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Seattle Sounders vs. 2018: End-of-season player ratings, #11-#7

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We dive into the top ten with goalkeepers, midfield stalwarts, and a fullback who took big strides this year.

#11 Brian Meredith

Realio’s rating: 6.000 in one appearance

Community rating: 5.30

Rankinator ranking: #24

MOTM = 0 High = 6 Low = 6

You can now mark Meredith off on your punch cards. Brian is the beneficiary of a tiny sample size; he played one match for the Sounders first team and rated an MLS average “6.” It came at home against Portland and was his first start in six or so years. This was a grade that I thought about a lot, and rating goalkeepers is hard. I ended up giving him a 6 even though a 5 might have been the better choice since he gave up three goals in the match. None of them were really his fault, but organization with Meredith, Waylon Francis, Jordan McCrary and a sub-par Osvaldo Alonso playing was a mess.

What I liked: Early in this match Larrys Mabiala (who would score two) put a header on goal that Meredith made a spectacular save on. This footwork and anticipation are why Seattle and keepers coach Tommy Dutra have repeatedly invested time and effort in Meredith’s development over multiple stints on the team.

What I didn’t like: None of the goals were directly attributable to Meredith, but he gave up three goals against our biggest rivals. If there was a time to step up and show you are more than just a backup, this was it. Ignore that half the players were also backups. Go be a hero.

Moving forward: Meredith seems to have a strong grasp on the backup job to Stefan Frei, but with the rumblings that Seattle might be trying to sign Trey Muse out of college, Brian will potentially be in competition for that spot next season. He is a cheap, average backup who won’t challenge Frei for playing time. But “average” might not be good enough if Stefan ever has to miss significant time.

#10 Nouhou

Realio’s rating: 6.167 in 30 appearances

Community rating: 5.88

Rankinator ranking: #11

MOTM = 1 High = 8 Low = 3

The enigmatic Nouhou climbs up to the top 10 in 2018 after coming on strong at the end of last year. He upped his rating, was more consistent, and had more appearances while showing increased development into a bona fide starter. Some might even argue he’s the best in the league.

What I liked: Nouhou just kept improving. After a rocky start where he averaged 5.69 in his first 13 regular season appearances, he jumped to 6.62 over his last 13 games. He was even better in the playoffs, averaging a massive 8 and having the biggest jump of any Sounder (+1.964) from regular season to playoffs. That is a player gaining momentum and fully arriving for the biggest games of the year.

What I didn’t like: The start of the season was tough for young Nouhou and he was especially poor against SKC in the fourth game of the year. This game highlighted both his general trouble with offensive decision making as well as a mental failure when he let some bad plays snowball into more bad choices on both ends of the field, clearly rattled.

Moving forward: Nouhou is such a bargain for this team, and he’s an incredible talent who is starting to be not just good but great. A lot of people want to debate the merits of Nouhou versus Brad Smith or another player, but as long as he is on the roster, he’s been the best option at left back. His lock down defense is best on the team and he’s improving on his support of the attack, showing better decision making in offensive passing, positioning, and timing.

#9 Harry Shipp

Realio’s rating: 6.381 in 21 appearances

Community rating: 6.12

Rankinator ranking: #13

MOTM =2 High = 8 Low = 5

Harry Shipp didn’t outwardly show a ton of new skills this season, but his improved rating scores were indicative of a player who intelligently found ways to support and increase the quality of play around him. Shipp was the catalyst for much of Seattle’s best play in the middle of the season after getting injured and inexplicably passed over early, and he repeatedly showed the ability to combine well with any pieces around him.

What I liked: Seattle is always going to have stars, but it needs players who are smart and skilled enough to accentuate those players. Shipp is absolutely fantastic at this, consistently forming strong partnerships with the fullbacks behind him, connecting well with his midfield band, and making runs for others. In the 3-1 throttling of a good NYCFC team, Shipp took it to another level with offensive production including a goal, an assist, and multiple key passes.

What I didn’t like: There weren’t many low grades for Shipp, whose lowest was a single 5 in the second match of the season (and that 5 was for being below average on an attacking band with Wolff and Bwana). In that game, he still made his usual smart runs to open space for others, but failed to interpret what the match needed: a much more direct and commanding role from the veteran Shipp. Sometimes he needs to just play with a bit more swag.

Moving forward: Shipp finally got his due at midseason as people started to connect the dots on his cerebral play and the results that Seattle was putting up. He is the type of player to quietly fuel long winning streaks. While not an automatic starter in a midfield with TAM and DP players, Harry is an automatic gameday roster player who can add to the team in diverse ways.

#8 Stefan Frei

Realio’s rating: 6.400 in 35 appearances

Community rating: 6.88

Rankinator ranking: #2

MOTM = 2 High = 8 Low = 4

I think I deserve the most criticism for this rating. Usually the scale that precludes me from giving half points will average out where I want it, but here it’s clear that Stefan got the short end of the consistent “do I give him a 6 or a 7?” debate. While clearly above average in my ratings, I believe Frei was easily the best goalkeeper in the game and he likely deserves much closer to his 6.914 cumulative from last season.

What I liked: While he didn’t wow a lot, Frei was great against Toronto, Chicago, Colorado, and Minnesota (earning 8s) and was consistently at or slightly above average in nearly every match. Frei kept Seattle in every single game, often making big saves look less impressive that they were, due to fantastic technical positioning and footwork, and may have earned lower grades because of that.

What I didn’t like: A single low grade can hurt a player more than a single high grade, and in Frei’s case his 4 against LAFC pushed him down. Here’s what I wrote: “Yes, this is harsh. Yes, he deserves it. No, I do not think that Stefan will get another score like this all year. Rating a keeper is challenging, because their scores often depend on them making saves, and if the other team isn’t shooting there isn’t a ton to rate. Any mistake is huge and game-impacting. I didn’t have that many notes on Frei, but he had a below-average game prior to the blunder that let in the only goal of the game.” Frei fumbled in a goal in extra time that robbed Seattle of a road point against a good team.

Moving forward: I think everyone who analyzes soccer can agree Frei is one of the best keepers in the league. He is an everyday starter who is resilient and can be counted on to play nearly every match, and do it well. Watching practice and seeing how seriously he takes it is another huge benefit to the development of his teammates.

#7 Cristian Roldan

Realio’s rating: 6.514 in 35 appearances

Community rating: 6.60

Rankinator ranking: #5

MOTM = 3 High = 8 Low = 5

Roldan dropped down in the end of year ratings from last season’s top 3 to seventh, mainly by “just” being very good at a completely different position than he played in 2017. Asked to be a wide midfielder (and sometimes right back) Roldan showed that, while he isn’t a natural winger, his brand of hustle and skill could combine to be a quality wide option.

What I liked: Even though it wasn’t his best spot, Roldan gave his all every game no matter where he was inserted. He redefined the wide player in this Sounders’ offense, creating a kind of “destroyer wing” who pinched high and created defensive pressure from a wide position or centrally when he switched across the middle. His service from wide areas was great, especially when attacking with overlaps from a fullback.

What I didn’t like: Roldan didn’t play his best position of defensive midfielder, and instead was shuttled around the field to fill holes. He had a number of below average matches, and many were directly attributable to just not being a natural wing player, so he didn’t show the sort of skills you would expect of someone more comfortable there. Many of the chances he was great at getting into position for went wanting due to his lack of attacking polish.

Moving forward: I hope to see Cristian back in the defensive mid position that he played so wonderfully in 2017. His endurance from a central position when added to the work rates of Nicolás Lodeiro and Gustav Svensson should create an absolutely devastating spine, both defensively and pushing forward as a unit. I hope the offensive practice he got this year will help him go from a slightly below average offensive winger to an above average offensive minded d-mid. 2019 is shaping up to be a huge year for Roldan.