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Seattle Sounders FC vs. Santa Tecla FC: Player ratings

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Jordan Morris provides a spark going forward before suffering a devastating injury.

I’ve got to admit, that game went nothing like I expected. With a number of players hurt and still working on preseason fitness, Seattle sent a depleted side to El Salvador. I still believed they could win; instead, they lost 2-1 despite an early lead. Momentum shifted after the half and this demoralizing loss was made even worse by a season-ending injury to Jordan Morris. The away goal tempers the disappointment some, but this was not the start to the season that anyone hoped for.

I spoke to Garth Lagerwey at YachtCon this weekend and he advised me not to do ratings. Lucky you, I had already done them :p


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.0

What can I say? He was solid as always, but also able to make the big save to keep the team in the game when necessary. Frei wasn’t at fault for either goal and did his best with a really tough group in front of him. It would be nice to see these amazing performances translate into wins, but that hasn’t been the case lately.

In the 5th Stef showed great footwork and smartly distributed from the back. He was out to control the ball in minute 11 to cover an Alfaro mistake and followed it up with some on field “coaching” of his young center back in the 24th. All of the early attack came from Frei’s left, and he did a good job. Right before halftime the defense let him down, but Stefan was up to defending 1v1, brilliantly splaying wide and stopping Tecla’s leading scorer, Ricardinho, who was in alone. In the 42nd an offsides call prevented a break for the home team, but Frei was already outside his area to strongly head away.

Seattle came out flat and uninspired after the break. The second period saw Stefan besieged from all sides, and a tactical shift had the Sounders defense leaking, allowing rampant runs from Santa Tecla’s attackers. They hung on as best they could, but a tough penalty kick that Frei wasn’t able to save finished off the scoring.

Defense

Waylon Francis – 4 | Community – 4.8

This was a mess of a performance and a rough introduction to the Sounders. Whatever Francis was trying to do out there did not work. He was often way too high, attempting to support the offense, but he showed no ability to initiate attacks, instead dropping the ball to his winger (now behind him) nearly every chance he got. This severely unbalanced the defensive shape, and Seattle paid dearly when players got tired and tactical movement changed.

When Francis was in the attacking third, he looked bereft of any ideas on penetrating the defense. Many times, as in the 6th minute, he was caught upfield as Santa Tecla probed the hole he left in the defense. Shipp did his best to offset this, but again in the 12th minute Waylon made a run up the left wing and just disappeared. Four minutes later he was ball watching, as two players made runs goal side of him. In the 30th Francis dove in, forcing Roldan to foul in attempting to cover for him. It’s really annoying to see a player beat and forlornly hold their hand up for offsides, as happened in minute 40. The second half was a little better for Francis, as the home team went from all attacks through him to spreading them around.

Tony Alfaro – 4 | Community – 4.0

The left side was really suspect in this game, and Alfaro was completely disconnected from Francis. Tony had a tough game, being beat consistently and again showing massive weaknesses in positioning and shape. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen an MLS-level outing from Alfaro.

Tony is severely left footed, which hinders his positioning. Uncomfortable opening to his right side, Alfaro often takes an extra touch in the back which can lead him to dribble directly at the left sideline and limit his options forward. He struggles massively to connect passes vertically, often just hitting hopeful balls into the attack. Tony and Waylon were not coherent at all, often with giant gaps in between them and clear disconnects in positioning. In the 16th Alfaro’s penchant for diving in saw him badly miss a tackle. Right before half he marked zero opponents while Santa Tecla created a 1v1 with Frei, although he “helpfully” raised his hand hoping for an offside call.

Tony did some good things defensively, and he came across when appropriate to help Marshall out. His positioning remains very questionable, and when Santa Tecla scored their first goal, Seattle’s back four were in a diamond shape; this is terrible for a group that should be linear together. There doesn’t appear to be any growth in his understanding of the game, and this performance accentuated the depth issues on the back line.

Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 5.7

I weighed a lot of factors coming to this rating. On one hand, the entire defense was hot garbage for long stretches of the match, as might be expected in preseason. On the other, it’s hard to assign blame to Chad when others around him were clearly playing much worse. I think Marshall played average, with some good and some bad, and most of what he did was related to putting out fires started by others.

It took only six minutes for Chad to have to save the day for a leaking left side, as Francis and Alfaro were beat and Marshall expertly blocked a 3v2 pass. He repeatedly came to his left in the first half to bail out defenders who didn’t play cohesively. At times there was a complete disconnect between the two sides of the field, with Chad and Jordan McCrary playing strong and the left struggling. After halftime Marshall looked tired and not in full season form with a number of slips and misplays. One such problem was a slip and slow reaction on the first Santa Tecla goal, as the attacker got in behind him with the back line completely out of shape.

Chad looked exceedingly (and rightfully) frustrated with the poor play of teammates, but his over-aggressive attempts to offset their errors at times compounded them. This happened with a number of fouls near midfield and with the mess that caused the penalty kick. Marshall was consistently dangerous on set pieces, and it was infuriating when Seattle didn’t take advantage of that, even after he won multiple headers and had a redirected shot off his foot late, after Santa Tecla failed to clear a cross.

Jordan McCrary – 5 | Community – 4.4

I thought Jordan played quite well in the first half, with almost none of Santa Tecla’s dangerous opportunities coming through his side of the field. While not offering a lot going forward, McCrary was solid defensively. In the second half he tired a bit and had zero chemistry with the younger Roldan, which turned his side into a leaky sieve in the latter stages of the game. Jordan looked like a solid, unflashy player similar to the guy he replaced. But eventually, when put under constant pressure, he was exposed.

In the first half I was happy with Jordan’s effort, consistently sliding over to support Marshall who was forced to the left in defense. McCrary’s defense was strong 1v1, and he did well helping add width from the fullback position. His offensive contributions were few, but in the 16th he did put Jordan Morris wide and then dive diagonally into the box, adding a great cut back pass that just missed Nico. The second half was different, especially after tactics changed and the rookie Alex Roldan was in front of him. Lack of communication was clear on the first Santa Tecla goal, with McCrary getting caught in no-man’s-land marking space in the box. Gone was the efficient positioning from earlier in the game, and right before the home team earned a phantom penalty kick, Jordan was inexplicably on the left side of the field defending a corner kick. I have no idea why he was tasked with defending a short corner on the complete opposite side of the field, but this immediately turned into an opportunity for Santa Tecla and they created the penalty from it.

The new Sounders right back was neither great nor horrible, and he performed about as you would expect from a backup.

Defensive Midfield

Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 4.6 (off 78’)

Delem earned a start due to some injuries and a good end to the 2017 season, hoping to translate that into an every day backup role with the first team. This performance was a good illustration of both his strengths and weaknesses. At times Delem did very good things, but there are still many errors in his play, and I’m not sure he will improve much from his current abilities.

In the first minute we saw Jordy with a strong challenge and willingness to play physically. Unfortunately, he often was forced into physical fouling after being beat, something that happened in the 10th, 49th, and 68th, the last of which earned him a yellow for his efforts. These were plays where he just didn’t have the physical ability or decision-making to make a better play, and was left grasping after being beat. That is a big problem for a midfielder.

Delem was strong in possession and showed off his good touch and natural defensive capabilities. Unfortunately, he added little going forward and rarely took exploitable space offered to him in the midfield. Jordy also doesn’t have nearly the range of his defensive midfield counterparts and struggled to help wide, where the outside backs needed more cover. Multiple times Delem made a good play only to immediately counteract that with a turnover or bad decision, which is frustrating to watch. When subbed late it was clear he was a big part of the inadequacy of the wide attacks and midfield shape.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.5

This performance was much below what I expect from Roldan, but similarly to last season, I don’t have many concerns with Cristian in the first match of the year. His pairing with Delem was not a great one, and it minimized much of what makes Roldan so strong. Instead of confidently roaming from side to side and forward, Cristian was rooted centrally and trading hard tackles with an overrun midfield.

What struck me in the rewatch was the huge absence of notes on Roldan, who usually provides plenty to write about. In this one there were a number of recoveries in the midfield, some decent passing, and a lot of physical play, but what I didn’t see was Cristian as the engine of the center, pushing the ball into attacking spaces.

With Nico all over the place, Roldan rarely had targets forward, and he consistently passed back to the fullbacks when in possession. This led to a slow, ponderous game, hugely lacking in direct play through the middle. Roldan is capable of so much better, but with the performances of some of the players around him, I thought he was average, which is way beneath his ability.

Attacking Midfield

Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 5.3 (off 57’)

I was impressed with Shipp against Santa Tecla. He was strong defensively, covering constantly for a struggling Francis, and he was also one of the few creative players for Seattle going forward. His weakness remains endurance, severely lessening his effectiveness later in games, and he was subbed relatively early.

In the first half Harry was strong, showing off his cerebral play. In the 2nd minute he recognized a short free kick and alertly chased down a Santa Tecla attempt to quickly get in behind. In the 5th minute while being fouled, Shipp sent an incredible through ball to Morris, who was only a half-step from being in alone. In the 12th he recovered defensively in the middle and found Wingo on the opposite wing with a rare switching pass in the offensive third of the field. A few minutes later these two wingers were again combining to open space on the left for Nico to overload and push the width. In the 23rd minute a Santa Tecla player briefly got past Shipp, but he recovered strongly and even though the opponent danced around to an excited crowd, the dogged defending from Harry forced this player into an immediate turnover.

In the 25th minute we again saw Shipp’s brilliant vision: picking up a loose ball in defense, his first touch opened Nico into space on the left wing. Following up the play he glanced around to see where people were, and when he got a return ball he sent a terrific pass that would have put a full-speed Jordan Morris in on goal alone (with the ball on his right foot) except a defender trailing the play got a toe on it. This was a fantastic piece of vision, awareness, and creativity that was severely lacking from Seattle on the night.

Shipp had a few miscues and poor passes, and really failed to connect well with Francis on his wing, but it was evident when he tired and was eventually subbed just how important his positioning had been to the squad.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)

Wow. Nice goal, man. No one trails the attackers better than Nico, and in the 15th minute following up a Morris/Wingo break, he saw a loose deflection pop right into his path, so he tried an audacious 40-yard chip that improbably scored. His first-time take was perfect, chipping the erratic positioning from Santa Tecla goalkeeper Almeida. This kind of skill shot is incredibly hard to do; Nico created it from his hustle and executed it perfectly.

Unfortunately, Lodeiro didn’t do much else to demonstrate his clear talent advantage over the opponents. He had multiple bad (preseason) touches, often went down easily hoping for calls, and repeatedly dribbled into trouble and lost possession. Attempting to spin through three players right before halftime was indicative of someone trying too hard and not having faith in those around him. In his defense, many didn’t seem to have faith in themselves, often forcing the ball to Nico and then watching and waiting for him to do something amazing.

I thought overall Nico looked rusty, similar to the start of last season. His touches were heavy, his passes often skipped by players, and he had many uncharacteristic fumbles on plays he normally makes. Sprinkled into his play were moments of brilliance, like when he nearly opened Wingo and Morris in on goal with through balls in the first half. He is still Nico Lodeiro: he ran himself and the opponents ragged looking to break open the game and to spring Jordan forward. When Morris returned the favor in the 55th Nico seemed hesitant to attack the goal and instead settled for an outside of the 18 shot directly at the keeper. Throughout, his work rate was stellar and he, as usual, roamed everywhere, probing for weaknesses without a ton of success. I was surprised that he continually took short set pieces, with Seattle having what looked like a decided advantage in the air.

Henry Wingo – 4 | Community – 5.3 (off 59’)

I had high hopes for Wingo and this opportunity for him to shine on a big stage, and his return was underwhelming. There is a ton of talent there, and you could see the potential, but Henry looks a distance away from being a key contributor. His connection with Morris was not good, and there are many things he needs to learn about positioning so he’s in better spots to excel.

In the first half Wingo looked lost on where to be, confused by Nico Lodeiro’s roaming. Wingo and McCrary were on the same page and locked down the right side of defense well, but offensively Wingo’s touch was lacking and he failed to be a consistent threat up the right. He did well drifting into the middle and combining his speed with Morris’, and it was his run in support of Jordan in the 15th that helped create the goal scoring opportunity. Wingo’s pace consistently helped the Sounders break out, but a few poor decisions limited his impact on the game to very little.

Wingo really needs to work on his off-ball runs. He is very athletic, but he tends to round his runs and this allows defenders to more easily contain him. Henry did exactly this in the 25th minute, making a looping run forward. It was a great idea, but the execution was lacking — if he makes an incisive, diagonal run directly at the backline they have to adjust, and that leaves a huge gap behind him. Instead his run was rounded, allowing a defender just enough space to defend the run and get a foot on a pass into the space he vacated, which is a shame because a full speed Jordan Morris was charging into that space and Shipp had released him on goal. This was apparent often in Wingo’s movement, but it can and should be fixed with some coaching. Wingo faded as he tired but still brought a work ethic that helped the defense which was apparent when he stepped off.

Forward

Jordan Morris – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.0

I will get flack for this, but I truly believe Morris was Man of the Match against Santa Tecla. He was the best attacking player, defended well from the front, and was still dangerous at the end of the game while playing a wide position. My notes were nearly all positive, and he was at times the only offensive threat for Seattle while being the best player on the field for large chunks of the game.

In minute 2 Morris forced a throw-in with his pressure up top, something he repeated four other times on the night. In the 5th minute he was inches away from getting on the end of a near-perfect Shipp through ball. Moments later he again ran diagonally onto a pass but was well defended by a center back and the keeper. In the 15th minute it was Morris coming all the way back into the defensive half to gather a ball, beat two players, get fouled (advantage played), and still manage to put a ball through to Wingo on the play that eventually ended up with a Lodeiro golazo.

At times Morris and Wingo weren’t on the same page, which is a shame because they could be a dynamic partnership of devastating speed. But Henry struggled to get out of the way a few times, such as a 22nd minute through ball where a sweet Morris first touch got him in space only to have a defender steal the ball while a confused Jordan tried to figure out where Henry was going. Still going strong before half, Morris made a strong long distance run all the way through the midfield ending in a rather poor cross that the keeper easily recovered.

In the second half Morris was again the only weapon, often finding himself on an island with no connection to a midfield relying on a meandering Lodeiro to bring it into the attack. He kept possession, offered an outlet, came back and defended, and was continually faced with multiple defenders. Jordan had an opportunistic touch to Nico with a sweet heel flick that gave Lodeiro a 1v1 in the 55th but nothing came of it. A minute later Morris was again through but again without any support and failed to beat three deenders. After being shuttled to the left wing, it was Jordan Morris with a 60-yard RRBH burst past three defenders but again his cross found no one. He ended the night as he started it, racing by everyone with tremendous offensive effort only to find himself one versus many. Unfortunately, he broke himself trying to chip the keeper, and it’s likely he’s done for some time, a shame after how strong he looked all game.

Substitutes

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 57’)

I can’t blame Bruin for the position he was put in (and more importantly, the position it put Morris in) but Will came in and did okay. He had a few good holdup plays that brought Nico forward from the midfield but was slow to attack the box and failed to get on the end of anything meaningful. He looked a little lost when running directly into Morris’ space in the 63rd. It was Bruin’s great first-time pass that put Jordan through on goal in the 83rd.

Alex Roldan – 4 | Community – 4.3 (on 59’)

I don’t understand this sub at all, and it completely failed tactically. After a 63rd minute pass centrally to his brother, Alex failed to help his team in any capacity, and the right side of the defense immediately suffered. He missed a runner in the 67th which pulled his right back out of position, and Alex didn’t close down the cross strongly on their goal. Roldan’s positioning was so bad that on one play it both left Morris on an island attacking and then pulled Marshall out of his defensive spot in the same sequence. This wasn’t a great start for a guy who looked in over his head. He did hustle a lot and didn’t make mistakes with the ball because he rarely touched it.

Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 5.4 (on 78’)

Goose immediately helped the midfield, even opening up Jordan McCrary for his first overlaps of the match. Although down a player, Seattle looked every bit as dangerous in possession as soon as Svensson was on the field and his composure, range of coverage, and touch was sorely missing in the first 80 minutes.

Referee

Melvin Matamoros – 5 | Community – 4.9

The ref was okay, and pretty much what you expect from CONCACAF matches: erratic, tolerant of diving bullshit, and apt to make some screwy calls a moment after making a really great one. Because CCL is hard to quantify, I will say that his positioning was great, his cards were spot on, and I thought he did a good job juggling the intensity of tackles, which was quite impressive and much better than expected. My complaints were Nico being targeted, Shipp being fouled with no call in the 39th minute in a carbon copy of an earlier Roldan foul call that led to the 1v1, and him completely swallowing his whistle as Santa Tecla were making their comeback. None of these things were hugely egregious and he did a good job for most of the match.

He also completely missed the PK call. If you call the foul on Marshall, you need to call the handball on their player controlling the ball in the box, and I don’t think Chad fouled him winning a header. It looks to me that Chad won the header, got the player with his body, and the guy fell. On his way down Jordan swiped at him and missed. I re-watched it a ton of times and I just can’t see any contact from McCrary. This was a complete whiff of a call and a referee that was baited into a big game-defining penalty. Sigh.

Santa Tecla FC MOTM

With both of Santa Tecla’s goals, Gerson Mayen was the easy choice for Man of the Match. The Sounders will need to find ways to contain him in the return leg.

  • Note: After hearing the injury and formation explanations from Coach Schmetzer on Saturday, the Sounders’ tactical setup and choices were much more reasonable. He admitted to making a number of mistakes and his justification reminded me that while we as fans often have strong opinions on things, the staff have an increased set of informative data that helps shape and support their decision making.

This was a hard pill to swallow. The team played much worse than I expected, and the Morris injury is heartbreaking for a guy who has looked phenomenal this preseason. Seattle should win at home and move on, but the price of that road trip will likely be felt for a long time. ☹