The Sounders hosted Club Deportivo Guadalajara last Wednesday night and showed that the loss to LAFC was in the rear view mirror. This team, with a few different players, not only held its own against the Mexican opponent but arguably dominated for long stretches of the game, eventually earning a 1-0 home win. Seattle showed it’s a good, deep team with the usual standouts playing great and some new pieces showing this team has reloaded well in the offseason.
Stefan Frei – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.3 (MOTM)
I had zero negative marks for Frei — he did everything right and was a huge reason that Seattle heads into the second leg with a lead and shutout. In the 8th minute he controlled the ball well off a back pass and had a nice outlet pass. In the 10th he recognized a slow drop pass and came quickly to the edge of the 18 to control and clear the ball. A minute later Frei came up huge with a position save near post, using his body to deflect a shot. He was unable to hold onto the ball but lunged quickly and punched the ball wide.
In minute 33 Frei showed his skill in four quick steps:
1: Alertly noticing Roman Torres slipping, Frei was already off his line to cut down angles but only accelerated when Alan Pulido had his head down, preventing an easy chip.
2: Jump-stop covered the last few feet of ground amazingly fast but kept full body control, taking into account teammates and goal angle.
3: Wide bodied with a perfect stretch to blanket as much of the goal as possible.
4: Reflexes to block shot and deflect it wide of frame. This was utterly perfect.
The second half was less active, but Stefan was out to clear a long ball in the 52nd and made a nice catch in the 57th. He had a great position save in the 89th to seal the shutout. One thing I’ve enjoyed so far this season is Frei’s comfort with his feet, again showcasing the ability to be a consistent outlet to the defense. Even when presented with less than stellar passes, Stefan does well dribbling and passing from the back.
Waylon Francis – 6 | Community – 6.4
This was the best performance I’ve seen from Francis — much better than his other appearances. His start was shaky, with his first touch going directly to Chivas, and he struggles to remain goalside which is critical for an outside back. But Francis had a greater offensive presence and seemed to improve as the game moved forward.
Waylon consistently overlapped on the left, filling the wing as Handwalla Bwana moved central to support Nico Lodeiro’s movement. In the 14th minute his positioning defensively was awful, but then he made a strong run up the wing and crossed to Will Bruin in the box. Multiple times Francis failed to close down a winger, allowing crosses to be served in, and he will need to limit these passes. In the 24th minute he had another nice overlap but again tried to find Bruin who was double covered, missing a wide open Lodeiro to his right. Francis was lucky not to get a yellow on a blatant pull-back of an opponent in minute 36, but advantage was played.
In the second half Waylon got better and combined strong defending with some tremendous energetic runs up the left sideline. For a five-minute span starting in the 75th he was a complete terror, first underlapping and pulling a pass back for Lodeiro, then dropping into defense and stopping a cross 1v1. In the 77th another great forward run saw Francis drop a perfect cross to his outside back partner Jordan McCrary via a beautiful cross that should have been an assist. I was impressed with his improvement as Waylon grew into the game and was a strong presence in the second half.
Chad Marshall – 8 | Community – 7.8
Similar to Frei, Marshall hardly put a foot wrong in this one. Defensively, he was his usual rock. Offensively, he dominated in the air, and his leadership quality and control in the back was a constant steadying force. Other than an early misplaced clearance and a slip on defense, Chad was clearly the best defender on the field.
In minute 10 Marshall displayed his perfect use of wide body and positioning to win and control an over the top ball. In the 24th he slide-tackled away a through ball that also inadvertently took out McCrary. The rest of the first half was what we’ve come to expect from Chad: excellent positioning to make defending easy. He limited a potent Chivas attack to very few good opportunities on goal.
In the second half he hustled to get back on defense after a corner (64’), and three minutes later was again up for another set piece, this time getting a head on it and just missing goal. Any time Chivas attacked in the second half it seemed Chad was there, and after a turnover in the 76th, there he was to cover and block one of the few chances for the Mexican team. Marshall played hard through ‘til the whistle, getting four marks in the last five minutes, including coming across and cutting off a through ball in the 93rd minute to cap off a stellar match.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.2
After struggling somewhat in 45 minutes against LAFC, I was concerned about Torres in this match, but he was much improved when flanked by Marshall and McCrary. There were still a number of mistakes, including one huge one, but they appear to be rust and fitness issues, and not any degradation of skills.
In the 11th minute we saw a bit of this rust as Alan Pulido got inside Roman and managed to poke a shot onto goal. Six minutes later the aggressive Torres stayed up after a free kick and earned himself a yellow card for a stomp while attempting to play winger after a flicked header. We all love when he joins the attack, but this is the downside of an aggressive center back who had to play the remainder of the game (and the tournament for accumulation purposes) carrying a yellow card. The big mistake of the game saw Torres misstep, lose his footing, and release Pulido into a wide open 1v1 with Frei in minute 33 that thankfully Stefan stuffed. This looked to me like an agility and fitness issue.
The second half was quieter for the defense, and Roman was effective at stopping the few attacks that Chivas managed toward the North End. He was caught playing too aggressively on a number of occasions and again had trouble returning to proper positioning, but his teammates easily covered for him. In particular, the communication and comfort level between Marshall and Torres was tremendous.
Jordan McCrary – 7 | Community – 6.3
This was a great performance by McCrary, and he rewarded the faith the team had in him when they traded Oniel Fisher. I thought he was very sharp, repeatedly showing great defensive positioning and covering for Torres whenever he went on walkabout. Jordan also got forward with purpose and offered much needed width to the attack.
In the 3rd minute McCrary showed nice anticipation on defense and repeated this two minutes later in shutting down left-sided Chivas attacks. His first push up the wing (10th minute) saw him drop a nice cross after Dempsey found him in the right corner. I loved seeing Chivas try a near carbon copy of the play that LAFC scored on only to find McCrary planted perfectly goalside of the through ball, thwarting the play by excellently marking this run. In the 31st minute Jordan was forced to foul after a poor giveaway by a teammate, but he escaped a yellow when the referee decided on leniency. While Torres was practicing summersaults two minutes later, McCrary was busting his ass from the backside to get involved and cut down Pulido’s shot options. This was really impressive, as Jordan hustled into the play and helped Frei make a huge game changing stop. He closed out the half overlapping and winning a corner late.
In the second half I was impressed with both outside backs playing safeties on set pieces and it was McCrary who stopped corner kick breakouts by Chivas in the 48th and 64th minutes. As Seattle pushed higher and higher Jordan smoothly transitioned into more of an attacking role, linking well with Nico, Roldan, Wingo, and Dempsey at various times as a wide option, often after his strong defense had jumpstarted Seattle possession. In minute 77 Jordan made a perfect run but missed a wide-open header that should have been an easy finish, but he didn’t hang his head — on the same sequence he found Wingo down the line for a hockey assist on the only goal of the match. I was pleased with McCrary and am comfortable with him as right back depth.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.2
This was a tremendous outing by Goose. After playing well this preseason, he had a complete game at defensive mid and was everywhere. He and Roldan were a seamless wall in front of the backline and rarely did anything get through the middle. Instead, the opponents were forced wide or over the top. These two really dominated everything centrally.
In the 10th Svensson worked a nifty give and go with Bwana, leading to a cross. He didn’t get forward a lot in this game, but Gustav won every header, adding aerial dominance to the defense in the middle of the pitch. Goose had a few mistakes, like losing a runner in between the lines in the 24th and a bad pass that forced McCrary to commit a professional foul, but otherwise this was some of the best defense I have seen from him. His anticipation in the passing lanes was tremendous, consistently stealing passes and funneling them to the attackers. Svensson seemed even more fit than the prior game, covering the entire field in perfect unison with Cristian, and their communication and teamwork was brilliant. When anyone in the back line got out of sorts, Svensson was always there, dropping in to defend or offer a safe outlet for Frei. The toughness in the center of the field clearly opened up the attackers to pour it on in the second half.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.6
I liked what Roldan and Svensson did in the midfield, with Cristian somehow playing yet another game with a constant motor. Every time a defender pushed up the wing Roldan dropped into the hole to defend, then somehow was magically back combining with Goose to destroy passing lanes in the middle. One such time was on the left with Francis up: Cristian dropped a perfect left-footed over the top pass directly into Waylon’s run as he scampered into the final third to pressure the goal.
Every time Chivas tried to counter, there were the defensive midfielders, combining to shut down everything. Roldan won his share of aerials as well and displayed what’s becoming his trademark physicality and low center of gravity to continually shoulder tackle opponents off the ball. When Marshall and McCrary were preventing a 24th minute attack, it was Roldan who popped up in Frei’s goalbox to gather a loose ball before an opponent could get a shot off. Whenever Cristian got the ball he looked forward and was eager to turn defense into offense. This helped push Seattle onto the front foot in the second half. Roldan didn’t show any sign of being tired until turning the ball over in the 76th minute. This central defensive midfield pairing did a ton of the dirty work that allowed all the fancy-pants attackers to do their job.
Handwalla Bwana – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 73’)
In his first start, Bwana at times looked overmatched, being pushed off the ball and failing to react to the speed of the Chivas opponents or his teammates. That is to be expected, but what wasn’t expected was the times Handwalla looked absolutely dominant against seasoned professionals that he honestly made look silly. We see so much talent in this young player, but just as exciting is his clear tactical ability, as evidenced by some great decision making.
His first touch was a calm control to Francis in the 1st minute, and as Bwana warmed into the game, he was a little hesitant to attack the goal. A nice give and go with Goose gave him 10th minute space to cross near post to Bruin for a chance. Later in the half he spotted Francis overlapping and dropped a Shipp-esque perfectly weighted outside of the boot pass into Waylon’s stride up the wing. Handwalla did try to do too much at times, attacking multiple players instead of crossing in the 25th, forcing a pass in the 36th and then a minute later attempting a silly backheel on defense. A few issues dribbling into trouble ended his half on a down note.
After some halftime coaching (and encouragement) Bwana came out with a fire and Seattle was soon feeding the 18-year-old the ball in isolation from sideline to sideline. This paid off in minute 52 as Handwalla utterly skinned multiple defenders while gliding into the box and getting fouled in what should have earned a penalty kick. Seconds later he tried a first-time left footed shot that forced a good save from the keeper. Not done, Bwana again got the ball on the left point and juked multiple Chivas defenders before again being fouled in the box with no call. This was unfortunate, as either of these fouls were deserving of a call. It was another slick move on the dribble that beat Pulido in the 71st and earned the Chivas player a yellow card for dragging Bwana down (and forcing him out of the away leg).
I don’t know how much time Bwana is going to get with some guys getting healthy, but I believe he can be as good a winger as Joevin Jones was by the end of this season.
Clint Dempsey – 8 | Community – 7.6 (off 90’)
Clint is back and producing at a very high clip. In this game he drifted in and out of dominance a bit, but it was no coincidence that every great scoring chance had his signature on it. In the 3rd minute, with Seattle getting swamped, Clint calmly took the ball and a hack and earned a free kick, giving his team a much-needed moment to catch their breath. Linking up with Nico at a high rate, these two stars moved the ball neatly through the Chivas defense and Seattle had a number of good chances throughout the first half. One such was a 27th minute shot from Clint that forced a fingertip save. Another came after Dempsey got the ball in the middle, juked a defender and sprayed a perfect ball into a Francis overlap up the left wing.
Clint started the second half heading up to himself and putting a bouncing volley on frame that earned a corner kick. In the 53rd he combined neatly with Nico to earn a shot on goal, and moments later he linked up with some slick passing that got Bwana in space to work. Clint has to minimize losing possession when facing his own goal as this can lead to counters, which happened in the 73rd. Two minutes later Lodeiro set him up for a shot at the top of the box, but Clint’s attempt went awry. In the 78th Dempsey did Dempsey stuff, floating into a pocket in the box and first-timing a difficult Wingo pass into the net for the only goal of the night. This was a pretty difficult finish that he made look easy. He might have had another seven minutes later when Neagle set him up, but he appeared to try to chip the ball with three defenders in the goal and his shot went over. Clint is already playing at a high level, and as more and more talent plays next to him, he’ll continue to produce.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.8
Playing yet another full 90, Nico Lodeiro motored around the field without showing many signs of fatigue. He continually linked up nicely with Dempsey and Bruin through the middle, and sprayed wide passes to the wings, all the while defending well.
After being caught waiting for a pass in the 4th minute Nico didn’t have another negative mark until the 76th when he had a poor touch that may have been the slightest bit of fatigue. In between he was all over the field, finding Bruin at the top of the 18 in the 6th and again in the 27th up the middle. His defense started a break in the 35th and he released Bwana right before half for a nice offensive series. After halftime it was the same, finding Handwalla and drawing the defense away for the youngster to penetrate. Nico’s defense forced a long shot in the 55th and he set up Dempsey for a great look in the 75th. Lodeiro put a perfect through ball into Francis who served up what should have been a goal moments later. As usual, his motor ran all game and combining with Dempsey in the middle allowed huge space for teammates to attack into. Nico’s service on set pieces was also phenomenal this match, continually finding runners and creating danger on nearly every dead ball situation.
Will Bruin – 7 | Community – 6.2 (off 80’)
I graded Bruin harshly last match, and in this one he was much better. Even exhausted, Will raised his game against tough Mexican center backs and banged all night against their backline. Continually asked to win 50/50 balls, Bruin did just that, and he had good success using his body and quickness to move the Chivas defense around. He was by no means pretty, but the sheer effort he expended was impressive, and his work rate was fantastic. Unfortunately, he squandered a few golden chances and failed to create scoring opportunities.
In the 6th minute Bruin neatly turned in traffic and found Lodeiro in space. Minute 11 saw a near post run by Will end up with his shot on frame blocked. Soon thereafter he tried a long, hopeful shot that didn’t test the keeper. I liked Bruin’s movement in the 16th minute to dive directly to the penalty spot and he nearly redirected a cross into the net, with only a defender stopping him. Will was a consistent pest to the center backs on Chivas, willing and able to mix it up physically while doing his best to stretch the field as much as possible. When a 42nd minute cross fell neatly into his lap at the spot, Bruin whiffed badly on a shot that should have given Seattle a first half lead.
In the second half Bruin continued to bang around and was actively helping on defense, without being goal dangerous from the run of play. He continued to work well in holding up the ball and getting the faster players around him chances to move up the field. In minute 47 Will got a great chance to change the score line; his corner kick header went off the post and tantalizingly close to Bwana who missed the rebound. Some of his runs were counterproductive and forced the midfield into bad angles, but he never stopped moving up front. When Bruin subbed off in the 80th minute he was clearly exhausted, battered and hurting, but he was smiling because he’d battled successfully and, on this night, did an excellent job changing the point of the attack and keeping possession in advanced areas.
Henry Wingo – 7 | Community – 7.1 (on 73’)
Wingo looked much better as a sub this match. Adding him to the attack injected some creative pace and size to a match that seemed hungry for his direct play. Wingo has tremendous physical attributes and he consistently used them to gain separation from defenders and create mismatches on both wings. His size allows him to hold the ball up well, and his speed was more than a handful for tired defenders. In the 78th minute he started with possession in central midfield, drifted to open space on the right, then drove up the wing and put a well-placed pass where Clint should be (spoiler: he was). This was a great example of how substitutes can change a game. Although Bwana played well, this change of pace immediately forced Chivas onto their heels and Seattle continued to pour it on while he was on the field.
Lamar Neagle – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 80’)
Bruin was beat up and tired, and Seattle was able to bring in veteran Lamar Neagle in his stead. This is a decent role for Neagle, who can push defenses back from a central position as well as support wide defending. His runs weren’t great and he had little success in possession. But when given a single opportunity two minutes after subbing in, he made an excellent little pass to Dempsey that deserved a better shot from Clint.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 90’)
Subbed on as a timewaster and to give Clint a curtain call, Shipp managed a few notable plays in limited time. In minute 91 he played strong defense on the left in support of Francis and a minute later held the ball well in possession to help kill the clock.
Mario Escobar – 6 | Community – 4.8
The first 45 in this match may have been the best reffed half I have seen from a CCL referee. Escobar was strong, assertive, and fair. The second half was more controversial as the game got more chippy, but overall I thought he handled himself well.
In the 4th minute the ref made a good decision to play advantage as Torres dropped a guy off the ball, and he was consistent with allowing play to go on. When Torres stomped on an opponent in the 17th he gave a deserved yellow card. I was impressed with a 22nd minute obstruction call, as Escobar whistled a foul after Bwana spin-megged a player and the Chivas guy briefly held him. This is a very rare but excellent call. He was lenient to not give McCrary a yellow card in the 31st minute on a tactical foul for pulling back a player, but he was consistent in this ruling five minutes later by also not carding Francis for the same thing. Another good call was a 39th minute hold that prevented Bruin from jumping for a Frei punt forward. A dissent yellow card for the Chivas keeper seemed appropriate right before half, after Escobar appeared to rule the traded kicks from opposing teams canceled each other out.
The second half was a different story. First off, the 53rd minute PK shout by Bwana was a valid one, and the ref just missed this call. The second Bwana hack in the box was a lot of contact that also was worthy of a penalty; it’s unacceptable that neither was called. Moments later Pineda was allowed to kick a ball into Nico while he was on the ground after being fouled; nothing was called. It seemed when the pushing and shoving started multiple times in this game, the ref just reverted to no cards for anyone. He should have given a time wasting card to Chivas goalkeeper Cota in the 68th, but clearly didn’t want to send a player off so allowed him to waste time on a goal kick even after being warned. Interestingly, the very next player to delay at all (on a throw-in no less) got a quick yellow, and it looked to be the card that didn’t go to Cota. Because of this, the ref was forced to give McCrary a yellow in the 88th for the same throw-in delay, which seemed silly.
Overall this referee was very good, and hugely improved on most CCL referees of the past, but he dealt poorly with two clear penalties and various second half altercations.
C.D. Guadalajara MOTM
A balanced showing by Chivas saw multiple players garner decent percentages of the fan vote, but the Man of the Match award ultimately goes to Rodolfo Cota. Cota kept his side in the match and in the competition with his work in goal.
Going into Mexico this week with a goal and a clean sheet is huge. Add in the fact that Chivas has another game in between, that they will be missing Pulido (card accumulation) and that Seattle should be able to further improve the lineup, and there is a lot to be excited about. It’s always difficult to win in Mexico, but the Sounders have put themselves in a good position to advance in this tournament.