*Realio’s Note: It’s my birthday weekend, I’ll be out of town, and my child was briefly hospitalized last night (he’s fine, just an allergic scare). So, my time to do the ratings was severely limited, and you’re not getting the usual effort I put into these articles. Plus, honestly, that was an awful game that I could not bear to re-watch. For my mental health and that of the people around me, instead of the usual 10-hour watch and write process, I’ve written some observational points, a little analysis, and a range on some of the ratings. What follows is really just my candid feelings about the performances and not much on tactics. Please accept my apologies and know that I will be back with normal ratings for MLS games from here on out.
Seattle went down to Guadalajara last Wednesday to play a soccer match, but those of you who watched likely did not enjoy what transpired. In yet another big road game in this team’s history, the players, tactics, effort, and skill level were found severely lacking in most if not all people involved. For a team supposedly playing “with a chip on its shoulder from the MLS Cup final,” it was hard to find players who showed fire in the game.
There were injuries, it was an awful cow pasture of a field, we had altitude, the ref was crummy; none of those should excuse that performance. This team showed a week before they could play against Chivas. Losing 0-3 should make everyone involved rethink their goals for the year. A magical unicorn isn’t going to be signed and save the season; the problems in this game were team-wide issues that a single player won’t fix.
I believe it is fixable, and the team can (and should) be much improved from here on out as long as they get their act together.
Stefan Frei – 6 (MOTM) | Community – 6.1 (MOTM)
Frei was good, but he can only do so much. Maybe he didn’t trust his wall on the free kick and cheated the wrong way, but the first Chivas goal was very well taken. The only reason we would even entertain this being Stefan’s fault is because he has been so good and our expectations are astronomical. It’s a problem, by the way, to expect our keeper to constantly bail us out.
There is little a goalie can do when his defense continually lets him down. Although Frei made a few saves, what he really needed was better cohesion with his defense, and that’s near impossible when the fullbacks play as poorly as they did, and a brand new central pairing has to come together 35 minutes into a match.
Waylon Francis – 2-3 | Community – 3.7
Francis went from his best performance as a Sounder to one of the worst performances I have ever seen by a member of the team. This was truly awful. The casual viewer may see his spin move on offense in the first half and ooh and ahh and be impressed by the two times he got forward and didn’t bungle things. I am not that person. Neither of these times resulted in anything, as both times he immediately made a bad decision after gaining space.
Defensively he was terrible. I have frequently commented on Francis’ defensive positioning and his penchant for not being goalside of attackers and this game is the perfect illustration of exactly that. Chivas constantly bombarded Waylon’s side with attacks because they knew he was playing terribly. There was nothing innovative in their design: get a player isolated with him 1v1 who would beat him (forcing an early yellow card in one instance) which then had a domino effect through the defense with a defensive midfielder and center back pulled out of position or pull Francis high and wide and take advantage of the giant space he failed to adequately defend. This wasn’t tactical genius, rather Chivas seeing the one kid from JV on the other team and posting him up, constantly. Without a magical game from Cristian Roldan or Chad Marshall or any help from Neagle, Francis just wasn’t good enough to be in this match.
Francis continually lost 1v1 situations, including on the third goal. That happens. The inability to be goal side on their second goal, and his absolutely abysmal positioning and shape show a much bigger problem. We need to rethink any idea that this player can grasp simple defensive tactics.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 35’ with broken face)
Until he was hurt, Chad played well. He was doing everything he could to hold the leaky left side together and was one of the only players who forced Chivas into predictable play. This is so important in soccer, and something everyone else on his back line needs to learn ASAP. When presented with a Chivas offense that was getting numbers forward, instead of diving around and lunging at players when beat, Marshall did something very intelligent: he just concentrated on making the inevitable shots predictable.
This may not seem like a big thing, but when you have Frei back there and you have confidence in him, it’s much more important to force a decent shot from a tough angle (that Stef likely saves) than sell out to lunge/slide tackle/dive in for a steal. In the first option there will be more shots likely, but Frei saves nearly all of them. In the second, there are fewer shots and also much higher likelihood that you are badly beat and the opponent has created a higher quality opportunity.
Roman Torres – 3-4 | Community – 4.7
Roman looks big and out of shape. He labored often in this game and his fitness was a problem, even before Chivas started rolling over him. Fitness shows up in agility with Torres, and his inability to turn his hips was often clear. He wasn’t 90-fit in elevation and when asked to step up and make a difference, he failed.
As many noted, Roman jogged back on defense multiple times which frankly is inexcusable. He should have been in charge of the back line after Marshall left but there was zero cohesion. I don’t care if Kim had worked with Chad more; I never once saw Torres yelling or gesturing to his defense to stay in line and it’s no surprise that an “offside trap” didn’t work on one of Mexican goals. Torres added to the midfield issues by frustratingly chunking passes up field whenever defending, often missing options provided by teammates. Gone was any of the passing and coordination from the back, and a lot of this came from the panic clearances from Roman’s foot.
Tasked with being a captain, he showed zero leadership.
Jordan McCrary – 4? | Community – 3.7
McCrary mirrored Francis in his inexplicable drop in performance from the previous match. After being good at home, he was dismal in Mexico. His only saving grace was that Francis played even worse, so Chivas attacked the other side more frequently.
McCrary and Torres were never on the same page, and part of the reason Jordan looked a bit better was Svensson sat in between these two and helped a lot. Of course, that depletes any midfield cohesion when the defensive mids have to babysit the back line to that extent. Unlike the left back who didn’t show any positioning ability, McCrary was in good position for long stretches, but made bad decision after bad decision with the ball, either dribbling and missing passes, passing to no one, diving in on defense, making the wrong choice on who to mark, etc. This game called for much less outside back aggression and when either was beat (as they often were) it left huge holes in the defense.
Gustav Svensson – 5? I mean, he tried | Community – 4.9
Goose busted his ass, especially in the first half. He was one of the best players on the field and yet was barely noticeable because all he did was run around and try to plug holes in a cheesecloth defense. At least Svensson looked up for the game, unlike so many around him. He wasn’t winning many physical actions (duels etc.) but his positioning was essential in getting to half 0-0, and it wasn’t that he was losing defensive battles but more desperately trying to hold shape together.
He tired in the second half (duh) and was less effective, as Chivas just moved easily around or over him. There was little passing through the midfield and with a back line playing horribly, maybe Brian Schmetzer should have figured out a way to get one player (Goose) who was playing decently into that back line. His calmness and clear readiness to play in this big match would have gone a long way towards better defensive organization. Chivas didn’t have any answer for Seattle’s defense when it was organized (read: with Dad in there) and I think Goose could have offered similar help.
Cristian Roldan – 5ish | Community – 5.1
I wondered whether Roldan was hurt in the first half. He looked like a rookie again. He looked tentative, he looked slow, he lost the ball frequently. It was a disaster. Looking back, he was definitely playing tired, and frustrated, but some of that was due to Chivas. Every single chance they got, they whacked him. This was Nico-level tactical fouling and Cristian didn’t deal with it well. Instead of rising to the occasion with fire and bullying his way as we have seen in the past, he seemed to accept it. He looked reluctant/unable to get into tackles or cover defensively, and instead of showing he belonged, was a shell of himself.
In the second half Roldan was improved, but still slower than usual. The altitude may have affected him, or the accumulation of minutes. I don’t know. This wasn’t the usual Roldan. He still gets a barely below average rating because he busted his ass even when playing less than great. If he hadn’t improved in the second half, the score line would have been worse. I wish I knew why he was so off in the first half though.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – How do I rate a ghost? 4? | Community – 4.6
This is a good example for those saying “get a forward; he will save everything.” I am not saying MWE is a DP level forward, but he’s a damn good TAM level midfielder — and he was completely invisible on Wednesday. Good players need other good players around them. Good players need to connect with other good players; they need the ball and options. Here is a guy who needs to combine with others, and Seattle had no ability to get him the ball with 1) space and 2) options. Without those, he was just another observer.
Wolff moved around looking for the ball but he’s not going to win a bunch of duels and win possession and was a casual observer for most of the match. He’s a great complementary piece who, as I have written before, needs to be part of a machine. He’s not going to drive it alone. He still looks unready for 90 minutes, and I thought he was saving energy at times after the injuries. I can’t wait to see him with Clint, Nico, V-Rod, etc., but on his own or just with one hasn’t been a recipe for Sounders’ success.
Clint Dempsey – 5? | Community – 5.3
Dempsey was a little better than Wolff, at least willing to mix it up with Chivas and not shying from contact. But similarly, was starved of possession in any dangerous areas. Clint is much better at getting on the end of passes and linking around the box, but in this game was asked to get the ball 40 yards from goal and make stuff happen. Without smart runs and movement from those around him, this was impossible. He still drew multiple defenders consistently, but Seattle had no ability to take advantage of that.
Dempsey isn’t the DP who is going to be everywhere and drive the team forward (that’s Nico). Once our service through the midfield dried up and we didn’t even have Bruin to knock down some long balls, all the “trying shit” in the world wasn’t going to save us. That being said, Clint got close a few times and for an old guy sure seems durable (knock on wood).
Henry Wingo – 4? | Community – 4.2 (off 81’)
Every time Wingo subs in and does something great, I think wow, what a dynamic player, and start imagining that for a whole game. Then he starts a game and falls on his face. This was one of those matches where he just didn’t seem at the level of the competition. He is so passive, and his touch is really awful. What that means is nearly all of the times he was an option on offense he was coming back to the ball and trapped it (badly) towards his own goal. Now, he is fast enough to usually retain possession but it completely neuters any offensive push when your right winger pushes the ball 10 yards towards his own goal every time he touches it.
Henry really struggles to support his outside back, and I am not sure whether Leerdam will fix that. His angles are wide first, and this makes the fullback have to cover a lot of ground inside while still being an outside width option. This is likely a teachable fix, but until then I think Wingo is a great sub, awful starter.
Will Bruin – 6 or so | Community – 4.8 (off 8’ with broken head)
Bruin played five minutes and managed a key pass (SSFC’s only one of the game). This came from a holdup play and he looked up for the match physically. This might have contributed to his injury, as Chivas clearly added a level of intensity to their battles and while unfortunate, this was a clear result of two guys going in really hard.
I don’t often sing the praises of Bruin but this is a game where he had a huge role, and it was a big deal when he subbed. Not as a scoring threat, but as a big body to bang with center backs and create space for Clint. As a positionally savvy forward who would stretch the field at least a little bit. And as a person willing to go win (or get concussions) on 50/50 balls chunked forward from a beleaguered defense. When he left, the field immediately compressed for Seattle, and it’s a shame to wonder how his presence might have changed things.
Lamar Neagle – 2? | Community – 3.6 (on 8’, but why?)
There was a pretty big subtraction by addition in this game, and unfortunately it came in the 10th minute or whatever. Neagle was terrible and arguably the worst Sounder on the evening. There was no hustle, no defense, no offense, really no soccer. Most of how bad he was doesn’t even show up in stats, unless there’s a stat for not defending and forcing a domino effect on the entire defense behind you. SaH author Aaron Campeau nailed it when he described the effect the complete lack of soccer by Neagle had on everyone around him. It removed any service to forward play, it pulled defensive mids over to his side, and it left a floundering Francis with zero support on huge space on the left. When Bruin was hurt I can mayyyybe see why coach thought Neagle was a good choice, but it was the complete wrong one. He destroyed any midfield cohesion whatsoever and when adding in his lack of tangible effort, I don’t see how he keeps getting minutes.
Kim Kee Hee – 5 | Community – 4.5 (on 35’)
Kim probably didn’t think he was going to play, and definitely not as much as he did. It’s hard to rate him in these silly circumstances, but he looked like a quality center back. One of the few people not scared to play hard, I saw physicality, though I am not sure if that was intensity or just force. He walked the line between cards either expertly or dangerously, I am not sure which. He was the best Sounders defender when he was on the field, though that isn’t saying much.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5? | Community – 5.4 (on 81’)
Welcome back. We saw one thing that was severely lacking in this game from a Sounders player and that was confidence on the ball. Willing to hold it in space, Leerdam also showed he might not be a break down right winger but had nice touch and vision. It made me sad that he hasn’t played yet this year because we likely are 6-0 with him healthy.
Oscar Moncada – 4 | Community – 4.5
I don’t know his name and am too lazy to look it up. [Ed. note: Oscar Moncada.] He was bad, in that CONCACAF-ey way that infuriates everyone. He let Chivas beat the hell out of our team, and as usual Seattle wasn’t up to the physicality. He missed plenty of grab ass, after the ball tackles, kick outs, elbows, etc. Some of the headers were reckless and there was a general air of physicality that was allowed. He and his team also missed a ton of offsides calls, possible penalty kicks, etc. that may have made this score line even worse.
C.D. Guadalajara MOTM
Oswaldo Alanis comes away with this award thanks, in large part, to his opening goal free kick that brought the two legged tie level on aggregate.
Bring on Dallas. [Ed. note: or Montreal, I guess.]