It’s taken a while to get the nerve to re-watch and rate that FC Dallas game. Coming directly on the heels of a similarly disappointing match in Mexico, the Seattle Sounders looked tired and ill-prepared for a strong team playing at home. There were good stretches of soccer in the first half, but most energy and desire melted away with a debatable red card near the end of the half. The final score was 0-3 but depending on how you looked at the game, it could have been much different. With injuries piling up, and now a healthy Clint Dempsey out for the next match, it’s good that Seattle had a bye this weekend.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.5 (MOTM)
Once again, Frei wasn’t the problem in a game where Seattle got beat up on the scoreboard. He made a number of tough saves and came up huge on at least two occasions, bailing out a defense that was playing poorly in front of him.
He handled a Carlos Gruezo shot well in the 14th and smothered another shot moments later. Stef did make a terrible decision to go short in the 23rd minute, rolling the ball to himself instead of clearing and nearly losing possession to Maxi Urruti, but redeemed himself with a fine acrobatic save on Mauro Diaz seven minutes later. After a failed trap in the 42nd minute Frei came up with an enormous save against Barrios, winning a 1v1 battle and giving Seattle some hope going into the half.
Both second half goals may have been saved with better positioning but it’s hard to fault Stef for missing a well-placed shot from Urruti, who wasn’t properly closed down, or not stopping yet another 1v1, this time losing out to a calm chipped finish from Lamah. This was a fairly mundane game for Frei, who wasn’t able to summon heroics of a nature that earned points, and was generally okay otherwise.
Nouhou – 4 | Community – 4.4
One of the rested players was Nouhou, and he had a tremendous opportunity to grab the starting left back position and own it, after teammate Waylon Francis struggled mightily in Mexico. Unfortunately, Nouhou did the opposite and displayed awful positioning and decision making all afternoon. I think Nouhou is a potentially amazing left back, but maybe he was asked to do too much and given too little in the way of support in this match. His attempts to overlap and be an offensive option led to some defensive lapses we aren’t used to seeing from this young player.
I was eager to see how Nouhou would match up versus Michael Barrios, and in the 4th minute the Houtrain had great pace to win a ball from his Dallas opponent — but then he cleared it right back into the middle for a turnover. In the 10th minute another 1v1 with Barrios went the way of the Sounders left back, as Seattle won a goal kick. Unfortunately, the next time (20’) it was Barrios who not only got past Nouhou but found a square pass for an assist on the first Dallas goal. This was a play where Seattle’s backline was in complete disarray, and an unprepared Nouhou took a bad angle on the original pass to Barrios. Then he was unable to chase down Barrios, and Dallas scored. Two more notable first half plays were a good 28th minute run forward but unsure decision-making situation and then visibly walking behind the play in the 42nd, both times where his mental focus needs to improve.
The second half started off badly. In the 48th Nouhou made a very poor choice to save a ball inbounds directly to a Dallas player that created a breakaway for the home team. A minute later, another gaffe; he aggressively challenged when playing safety on a free kick and missed, and Dallas was off to the races. Nouhou settled down and was average the rest of the way, but it’s clear he has much to learn about tactical positioning. I believe lack of experience is holding him back from making better decisions on the field, but his mental game needs to catch up to the huge athletic ability he possesses.
Chad Marshall - 5 | Community – 5.7
Chad looked tired in this game, and his ever-present scowl looked even darker with his black eye, courtesy of the Chivas match. Marshall was okay, completing his passes (90%) and cutting out chances in the middle, but his partnership with Roman Torres was shaky at best and he was unable to lead his line with any authority. The back four were continually out of sync, and this allowed huge gaps that Dallas repeatedly took advantage of.
In the 8th minute Marshall was forced to slide over and tackle away a breakaway. The first half was a lot of frantic defending prior to the goal but Seattle settled down and played fairly well after conceding. It looked like the Sounders were more likely to score in the time between the first goal and the red card, and the defense did a decent job supporting attacks.
In the second half everything fell apart due to fatigue, fewer players, and some lousy plays. Marshall had a very up and down half, but he nearly brought Seattle level with a great free kick header that almost found Roldan in the 49th. In the 58th he played uncharacteristically nonchalant defense which allowed Urruti a free shot on goal, and when Torres stepped up on Lamah in the 63rd, Marshall kept the Dallas player on; he then scored as well. There were other necessary slides and last-ditch defense by Chad that helped keep the score line at 3, but otherwise it was a lost evening.
Roman Torres – 4 | Community – 4.3 (off 74’)
I don’t know what to think of Torres. Similar to last season, he looks quite out of shape and unprepared to start the MLS season. He was given the armband and asked to lead a team the last two games; both times the players have severely underperformed, and in this match, Torres was one of the worst on the field. He barely showed up in a stat sheet covered with actions from teammates and he often looked to be on a completely different page than other Sounders.
In the 2nd minute he made a terrible pass that was stolen in Seattle’s defensive third, and he repeated that multiple times (9’, 11’, 24’, 30’) in the first half. A greater issue, though, was his positioning, which wasn’t connected to Marshall and opened huge gaps right down the middle for Dallas to attack. Roman was continually caught too wide, attempting to support an advanced right back, and he failed to recover the central gaps. On the opening goal Roman blindly followed the ball and ran to the middle of the goal and slid — something he consistently does on breakaways and which allows unmarked runners in the middle of the box. In this instance, Dallas scored easily.
The second half wasn’t any improvement, with Torres whiffing badly on a slide tackle and once again allowing an unmarked striker behind the defense. When Dallas scored their second goal Roman was completely flat footed, never getting goalside of his man after being sucked too wide on offense. On the third Torres was again following the ball, allowing Lamah to get behind him to score. Torres needs to be better. It starts with not drifting wide or forward but staying compact and linear with Marshall. Getting spooked and flailing at the ball and opponents should be limited.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.2
Kelvin stepped back into a starting role for the Sounders and looked like one of the few players capable of keeping up with the energized Dallas team. While not having a ton of stats (only 76% passing) Leerdam was one of the best offensive and defensive players for Seattle and looked fully healed from his ankle issues.
In the first half Kelvin did a lot of great stuff. In the 7th minute he showed nice control while keeping a very high line. Moments later he had great 1v1 defense in the corner against Anton Nedyalkov. After Dallas scored, Seattle seemed energized by the deficit, pushing forward and playing well until the red card. A lot of this was due to increased play through Leerdam, who had a 25th minute overlap and cross to Magnus Wolff Eikrem, and another seven minutes later into a great spot. In the 42nd minute Kelvin made a great save off the line to prevent a goal, but it was his error that kept Dallas onside to create this chance.
In the second half Leerdam again impressed in spurts, playing great 1v1 defense in the 46th and 48th minutes and consistently marking Lamah who was attempting to break out on the wing. His recovery defense in the 49th as a safety for set pieces forced Urruti into a long shot that didn’t trouble Frei. Leerdam was unable to get into the attack nearly as much and when he did, it often went awry like a 53rd minute cross that wasn’t close. Defensively, though, Kelvin was stout, recovering in the 54th and 81st when many others on his team looked uninterested. At times, Leerdam was part of the problem with the defense, and when he stepped up to trap in the 63rd it left Lamah wide open and able to score. The communication must improve in the back.
Gustav Svensson – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 5.8
I thought Gustav was the best player in this game. Defensively he was everywhere, leading the team with a massive five interceptions, adding three tackles and holding the middle together well. Offensively, he added a shot on goal and a key pass, and he did all this with a sparkling 94% passing completion rate to lead the Sounders.
With his defensive mid partner struggling more than normal, the Goose did a good job picking up the slack early. His tackle in the 3rd minute after a loose midfield turnover was strong, and when Svensson wasn’t defending he was dropping long balls into Leerdam’s runs up the wing. In the 10th minute he made another essential defensive play at the top of the box and followed it up moments later with a strong midfield aerial won. Svensson did miss Harry Shipp once with a bad forward pass and stabbed and missed badly in the defensive midfield that put enormous strain on the backline, but he continued to hustle which easily stood out for Seattle.
In the second half Goose pushed up high to try to help on long ball clearances, which he did in the 47th minute with good results. A minute later he really hustled to defend deep with the center backs up high. Gustav was a little slow to get to Mauro Diaz and Dallas took advantage midway through the half. This game had few Seattle highlights after the red, but Svensson got a great hit, forcing a diving save from opposing keeper Jimmy Maurer in the 82nd and it was awesome to see Goose beat four defenders and win a foul in the 90th minute, playing hard till the final whistle.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.0
Roldan looked tired. He still touched the ball the most on the team and completed 89% of his passes (one key pass), but he had very few defensive actions (seven fewer than Goose) and visibly struggled to get to positions he usually closes out. He was easily pushed off the ball on multiple occasions, something that is a rarity when Cristian is rested.
Early on, Cristian looked lost. He was easily backed off the ball by Urruti in the 3rd minute, he was visibly tired and missed a slow pass in the 13th, and he was pushed off the ball in the 22nd and 26th minutes, all very uncharacteristic of Roldan. When Dallas scored their first goal Roldan had completely lost Diaz, and the home team had their best results whenever the Dallas DP managed to elude Cristian. Ten minutes after the first goal Roldan was massively out of position and Diaz had an open shot that forced a great Frei save.
While Dallas looked good whenever Roldan struggled, Seattle’s offense only looked good when Roldan got forward and supported. Minute 19 saw him overload the attack with numbers and Seattle nearly scored before Dallas did. If Cristian wasn’t so tired he might have had a header goal to tie the game in the 49th minute after a great Marshall redirect. The second half was more up and down with Roldan playing well in spurts to keep Seattle in the game but also getting beat by Diaz with regularity and making tired, poor passes. This wasn’t a great Roldan outing.
Handwalla Bwana – 4 | Community – 4.2 (off 64’)
Bwana doesn’t quite look ready for MLS play. He has a lot of MLS-ready tools: decent touch, attacking vision, solid athleticism — but isn’t yet up to the speed or physicality of the league. When isolated as an inverted winger he can drive into the box and attack diagonally, but he offers poor passing (72%) and nothing defensively. When combined with the erratic play of Nouhou, Handwalla was largely lost on the left wing. I would have loved to see him switch sides and see what he would look like with a more disciplined Leerdam behind him.
Early on Dallas noted his positional faults and consistently attacked his side. Bwana played little defense and offered limited support to Nouhou. His poor positioning led to him being turned and committing a foul in the 9th in a bad spot. He was caught napping on the ensuing quickly taken free kick. Handwalla dove in and was beat in the 18th minute and then watched, which is a terrible habit to get into. He was too late offensively in the 32nd to take advantage of a wonderful Leerdam cross; if he had anticipated better he could have tied the game on a back-post run.
The second half wasn’t much better, although a nice pass in the 55th found Neagle who bungled a great chance. Bwana had a few bad touches and rough defensive efforts before he was unceremoniously yanked. I think Handwalla can be a very good player, but he’s clearly not ready to dominate games nor is he making sound tactical decisions. Losing Dempsey made Bwana even more ineffective, and he showed a lot of inexperience against Dallas.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 5 | Community – 4.6
For quite a while Wolff was not good, and then he turned it on for the middle part of the game before fading out again in the second half. He had the second-most touches of any Sounder and at times showed glimpses of the dynamic distributor that we’ve seen so far this season. He ended up with an outstanding four key passes and added three shots of his own, but defensively he was a non-factor.
Wolff is still struggling to get acclimated to his teammates, as evidenced by a weak pass to Shipp in the 4th and misplaying a nice Torres ball three minutes later. Shipp was again the victim of a bad drop in the 11th minute and has hammered when attempting to control this pass. In the 16th minute Eikrem had an open shot on his right foot and instead put a bad pass wide to Shipp, which was some poor decision making.
After the Dallas goal Eikrem was much improved through the next 40 minutes or so. A first-time shot on a Leerdam cross was blocked in the 25th, as was an open look a minute later on the penalty spot from a nice Dempsey look. This play may have been better served as the give and go that Clint intended, as the slow-developing shot from Eikrem was denied. In the second half Wolff was one of the few creative players and did a decent job switching the field and being dangerous. His set piece delivery may be the best on the team, and Seattle was consistently dangerous when he was over dead balls.
I’m worried about Wolff’s ability to function as a finesse player in a physical league. In the 3rd, 5th, 19th, and 23rd minutes I noted 50-50 challenges or aerial battles that he either weakly bailed out of or refused to fight for, and that is a huge red flag in MLS. Jumping out of hard challenges is smart for personal safety, but not attempting to play winnable balls in the midfield that turn into immediate goals for the other team is an issue. Wolff will need to get a smidge more “run through walls-ness” if he’s going to be a difference maker in this league. He is a player that links well with other smart, technical players around him and when those players are not in the lineup he struggles to be the sole creator.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 3.9 (off 52’)
On second watch, this was a pretty typical Shipp match. He did a lot of little things to try to create space for others, was part of the stronger right side defensively, and even won two aerial battles. Shipp also had a dismal 70% completion rate on passes and had a particularly hard time connecting with Wolff. After Eikrem lost the ball in the midfield in the 2nd minute, Shipp had a nice defensive recovery, and Harry did a solid job drifting into the middle to support while opening space for Leerdam. After a poor drop from Wolff, Harry was completely cleaned out in the 11th minute but jumped up and played hard the rest of the half.
One thing that Shipp does that almost no other Sounders do is open space for others, and often Seattle has a bunch of direct, at-goal runs that are easy to defend. Harry made a clever play in the 21st minute: he checked to the ball and released Leerdam up the wing, and then made an intelligent run to the middle that wreaked havoc on the Dallas shape and while he didn’t get the ball, this opened up space for teammates. Seattle needs to vastly improve their off-the-ball movement.
Shipp didn’t have many high- or low-lights, instead being consumed by defensive work and allowing Leerdam to be the offensive fulcrum from the right side. I would have liked to see him switch sides as an inverted winger in front of Nouhou and see if he could have helped on Barrios, but for some reason he was quickly yanked a mere seven minutes into the second half. He didn’t do a lot, but to make him play a few minutes and get pulled seems a curious decision from the coach.
Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 2.6
I was one of a few people who never saw red against Clint and got some pushback when I said so. The new angles that came out seemed to reinforce my view: Dempsey was held and tried to shove away to get space. This happens all game, and while I can see the ref deciding otherwise, Clint was clearly hard done by this call. It’s hard to rate Dempsey in this game as I didn’t think he was justly sent off.
Before the red Clint was very good, especially growing into the game after Dallas scored. He had a shot on goal, a key pass, and 90% completion rate as a very creative player. Although he often drifted back to retrieve the ball and help a beleaguered midfield, Clint was always in the box when Seattle got forward into the attack. In the 26th he had a give and go that also enabled MWE time to shoot. In the 32nd a nice switching pass opened up Leerdam who nearly assisted on an equalizing goal.
When Clint came off the game was pretty much over. I don’t want to see him have to drop so deep when he’s ostensibly a forward, but it’s understandable when the defense is struggling to clear their zone. Since referees are clearly profiling him, Dempsey needs to play so cleanly that he doesn’t give anyone a chance to assume the worst.
Lamar Neagle – 3 | Community – 3.2 (on 52’)
Why? After talking about Wingo at halftime, coach made a quick sub and it was … Neagle? All I could think of was Neagle was going to push really high and stretch out Dallas some. Lamar nearly proved coach right with a nice link-up play a minute after subbing on with his back to goal, but after that he was terrible, consistently dropping into bad spots. Posted in the box in the 55th, if Lamar could just have been stronger on a Bwana pass he could have passed (or even shielded the ball) to Wolff who was wide open for a shot. In the 58th it was an extremely awful play by Neagle that helped Dallas ice the game. First, he horribly fumbled away the ball to Dallas facing his own goal, and then he compounded that error by chasing the ball and wildly whiffing on an attempt to tackle it back. This left a tired Seattle defense strung out and ill-equipped to defend as Dallas quickly scored.
Neagle had a poor play in the 76th that created a counter which Kim earned a yellow for, and Lamar earned a card of his own in the 89th for randomly whacking a guy. Not a good outing for a player who inexplicably keeps getting time.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 64’)
Alex looks a lot like Neagle on the field, except Roldan can trap the ball. He had a nice 69th minute half-field shot attempt that was easily saved, but otherwise was a hustle guy whose job was to bring in some energy for a team down a man. Roldan was nearly invisible in a half hour of work. He drifted inside a lot and was somehow tied for team lead in shots (three), with only the long try being on frame. I’m not sure what his ceiling is, and whether that includes MLS time, but he has a high floor and looks to be a willing runner in his sub appearances so far.
Kim Kee Hee – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 74’)
Brought on to spell the struggling Torres, Kim looked pretty good. He only touched the ball eight times but completed 86% and added some speed on the backline that wasn’t evident prior to his insertion. Unlike Wolff, there is no concern about his physicality, as Kim earned a yellow card on his first challenge of the game in minute 76 and willingly mixed it up with Dallas players. He looks to have a lot of potential for this Sounders back line, offering a change of pace (literally) to the giants currently in center defense.
Chris Penso – 3 | Community – 4.0
I don’t know what to rate this guy. The play of the game was a 37th minute red card given to Dempsey that completely changed a match that looked quite competitive to that point. From the minute this was called, it looked to me like Clint was brushing away a guy who was holding him. You can debate how much intensity a player can or should use to disengage from the clutches of a defender, but removing a player from the field should be only done when sure of the call, and this was by no means a sure red from my view.
Knowing the game changing card was coming, on the rewatch I noted seven similar plays prior to the red card: whether it was Leerdam and Reto Ziegler hand fighting in minute 2, Dempsey being held similarly in the 8th, and Gruezo with his arm around Clint’s neck in the 12th, to Jacori Hayes (who earned the red with his acting job) grabbing Wolff in possession in the 13th, or Matt Hedges doing the same in the 26th. Few of these even earned fouls, let alone red cards. How a referee sees indisputable serious violent conduct on the replay of the red card but ignores all of these other plays is a joke. My point isn’t that Clint is innocent, but that these things happen all game, they are regular soccer plays, and a quality game was ruined by an overzealous ref pulling red when it clearly wasn’t.
Penso was also inconsistent on other calls, with an 11th minute foul that nearly broke Shipp in half not earning a card, but Gustav’s normal tackle immediately earning a yellow later. If we are worried about the safety of Jacori Hayes’ wrist from Dempsey, what about Marshall in the 24th minute, who was cleaned out on a header by Michael Barrios, of all people. Chad is fourteen inches taller and the Dallas player made no rational attempt to win the ball, instead clattering into an unprotected Dad in the air on a challenge that saw the Dallas player over two feet from the ball. No card.
Even worse was a 58th minute studs-exposed foul from Roland Lamah that not only should have been yellow, but could easily have been a red for its extreme danger and location on Wolff. No card given. This is just so frustrating. A referee who is clearly not interested in honest evaluation of fouls gives zero cards then bam: red, essentially ending the match. Then back to nothing. I don’t know how you go from letting everything go physically, then see that angle (that I was assured Penso saw) and give Dempsey a red. YMMV.
FC Dallas MOTM
Roland Lahmah was a terror on the wing, constantly wrecking havoc. He opened the scoring by getting on the end of a low Michael Barrios cross for a simple tap in. Later, he rounded out the scoring, icing the game with a calm, cool, and collected chip over Stefan Frei.
The team needs a break. I need a break. It’s a good thing we get one. Go Sounders. I fully expect a much healthier team and better play against Montreal.