do something more than just touch it over him once. Leaning the wrong way against Sebastian Blanco contributed to the second goal, but honestly neither of these were anything you can get too mad at a keeper about.
Going forward: Not many keepers leave that match with fewer than two against. Frei in the playoffs is better than many keepers, and it would be great if he can provide that little spark we need going forward.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.8
Nouhou was excellent against Portland, completely removing Andy Polo from the match and adding strong, consistent runs forward on offense. Nouhou had more passes and a higher completion rate than Nicolás Lodeiro, which included a near 30 percent success on crosses. His three interceptions led the team, one of which directly led to the Sounders’ goal.
One thing I liked: Nouhou filled up the book with stellar plays but it was a perfect 5th minute cutback cross to Raúl Ruidíaz that was the best. After driving into space on the overlap he put a tidy pass to the Sounders striker and deserved an assist.
One thing I didn’t like: There wasn’t much to note negatively, but Nouhou did foul Ebobisse in a bad spot in the 22nd minute, allowing Portland a completely unnecessary set piece.
Going forward: In a perfect world that first pass gets scored and Cristian Roldan doesn’t get hurt chasing the rebound and Seattle crushes the Timbers. Since this isn’t a perfect world, let’s recognize how well Nouhou played all afternoon, continually creating for whoever was in front of him and shutting everything down defensively.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 6.4 (off 40’ injured for Torres)
Marshall was having an up and down match when he had to be replaced, tweaking his knee somehow. Prior to his sub he had four clearances and a tackle, but the back line struggled to stay connected to the defensive midfield, allowing Portland relative success playing through the center.
One thing I liked: Chad had 11 passes and completed all 11.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 40th minute Marshall passed the ball wide and immediately grabbed for his knee.
Going forward: Many were likely thinking that could be the last time we’d see Chad Marshall playing soccer, but news is promising about the extent of the injury. Fingers crossed.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.3
Kim wasn’t amazing in this match, but at times he did just enough. Interestingly, he was a bit more successful on the left side after Marshall was subbed than his customary right. Working with a new partner, Kim looked good combining with those around him. He had the second most passes on the team (65) and completed 85 percent.
One thing I liked: Kim had a massive eight clearances, and it was outstanding anticipation that allowed him to continually break up plays and get the ball out of danger.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 77th minute he lost the ball dribbling forward, then compounded this mistake by fouling a Portland player in a bad spot trying to recover.
Going forward: Kim will need to be the leader of the defense in Marshall’s absence, and Seattle will have to replicate the second half performance in order to move on.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.8
With two tackles and three clearances, Leerdam had a more active match, but still struggled to find his role in the game, especially after Roldan was hurt. When Víctor Rodríguez was in front of him, they showed little chemistry, and nearly all the attacks came from the opposite side of the field while conversely, Portland continually abused the Seattle right.
One thing I liked: In the 63rd minute Leerdam had a vital stab defense in the box on Blanco, and Kelvin did a fairly good job helping cover the immobility of Román Torres on his side.
One thing I didn’t like: On Portland’s second goal, Leerdam was terribly slow to recover, and as a veteran had to realize his side was weakened with Roldan off. Instead of caution, he was caught high and failed to get back early enough, then got turned badly when he finally did arrive.
Going forward: Seattle needs a strong outing from Leerdam, especially if it’s Torres next to him and not Kim.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.9
The first half was as bad as Alonso has played all season, and the second half was better but still very messy. His few defensive actions in the first period were compounded by poor positioning that consistently allowed Timbers (Valeri in particular) to get the ball in front of the back line and play unimpeded passes. In the second half he more than doubled his defensive plays, while providing more cover centrally.
One thing I liked: In the 36th minute Alonso had a beautiful pass forward to Ruidíaz that split the Portland defense in half and was one of the few times the Seattle central midfield was able to bypass the Timbers’ middle block.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 17th Ozzie was caught watching Valeri and Portland scored, and in the 29th he lost the ball in midfield and Portland scored. Neither goal is entirely his fault, but the complete lack of marking was shocking as Valeri had free reign through the center of the pitch for much of the first half. The center backs were forced to come out and defend, leaving gaps in behind that were punished. Where was the captain and his leadership when things got awful midway through the first half?
Going forward: This was an absolute mess, and Seattle needs to figure out its central defense for the next match or the season will be over Thursday.
Gustav Svensson – 5 | Community – 5.9
Svensson wasn’t great, but he managed twice as many defensive actions as Alonso in the first half and was a big reason the score line wasn’t worse. He had even more activity in the second half, ending with four tackles, two clearances, and two interceptions. Like his defensive partner, Gustav failed to mark players as they ran behind him, and this often stressed the defense.
One thing I liked: Gustav had a few great recoveries, and his midfield range covered a lot of ground that allowed Alonso to stay more central in an attempt to increase effectiveness.
One thing I didn’t like: His 29th minute dive in on Valeri was awful and led eventually to a goal, but it was his 90th minute marking (or lack thereof) that really upset me. Valeri just walked behind him and into the box for a free run at Frei, nearly redirecting a wide cross for the third goal. Seattle has to mark these runs!
Going forward: Other than Valeri, Portland rarely created dangerous chances. Maybe Seattle needs to put Jordy Delem in to “Almiron” him. It’s a credit to Valeri that everyone knows he’s the key; yet somehow, Seattle can’t seem to shut him down. They will have to on Thursday.
Víctor Rodríguez – 5 | Community – 6.0
This was a quiet game for Rodríguez, who did lead the team with two shots on goal and put in plenty of effort to create. The switch to the right showcased a massive lack of chemistry with Leerdam, and while he kept working defensively (two tackles), there was little he could do to win headers on looping crosses from the left.
One thing I liked: It was clear as soon as Harry Shipp got on the field and found him that Víctor was missing that bit of offensive class to link up with. Moving V-Rod back to the left allowed him to float centrally and overload the center backs next to Ruidíaz.
One thing I didn’t like: I thought whenever Víctor got involved good things happened for Seattle. Unfortunately he wasn’t involved at all between the 10th and 35th minutes, and it’s not a coincidence that Portland scored twice in that time.
Going forward: Víctor was clearly tired in the 86th minute and didn’t have enough to score a crucial late equalizer when given the chance. V-Rod continually made the runs but was let down by the service from teammates.
Nicolás Lodeiro - 6 | Community – 6.6
A number of Timbers looked exhausted after the match, and much of that is due to the work rate of Lodeiro, who continued to push all match through the middle. With Seattle struggling defensively, Lodeiro picked up the slack with a team high four tackles. This was helpful but shows the stress the midfield was under for much of the match.
One thing I liked: Lodeiro constantly found the open man in the second half, and in the 68th and 72nd put perfect passes to a player in great position to get a shot on goal. Unfortunately, this player was Waylon Francis and he was unable to do anything productive with either.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico was a little off on numerous passes forward, just missing Víctor and Raúl on a number of occasions. His one key pass was a far cry from last match, and he will need to be sharper for Seattle to advance.
Going forward: Nico quickly realized the lack of cohesion on the right and drifted left to utilize the Kim/Nouhou/Francis side to overload and create. He needs to continue to do the right thing, only this time get some help from teammates to finish.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.6 (off 31’ injured for Francis)
Roldan started out well, and with a full game he likely would have prevented much of Portland’s success due to his work rate up front. Alas, he was hurt trying to earn a 5th minute penalty kick and ended his day after a mere 30 minutes. In that time, he created a goal and had two interceptions defensively.
One thing I liked: His pass in the 10th minute was perfect, and for a moment Seattle looked to be cruising.
One thing I didn’t like: Any time a guy who only missed seven minutes all season (for a silly sub) has to leave the match, it’s scary. I really hope he’s not badly hurt.
Going forward: It’s a shame that Cristian got hurt, as he is someone who has the endurance to dominate when others are tired, and Portland looked exhausted by the end of this match. Seattle has adjusted their play to this wing version of Roldan, and guys like Leerdam and Lodeiro are going to have to quickly adjust moving forward.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.3 (MOTM)
The 30 touches that Ruidíaz had were about what we expected and so was his output: four shots and a goal. Surprisingly enough he had a fantastic four aerials won, and displayed some nice holdup play when Seattle needed someone other than Lodeiro to keep the ball and bring the team forward.
One thing I liked: On both the 5th minute shot and 10th minute goal, his movement was clinical, each time subtly pushing the defender away only to dart in front and get a look at goal. After missing the first, RR wasn’t going to miss another chance from that spot, even though it took him full speed opening his hips and hitting a tough ball away from his body at enough pace to beat the keeper. Jeremiah spoke more about it.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan doesn’t get hurt if Ruidíaz scores that first Nouhou cross. I know, it’s stupid to “what if,” and there’s no telling what would have happened, but that’s how my brain works.
Going forward: Seattle didn’t win the match, but they have an away goal and Ruidíaz showed the ability to score against Portland. He will need to do it again on Thursday.
Waylon Francis – 4 | Community – 5.2 (on 31’ for Roldan, off 87’ for Shipp)
I didn’t understand this sub. The coach stated it was because Shipp wasn’t 90 fit, but then Francis also wasn’t 90 fit (and subbed out later!) and that doesn’t explain why putting in someone took so long that Portland scored while Seattle was figuring it out. Francis looked like a guy asked to play out of position, decent in getting into good spots and awful in doing anything when he got there. He was a dreadful 0/6 crossing and ended with 58 percent completion.
One thing I liked: Francis made some good runs, and got in good positions to threaten Portland’s goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Waylon continually failed to do anything with the ball in these good positions. Even worse, he defaulted to crossing the ball towards Raúl and Víctor who were marked by center backs, never once changing the angle or trying to dribble. Seeing how effective V-Rod became on moving back to the left, maybe Francis should have been tried inverted on the right, at least giving him opportunity to cut onto his strong foot and shoot instead of continually looking for the perfect cross from the left.
Going forward: Away goals are huge and nothing about Francis this season has shown me the ability to contribute to a goal, which made this sub a defensive one at best. If the goal was to “hold on” then Seattle accomplished that.
Román Torres – 6 | Community – 6.6 (on 40’ for Marshall)
Torres came in and had to replace a guy up for DPOY. He looked huge and slow and yet, at the end of the match, he had somehow played very well. A tidy four clearances and an interception indicate his ability to read plays, and Román used his body well on multiple occasions to offset any pace concerns. His 86 percent passing clip also paired nicely with Kim in the back.
One thing I liked: In the 58th minute he dialed up one of his patented full field switches, finding Nico on the left in space from a deep right defensive area.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 88th minute Román had a dreadful pass forward that was easily stolen and luckily Seattle’s defense recovered.
Going forward: Román got sucked out of the middle a few times, but his physical presence clearly disrupted Ebobisse. He will need to continue winning headers with the expected return of Mabiala for Timbers’ set pieces.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 87’ for Francis)
Shipp came in and a number of things happened immediately: V-Rod moved back to the left, where he attacked inverted and overloaded the front with Ruidíaz; Nico was freed up through the middle and was able to look directly vertical to Rodríguez and Ruidíaz; Nouhou was given space to overlap with V-Rod out of the way and could pull the fullbacks wide; Leerdam and Torres had another option checking to them on the right. Harry showed the difference a comfortable offensive player makes to the Sounders attack via spacing and quick, concise passing. Shipp had four passes, completed them all, with a key pass that nearly saw Víctor score a late equalizer.
One thing I liked: Late in the match Shipp turned after checking to the backline, played a quick give and go and then took a first touch through ball onto the foot of Rodríguez into the box. It’s this kind of technical offensive skill that Seattle missed, and hopefully it remains fruitful this week.
One thing I didn’t like: I don’t understand why, if you were going to sub the sub, it wasn’t earlier for Shipp. Even if you’re saving Shipp for Thursday, why sub him in the 87th minute and not 10 minutes earlier? He was a clear difference maker.
Going forward: If they were saving Shipp for Thursday, okay then: he has to play well this week.
Ted Unkel – 5 | Community – 4.8
Unkel let a lot go in a playoff game and people got hurt. I don’t think these are unrelated. I appreciate that he went to VAR on the PK but I clearly see Jeff Attinella’s hand hitting Roldan’s front foot (not the one he dragged to try to win a penalty but the one that gets hit and ultimately hurts him). That was a chance for the ref to make a tough but fair call early, and he failed to do so.
One thing I liked: Unkel didn’t ship Gustav for an inadvertent hand to the face in the 48th minute and he played a nice handball advantage in the 81st.
One thing I didn’t like: The VAR offsides rule. With AR’s told to not call offsides if it’s close, they are shifting the onus from the AR (who’s job is mainly to call offsides) to the VAR. I am okay with making this call the job of the booth, but then the booth needs to change the wording “clear and obvious” as anything close is now being ignored by the AR. Ebobisse was clearly offsides and the lack of the AR calling it doesn’t change that. The far side AR was uninterested in making any calls, and with the rules the way they are, I can’t say I blame her.
Going forward: You absolutely cannot allow players to play soccer after head injuries that blatant. David Guzman was unresponsive! A later innocuous shoulder tackle from Nico looked to knock him out of the match. It’s embarrassing to see this league allow players to jeopardize their wellbeing after such brutal knocks.
Portland Timbers MOTM
Kind soul Diego Valeri comes away with man of the match, leaving Blanco and Ebobisse incensed. Rumors of a locker room rift could spell trouble for Portland in the return leg. [Ed. Note: There are no rumors to this effect.]
Let’s hope the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field and Seattle fans help the good guys come out on top on Thursday evening.