That’s more like it. With a few regular starters back on the field, Seattle again dominated a game, but this time it had the players to finish off a bunkering Santa Tecla team. The 4-0 win wasn’t even that close, but a big second half was necessary to put this CCL series to bed. Coach Schmetzer has a plethora of options on a deep (when healthy) team that looks poised to compete for all the trophies this season.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.4
Stef was good, but honestly wasn’t challenged much. Most of this game was about management and leadership, both things at which Frei excels. With a defensive four in front of him that included some new and young players, it was essential that Seattle keep the clean sheet. The defense did fairly well to hold Santa Tecla off the board long enough for the offense to show up.
In the 34th minute Frei looked good with his feet and has shown increased comfort on the ball this season. He was confidently out to catch wide in the 51st and dominated the few aerial chances the away team had. In minute 62 Frei made a wonderful save on a free kick; it was whistled off but was still a great play and showed he is in fine form.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.4
It was nice to get the Houtrain back on the tracks and see the young Cameroonian with his distinct style on the outside left. Nouhou was definitely hyped for the game, trading physical play with his opponents and not shying away from tough tackles or aerial challenges. One thing he must work on is finding square passes to include the midfield, instead of getting tunnel vision up the left wing.
Early on we were treated to a new attack-minded Nouhou, churning up the left on an overlap in the 6th minute, but he wasn’t involved offensively after that. Nouhou had a risky defensive play in the 17th minute that saw an opponent get inside him, but nothing came of it. Instead of constantly roaming up the left offensively, Nouhou mainly showed off his speed on defense, especially in the 24th when he chased down a long touch and refused to concede a corner on a ball that looked destined to go out. These long defensive runs were due in part to the fact that he got way too high up the field, forcing Shipp to repeatedly cover for him. He had a great view of most of the second half goals while playing a little more under control.
Tony Alfaro – 5 | Community – 4.4 (off 46’)
Alfaro was improved in his second appearance this year, looking calmer and more under control than in the away leg. He still had a very poor pass in the 6th minute that put the team under unnecessary stress, and he struggled to put the proper weight on back passes in the 34th and 46th. I noted multiple times where Tony headed the ball to teammates, something he may be learning from Marshall.
There were very few notes from Alfaro’s play in the first half, and he only played 45 minutes. He really needs to improve on using both feet; maybe having a great “off foot” is not necessary, but Tony continually puts himself in bad positions by running around his right foot. It repeatedly gets him in trouble and it’s something I hope he spends a lot of time on. This game saw Alfaro come off at halftime and there was rumor of a hamstring issue. With Santa Tecla not pressing, Tony wasn’t exposed like last match but he was just okay.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.3
Chad Marshall was back to his dominant self in the home leg of this CCL match. Big, strong, and consistent, Chad had zero negative marks in my book and was improved from the first leg. As usual, my notes were full of calm defending from Marshall who showed off his fine positioning and tight passing skills. With a better group in front of him, suddenly Chad winning a ball in the 29th turned into a quick counter attack for Seattle. In the 35th minute Marshall read the Santa Tecla attack so well that they passed directly to him.
I mentioned before this series started that Seattle should have a huge set piece advantage, and Chad proved that to be true. He got on the end of 12th and 21st minute free kicks, nearly scoring each, but it was his 81st minute goal that effectively ended the series. Marshall was a monster in the air against the smaller Salvadorans and looks to keep pace with Lodeiro for team goal lead. I liked seeing Chad still energized in the 90th minute, cutting out an attack after a poor pass to the middle. He looks poised for another big year.
Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 5.7
It was an improved McCrary in his second Sounders appearance, this time showing off some nice movement forward and attacking ability while continuing to showcase solid defense down his right side. For the first half hour Jordan was great. He had a nice 2nd minute look forward to find Bruin in space and had a great over the top attempt moments later looking to spring Nico. Jordan continually inched forward into the offense and helped create vital width. In the 20th he found the ball forward and dropped a nice far post cross to Shipp, before earning a corner three minutes later. McCrary also defended nicely in the 31st. After the half hour mark a few errors started to creep in, with some possession issues and an overhit cross, but his defense was good.
After halftime Svensson took much of the distribution from the right and McCrary stayed back more, but other than a 90th minute poor pass to the middle he was steady in the back. He recognized a short corner in the 51st and hustled out to defend, and he looks to have a great soccer demeanor. Multiple times opponents took cheap shots and he just shrugged it off and played on.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.7
Playing his first full game, Goose looked pretty good. Clearly inspired by his newborn, Svensson wasn’t taking any crap from the Santa Tecla players. He was willing to mix it up early and often. He ran around banging bodies in the middle and allowed the fancy pants guys up front to pass it around. I liked his midfield defense and he wins an incredibly high number of headers in the middle.
In the second half the versatile Swede moved back to center back and opened up the game by allowing a bit more creative player in his stead and improving the offense with his distribution from the back line. It was a very smart poke touch from Goose to Nico that set up the first goal of the match in the 48th minute. Four minutes later he showed off his defense, stepping up to cut off passing lanes and distributing clean forward to jump start the offense. Gustav was beaten a few times, missing a sliding tackle and earning a yellow after a professional foul. Svensson’s passing allows defense to become offense, and he showed how great he can be as a passing center back.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.5
Roldan was very strong in this game, covering more ground than he’s covered in quite some time. In the first ten minutes he was on each side of the field, defending from sideline to sideline. Cristian was mainly defending in the first half, and Seattle struggled to move the ball through the midfield. In the 30th I thought Roldan did great to open to the middle after getting a pass from Clint, but he missed Lodeiro in on goal.
The second half was more of the same defensively from Roldan, strongly bossing the midfield and winning tackle after tackle against a team willing to hack the crap out of any Sounder near the ball. Unlike the first match between these teams where Seattle struggled through the middle, Roldan really set the midfield tone. He combined both offensively and defensively and was all over the field to link up with teammates and connect both directions.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 78’)
Shipp has quietly played very well in CCL. Once again, he was all over my sheet, continually linking up and helping create strong play on both sides of the ball. Surrounded by more technical players, Shipp fit well, linking with teammates and also putting in a ton of defensive work from his left-wing position.
In minute 8 a hustling Shipp made a great steal and put a perfect pass into Bruin who inexplicably fumbled it away. Harry’s defensive anticipation is great and he continually was able to disrupt plays down his wing even though he isn’t the quickest player. In the 20th he found a header off a McCrary cross and later found the right back on an overlap after combining with Dempsey. The second half was more effective play, with a great run central missed by Wolff in the 47th but earning a corner a minute later. Shipp played good defense, linked up with others, and did a good job in this series.
Clint Dempsey – 7 | Community – 7.5 (off 87’)
Still not falling over from old age, Clint Dempsey played his first match of the year on Thursday and looked as good as ever. Although Seattle didn’t score in the first half, many of the dangerous attacks were via Dempsey passes and strong movement. He roamed around as usual, dropping to help alleviate pressure and casually back heeling the ball to teammates. There was a little rust, but other than hoping for a free kick in the 31st (and nearly seeing a breakaway go the other way), Clint was good in the first half.
In the second half he was great. Clint still has a bad habit of turning the ball over facing his own goal but it’s vastly outweighed by his ability to create high quality chances. Dempsey instantly combined with the Wolff, and the two of them were electric in movement. It took until the 69th (nice) for him to find the stat sheet, but as usual, when Seattle was on the attack it was Clint popping up on the backside, collecting an errant pass and calmly finding Nico for a goal. It’s a joy to see the team playing pretty soccer, and this offense in the second half was beautiful. Floating in between the lines in the 84th Clint picked up a great pass from Eikrem and again placed a pass onto a teammate for an assist, finding the Wolff with a perfectly weighted through ball.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.4 (MOTM)
No slow start for Nico this season. In this game he was everywhere, playing offense, defense, and everything in between. Even his set pieces were improved, continually finding the giant noggin of Marshall with tantalizing service. (Okay, two were short but the rest were great.) In the first half Lodeiro did a lot of running but there wasn’t a ton of room and usually Bruin ran away from where Nico passed it. Lodeiro missed a wide open Dempsey trailing the play in the 36th minute that had goal written all over it.
The second half was one spectacular play after another. In the 48th he made a perfect pass to Bruin for a vital first goal. After showing off some great hustle defense in the 64th it was time for Nico to put one in the back of the net, this time finishing a header via a cross. This was a coach’s teaching moment: Nico actually originally ran away from goal, pulling the defender away from goal before bursting past him and the ever-alert Dempsey immediately found him for the goal. Nico’s off ball movement is sublime, and even more impressive when you consider that in the second half he was coming from a defensive midfield position. After a strong shot that was right at the keeper, Lodeiro dialed up Dad for an 81st minute goal before closing out the game defending like a madman. A great shift from this somehow underrated star.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 7.1
Goals change games, and Bruin had a goal. He also had a really poor match and this grade may be generous. His continual bad touch made him a dead zone for possession and he failed to link well with Nico and Clint. When Shipp put him in on goal in the 8th he eschewed the left footed shot for some turn/drop combo that failed miserably. In the first half he made bad runs away from the space Seattle needed to attack, and there were other times when Bruin just stood there as teammates ran by him.
Half two was somewhat improved, starting off with Bruin doing what he does, namely getting into the six-yard box and kicking the ball into the net. Will is great at diving at goal and putting his foot into a ball in the direction he’s facing. He is also good at mixing it up with fullbacks attempting to kick, bite, scratch, pull his hair, and any other manner of things that happened, all the while opening up spaces for the guys in green to do soccer stuff. Bruin is likely going to be judged this season on whether he scores on his opportunities, and possibly little else.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 8 | Community – 8.3 (on 46’)
Awwwooooooooooooooooooooooo! Now that I got that out of my system, let’s just talk force multiplier. Similar in style to Victor Rodriguez in his desire to shove the ball down opponent’s throats with direct, technical play, the Wolff is a slightly different player than V-Rod. Magnus uses more physicality and size to his advantage, but the underlying goal of one-way traffic towards goal was huge in this match.
Eikrem’s first “touch” was a perfect dummy to Bruin before a 1-2 with Dempsey and unfortunately missing Shipp open on goal. The Wolff was consistently able to combine with Clint and we saw an already sterling comfort between these two to find each other in space. I was especially impressed with a 71st minute long curving through ball that showed off wonderful touch and vision and nearly put Bruin in alone. This game saw Wolff spewing balls wide, linking up with give and goes, and generally forcing play forward in directly dangerous areas. I loved his goal in the 84th minute for many reasons, but perhaps most because he had the skill, confidence, and patience to keep possession and look off the first few options and see a third and fourth. Waiting until Clint found a hole in the defense, he then continued his run and finished calmly far post, which bodes well for a team looking for people able to score. Eikrem played some defense, opened up McCrary on the wing for one of the first times all game, and generally helped Seattle overwhelm Santa Tecla with talent in the second half.
He missed a few passes and clearly needs a bit more endurance but he is a player that brings a smooth attacking quality that fits nicely with the pieces already on the team. While Seattle may not have blazing team speed all over the field, Eikrem is another player who is willing and able to play the ball quickly, forcing a pace of play that mitigates any individual player pace issues.
Lamar Neagle – 4 | Community – 5.6 (on 78’)
Not sure why Lamar was brought in here. I assume coach wanted some veteran play, but Neagle didn’t add more than some width a few times. Lamar seemed to get in the way and not be on the same page with an offense that was firing on all cylinders prior to his entrance. He had a give and … stand … with Nico in the 80th and a bad turnover in the 89th. His best contribution was a nice defensive header on a corner defense in the 83rd.
Henry Wingo – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 87’)
Henry looked amazing in a few moments of play. This match he subbed in late and immediately shielded the ball down the line and cherry picked a defender to get in on goal. His cross left a lot to be desired, but you can see the potential. In the 91st he had a 1v1 in space and made a good play to spring a late attack. Wingo gives us a few oohs and ahhs every time he subs on, but hasn’t translated that into quality play as a starter.
Walter Lopez – 4 | Community – 4.8
CCL Shenanigans. This guy made some good calls, including a yellow card in the 3rd minute on a hack from Santa Tecla. Annoyingly, though, this early card was the rarity, and there should have been a number of others. In the 14th Gustav was fouled by a player going over the ball and trying to break his ankle as well as following through the back leg, easily a red for endangering the safety that got only a yellow. No card was given when Nouhou was whacked long after the ball was gone in the 23rd. No card when Roldan was hit late in the 30th. In the 44th Rivera used a very deliberate elbow to the head and not only was it not a red, it wasn’t a card at all! Bruin somehow managed to foul the opponents six times without a card.
CCL-wise, this was a poor ref who didn’t follow up an early precedent of showing correct cards, and he seemed to ref to the score line a lot. Multiple reds should have been shown and more yellows were also warranted. Santa Tecla had 23 fouls and only three yellows. The yellows given were reasonable, but I would have liked to see a tighter game for the safety of all involved.
Santa Tecla FC MOTM
Just as in the first leg, Gerson Mayen was the danger man for Santa Tecla. Thankfully for Sounders fans, he wasn’t able to have nearly as much of an impact throughout his side’s away leg.
This was the result I think Seattle might have gotten had a few things bounced the other way in El Salvador. That would have let them play a much different lineup at home, but the important takeaway is that when enough of our quality players are on the field together, this roster is electric. Even clearly still in preseason form and fitness, Seattle was a monster that has a good shot at advancing past Chivas.