This was a tough game, as once again the Seattle Sounders came out a bit flat and had an early red card that derailed an overall good effort. The 0-1 final score in the loss to the Montreal Impact highlighted many of the negatives so far on the season: player control issues, lack of finishing, and a continued inability to get multiple creative pieces on the field at the same time. While the result was disappointing, the second-half play showed a resilience and quality that belies the scoreline, as Seattle thoroughly dominated despite playing a man down.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.2 (MOTM)
Frei had a very quiet game, and even though Seattle lost there wasn’t much he could do to change the scoreline in either direction. This game was very well defended by the Sounders, and Stef did his usual strong job in the back directing traffic. Montreal’s playstyle was helpful to Seattle, as being a man down doesn’t help a counterattack team nearly as much as a high press or possession squad.
After being forced into a 2nd-minute clearance that went right to the opponents, Stef was rock solid. He stopped a long Jeisson Vargas shot in the 11th minute and followed up with his best play of the night, a 17th-minute free kick parry that showed excellent footwork and amazingly strong hands to push the Montreal shot wide for a corner. Right before half Stefan was out as a sweeper keeper to clear away a chance. That was symbolic of the job he had against the Canadian team, with Montreal only getting three shots on target and only one from inside the box. Unfortunately, that one was all they needed and it was a shot that Frei stood no chance against.
Waylon Francis – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 84’)
I thought Francis had a fairly strong game live, but the re-watch showed more errors than I remembered. While he was decent going forward, and contributed two key passes, neither were overly dangerous and this game really didn’t play to his strengths. Waylon had a massive 98 touches which illustrates how extremely left-focused Seattle was, but he only completed 73 percent of his passes and was only 2/6 crossing. Perhaps more importantly, Francis had the enormous error that resulted in the only goal of the game.
Waylon started out rough, with a bad cross and terrible giveaway in the first five minutes. Even worse, in the 12th minute he was completely out of sync with the backline, something I noted a number of times. After a nice overlap and cross in the 13th, three minutes later he was again marking nothing, and Seattle was lucky not to give up a good chance. Francis did fairly well in possession on his side, but his integration with Handwalla Bwana was a mess, and often the left back would boot hopeful long balls for Bruin when devoid of options. Defensively Seattle funneled attacks centrally and allowed the central defense to limit opportunities. Francis dealt well with having the ball nearly twice as much as he would in a normal match.
In the second half Seattle played strong, with Francis continually offering the left wing as an attacking outlet. Unfortunately, the Sounders didn’t make good use of their chances, and in minute 60 Waylon made an awful decision. Instead of clearing the ball he tried to make a pass off his back foot and this was immediately stolen and shoved down Seattle’s throat for the only goal of the match. That was a bad play, but even worse was Francis’ casual walking/watching after the play without showing any interest in recovering or helping prevent what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Chad Marshall - 7 | Community – 6.5
This was another match where a lot of what Chad did went under the radar. He was once again stellar in possession, with 91 percent passing and a sparkling 5/5 on long balls. He led the team with five interceptions and won five aerials. Marshall was dominant defensively yet also was perhaps Seattle’s best offensive threat on the evening, consistently getting on the end of set pieces and creating some of the best chances for the home team all night.
In the 9th minute this set piece dominance manifested itself in two corner kicks that found his head and nearly scored. Defensively Chad was across to block a shot in the 12th after Torres got turned. Marshall’s aggressive step in the 29th kickstarted a great attacking sequence after he stole a pass in the center of the pitch. After Seattle went down a man Marshall was steady in the middle, consistently completing passes from the back and shutting down any chances for Montreal to counter through the middle, often stepping forward to clear passes before they could create danger.
Chad was brutally abused by Ignacio Piatti in the 60th minute as Montreal took advantage of a scrambling defense after a turnover to create a goal. Marshall’s usually stellar timing on reaching for tackles was completely off, and he was turned badly, allowing the away team space to create a goal. This was Montreal’s only second half attack that put the defense under pressure and it was enough. Chad valiantly tried to atone for this with 77th and 89th minute redirects on set pieces but he just wasn’t able to point his headers into the net.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 5.2
This was by far Roman’s best outing of the season, but it still had a few awful blemishes. Torres led the Sounders with five clearances and helped Seattle dominate the air with four won headers, but he’s still prone to big mistakes and positioning issues that are hard to interpret with a man missing.
I liked seeing Roman body up Piatti in the 3rd minute, something he does as well as anyone in the league. He also was across nicely to defend a few moments later, showing much increased range and better anticipation than we have seen. Torres still struggled in the first half, with a 12th-minute sequence nearly a disaster. With Marshall stepping up, Roman was too slow to stay in line with him, creating a giant gap in the defense that Piatti immediately exploited. As Torres tried to mark him, Piatti made him look utterly foolish, and only a hustling recovery from Marshall saved the day. This is a great example of how, had Roman made the correct movement to keep defensive cohesion earlier, he wouldn’t have ended up on an island against Piatti, who is devastating in 1v1 matchups. A clumsy challenge behind the play in minute 16 was lucky not to get a card, and clearly Torres has some agility yet to recover.
The second half was somehow much better for Roman than the first, and he looked strong as a roaming center back. He immediately started the half with aggressive steps forward to dispossess Montreal attackers before they could turn and do damage, and a moment later he intercepted a similar pass and started a counter of Seattle’s own. On Montreal’s goal Torres did well, cutting the angle on the goal and really only allowing Piatti one option back across (and away) from the face of goal. While it’s fun to see the big guy roaming, he doesn’t always make great decisions, like a 72nd-minute pass up the middle when a wide-open Francis was a better option. As Seattle pushed numbers ahead, Roman’s attacking ability showed itself a number of times, overloading the right as an aerial option that led to headers won in the 68th and 81st off set pieces.
Kelvin Leerdam – 3 | Community – 3.3 (off 40’)
It’s hard to rate guys who get red cards. This instance was very clear cut, though, and deliberate hands to the face is nothing like the Dempsey debate. Prior to his removal Leerdam had mundane passing numbers and again failed to mesh well with Wolff in front of him. Kelvin started very strong with an overlap and defensive interception in the first five minutes, and had a nice angled cross that nearly found Marshall in minute 9 after a recycled corner. Leerdam had a poor pass forward and didn’t cover in the 12th minute, and in the 16th was inexplicably a full seven yards behind his centerbacks, creating a huge gap that is inexcusable.
I specifically looked for warning signs prior to Leerdam’s card and found one in the 30th minute, as he was clearly frustrated after he was called for a foul on a 50/50 ball. Other than that, there wasn’t a ton of back-and-forth between him and winger Daniel Lovitz, but apparently there was enough bad blood for Leerdam to lose his mind. First off, the undercut as an opponent goes up for a header is being overlooked. Kelvin made zero effort to attack the ball and clearly moved his hips under the player to hurt him. This was an extremely dirty play, one that I have consistently demeaned here after opponents used these tactics to hurt our players. (Dwyer vs. Evans etc.) While that play warranted a caution, there is no reason to slap an opponent in the face. It doesn’t matter how severe it was, it put Seattle in a terrible spot for the second game in a row. Utterly disappointing from someone who hasn’t shown this sort of stupidity in his time here.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.2
Another strong outing from Svensson; he seems to (unfortunately?) play very well down a man. With nearly zero negative marks, Goose filled up the positive side with positioning and great tackling. He was a steady contributor in the middle but didn’t offer any creativity to help Seattle break through.
In the 2nd minute Svensson cleaned up a midfield mess, something he repeated in the 25th. At times Gustav and Roldan got pulled apart, and they need to remain more coherent. I would love to see them combine, as they almost never complete a pass to each other through the middle. Svensson was quiet in the first half but did a good job marking Piatti and covering the zone in front of the central defenders. Goose jump-started a push forward in the 32nd with a strong tackle and followed that with a strong step forward in the 33rd minute to snuff out an attack. Moments later he had a great far-post flick on a corner that nearly found a teammate. Svensson closed out the half in the 43rd and 46th with great defensive efforts.
The second half was an excellent display of tactical intelligence; his positional integrity and cover for Lodeiro was immense. This allowed Seattle to attack while down a player for long stretches, as he held the middle on his own. Often dropping in between the center backs, Svensson looked comfortable playing central defense stacked under Nico and did an excellent job offsetting Lodeiro’s movements. In minute 62 Goose got forward in one of his rare ventures up field and found himself exactly in the right spot but had the wrong finish; his wide-open shot went over. Five minutes later he created more attacks through defense, this time with a strong midfield challenge. Svensson continued Seattle’s set piece dominance in the 74th with a wide-open header on a free kick that was harmlessly directed right at opposing goalkeeper Evan Bush.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.9
Cristian had a very quiet game by his standards, but still had 3 tackles, 2 clearances, and a shot on goal. He created 5 set pieces from being hacked so much. He had a lot of effort, but this rarely manifested itself into Seattle chances, and while Roldan played OK, he was less impactful than usual.
Roldan did well in the first half, picking Piatti’s pocket in the 7th minute and dropping in to break up attacks in front of the backline. He did fail to close Vargas out in the 11th minute that allowed a shot, but it was a long distance try that didn’t test Frei. Offensively Roldan switched nicely to Francis in the 13th and made some strong runs that were unrewarded. He did lose Piatti in the 25th and had a foul in the 32nd in a bad spot, but Montreal wasn’t able to take advantage.
Asked to play a different role in the second half, Roldan largely disappeared. This isn’t to say he was ineffective, Roldan just did so much running to try to keep the entire right side intact that the game didn’t run through him. He was often in the box trying to make something happen but the service wasn’t to locations he could reach. Pinching inside to allow for McCrary to overlap helped the center stay compact, but Cristian didn’t create anything going forward. He had a chance in the 80th on one of the few occasions he got possession in the attack but was very indecisive, eventually being caught in possession and losing the ball. Like many others, he had a wide open free kick header (91’) but similar to his teammates put it right to the keeper.
Handwalla Bwana – 4 | Community – 5.6 (off 74’)
Bwana has a ton of talent, but at times he doesn’t seem to be playing at MLS speed. As an attack-minded player, he excels at dribbling (8 against Montreal), and has elite talent to beat defenders in this fashion, but it’s the next step that lets him down. Two shots and 1 key pass in three MLS games is just not enough, and he had zero against Montreal. Bwana also isn’t much of a factor on defense, at times contributing to a leaky left side.
In the 1st minute Handwalla pressed the ball well to great results and I thought Seattle might continue this very effective strategy but they didn’t. Bwana seemed without offensive direction in the first half, from being caught in possession and killing a great break in minute 7 to showing off a sexy spin move on the sideline in the 11th but again it went nowhere. After a great breakout dribble in minute 24 Bwana was forced backwards, and 3 minutes later he won a 1v1 battle but then nothing. Late in the half Handwalla looked lost, floating in and out of the game and not able to do anything except fill the space left by Nico’s roaming. He’s an especially bad fit with Lodeiro, as he is often indecisive when the tactics require him to move off the left wing.
Bwana’s role stayed similar in the second half, and at times he again was lost. After getting into the box in the 48th he was unable to pull the trigger and clearly needs some direction on how to be more effective after creating space. It’s frustrating seeing Handwalla follow up these great plays with indecision, and it’s imperative that the staff help him get more of a killer instinct as he is one of the few players on the roster who’s able to create off the dribble.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 4 | Community – 4.7 (off 46’)
This was another game where Eikrem had a chance to be a driving force and he faded. He managed zero shots, a single key pass and one dribble, and didn’t record a single defensive action. This is very disappointing from a right side that had two of the more experienced and pedigreed players on the team.
After a 2nd minute overlap the Leerdam/Eikrem wing was a failure to create. Wolff drifted around trying to find the ball and did so with a great chest trap to Bruin for a shot in the 8th. A superb dummy run 5 minutes later again gave a Sounder an open shot, this time Nico’s inside the box. Defensively Wolff was a mess, whiffing and fouling in the 4th and badly chasing the ball in minute 12 allowing a huge backside hole. Frei was clearly mad at Eikrem after the 17th minute free kick required a huge save after Wolff made zero effort to block the shot. His defensive effort leaves a lot to be desired, and that may have added to Leerdam’s frustration. Eikrem’s tremendous set piece delivery is likely the best on the team – both accurate and predictable.
Wolff is clearly a cerebral player, often looking to spots and being confused why runners aren’t where he expected them. When the team is playing well, he helps by accentuating great play around him. But when the team is struggling, he appears to “play down” to that level, instead of leading by example. His effort was better this week, but I’m very underwhelmed by his last few games after being impressed with his first appearances where he looked able to be a game changer on his own.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.8
It was nice to have Nico back on the field, and he had a tremendous match. He filled the stat sheet with an awesome 5 shots, 4 key passes, 4 dribbles, 4 defensive tackles and 2 interceptions, on a well-rounded outing where he played well on both sides of the ball.
I was pleased to see early defense from Lodeiro, and he continued this all match. Nico had a beautiful first-time pass in the 8th minute off a throw-in that created danger in the middle of the box but then sent a wide-open shot into the Hawks Nest. Lodeiro was as always moving everywhere, but this movement didn’t create many first half chances. His roaming left Bwana and Eikrem confused at times and unable to adjust, and Bruin continually ran away from Nico and forced long, hopeful through balls that neither player should have been involved in.
In the second half this spacing seemed to improve as Nico dropped into a defensive midfield position. With Svensson taking a decidedly defensive posture, Lodeiro used his superior conditioning to float from deep lying positions and still get to offensive areas. The rest of Seattle’s offense looked better suited to utilize the positioning and there was vastly less confusion even though they had much more room to cover. Nico being everywhere at once helped, with the Uruguayan covering a massive amount of real estate from in front of the center backs to earning corners on the end line. He did a good job following up the play, often starting an attack with a long pass or set piece and then running by multiple opponents to follow up a rebound or retrieve possession 40 yards up field. At times Nico tried to do too much and was surrounded by opponents who collapsed on him, but he was all over the field probing and creating chances. His set pieces were also tremendous, and I thought his 74th, 77th, or 91st minute services were deserving of at least one goal for the precision and shots they created.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 5.1
I wasn’t impressed with Bruin’s game. Somehow, he ended up with 1 shot on goal from 3 shots and 2 key passes and did convert a team high 92 percent of his passes. These stats came at the expense of many wasted opportunities, poor runs, and frankly weird decision making that didn’t appear to jive with his teammates or the game state.
Bruin showed a massive lack of composure multiple times in this game, none bigger than when Wolff dropped a perfect chest control to him in the box and instead of being ready for this, Bruin took a wild flailing off-balance shot that deflected wide. He had a nice look on a corner in the 21st that went over and in the 49th his backheel opened Nico into space. A wide-open chance in the 68th saw Will volley the ball so perfectly at the keeper that he didn’t even have to move to catch the shot. In the 75th Bruin argued a foul so long that Seattle missed a good chance while he complained.
I’m not sure whether Bruin understands his role on this team, and I don’t either. Instead of bringing his team into the game with holdup play and using his wide body and control to link with other players, Will constantly runs away from the ball, repeatedly gesturing for through balls or over the top service to run onto. This is absolutely ridiculous with his pace and ability, and further analysis sees that he isn’t even making these runs well, often forcing near impossible passes from teammates or straying offside in overzealous attempts to “get in behind.” In the 33rd minute, for example, he made a good tackle on defense and then made a wild rounded run forward in an attempt to get a through ball that was impossible to make and easily stolen. A direct diagonal run not only gives Nico a chance to make the pass, it also opens up tangible space for Bwana to run into unmarked, but the rounded run just ruined everything. I don’t understand why a player who is a good poacher and can finish well inside the box suddenly thinks he’s a deep threat, but it has to stop. He continually runs away, and that’s exactly the opposite of what this team needs from him.
Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 5.3 (on 46’)
I was pleased with McCrary’s game, which is good because he’s almost assured of starting in KC next week. Upon entering the game, he added an attacking element up the right wing that was missing and also filled in well behind Torres when Roman went on walkabout. In only 45 minutes of play he amassed 4 tackles and 2 interceptions to complement 86 percent passing.
In the 53rd Jordan read a pass well, stole the ball, and then galloped upfield into space nicely. He followed up a minute later with a bad giveaway to the middle but adjusted well to limit these mistakes thereafter. His 1v1 defense in the 56th was perfect and he stopped a counter a minute later as the last man back, preventing Montreal from bursting out. McCrary was slow to rotate over on the Montreal goal-scoring play. Jordan should have stayed tighter with Torres and this would have made the Vargas finish much more difficult. I liked McCrary’s runs and control, and he had a solid half of play, although his crossing leaves a lot to be desired.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 74’)
“Better Neagle” came on and did pretty much what he has done all year – not make mistakes but not do much more than be a body out there. He did hustle on defense (3 tackles) and a minute after subbing in made a nice play in a central area. Alex made a strong run in the 87th and nearly found his brother up the field, but it wasn’t to be. ARoldan needs to improve his passing, which wasn’t crisp, and while he completed most of his 13 passes, none of them were particularly impressive.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 84’)
Down a goal and a man late, Coach Schmetzer chose to do a left back swap. While I think Nouhou and Bwana is a bad combo, I am not sure what the plan was for Nouhou to do here in support of Alex Roldan. He immediately dribbled into a man and lost possession in the 86th when he desperately needed to get a cross off. He did have a nice overlap in the 89th and made multiple plays late as a free safety to keep Seattle close enough to possibly steal a point.
Ismail Elfath – 7 | Community – 4.4
This was a good refereeing job. Elfath lets a lot go, and was very liberal with the advantage play, but he smartly applied this rule and did well keeping up with the play all match.
I do think Elfath was suckered a few times by diving, such as Vargas in the 4th minute who took a full step before crumpling, and 6 minutes later Piatti doing something similar. Piatti in particular was effective at earning calls in the middle of the field by flopping at the first sign of contact. This isn’t to say that there weren’t some hard fouls, and I thought Torres lucky not to get an early yellow for an off-the-ball play. The red card and VAR use was handled well, and the yellow to Lovitz for the instigation also was appropriate.
Somehow Ken Krolicki managed to earn a yellow without committing a single foul otherwise, on a nice call by Elfath after Bwana was brutalized. I would have liked to see Elfath be quicker with cautions in general, and Montreal in particular took advantage of his lenient whistle. Chris Duvall had a 52nd-minute studs-extended tackle that deserved a card, and a 75th-minute foul by Victor Cabrera was very similar to the 70th-minute foul that finally earned Torres his caution; no similar penalty was assessed to Cabrera. Most egregious was the play of Samuel Piette, who somehow amassed SEVEN fouls committed (and 3 more uncalled) before an 83rd-minute yellow, despite clearly deserving one as early as the 60th minute. Allowing their defensive midfielder to uncontrollably hack anyone who entered their middle defense was a huge advantage, and that’s twice as many fouls as should be allowed before persistent infringement.
Montreal Impact MOTM
Ignacio Piatti is the best player on the pitch for Montreal just about every time he plays, and this match was no different. The Argentine created danger constantly while making himself a nuisance to defend against.
At this point it’s hard to be confident we can get a good result on the road against a team currently leading the west (albeit with only a +1 GD), especially Sporting Kansas City which has been a nightmare lately. If you want a silver lining, the team appears to be getting healthier and has played well in spurts this season. It may be only a matter of time before the right combination of players and tactics allows this clearly talented team to succeed.