Sunday saw a glimpse of everything that is good, or bad, with the Sounders, depending on how you look at the game. The first third was tremendous, showcasing a dynamic Seattle team that completely dominated and easily deserved the two goals they scored. After going down two goals, Minnesota did well to press more and worked their way back into the match. Although the visitors eventually scored, Seattle had multiple chances to put the game away, but didn’t do so until the 95th minute. This game probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was for a decent stretch of the second half, but the 3-1 final was justified by the overall play.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.9
Frei didn’t have a ton to do for long stretches of the game, as Seattle dominated and allowed just two of 12 shots to be designated “on target.” Although he had only one save to his credit, Stef was more active than he would have liked, especially during the second half.
In the 5th minute Frei made an easy catch on a cross followed by a quick throw upfield. Abu Danladi attempted an over the top run in the 19th but Stef was out quickly to the edge of his box to prevent it. The first half was very quiet for Frei, as Minnesota didn’t seem interested in possession even when down multiple goals. They tried a few long-range shots that didn’t stress the keeper at all and only rarely tried to get the speedy Danladi or equally quick Darwin Quintero in behind, which I’m sure Seattle appreciated. In the second half Minnesota opened the game up some, and instead of misusing Danladi they brought in Christian Ramirez to bang with the center backs and offer some aerial ability. This worked fairly well, forcing Frei to catch a looping ball on his line in the 50th and save a header with great positioning in the 56th. An over the top pass a minute later was gobbled up, but in the 66th Ramirez’s header trickled in the far post over a flat-footed Frei.
While Stefan was generally good, I thought he badly bungled an attempted punch in the 89th that nearly led to an equalizing goal, and in the 94th he came out of the box and wasn’t even close in a “huh?” moment. Seattle got the win, but there were more than a few nervy moments.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.0
Nouhou was much improved this week, possibly due to increased familiarity with Alex Roldan and their individual roles. While this made the latter somewhat less effective, it seemed to help the young left back with his decision making, and the defense in particular was better. Nouhou still touched the ball a ton (2nd most on the team) but his 81% passing was good and he filled the stat sheet with two tackles, three clearances, and three interceptions defensively.
One of the differences this week was evident in the first minute, as Nouhou overlapped and then defended high up the field, staying engaged in the play throughout, instead of getting lost after roaming forward. The Hou found excellent times to get forward but had mixed results when he got there. In the 8th minute he overcooked a cross to the far post without a teammate there. A 20th minute volley supporting the offense earned a corner, a 36th minute cross was nice but wasn’t the best choice given the runs of teammates. Right before half Nouhou got forward twice, the first without support so he smartly turned back, and the second dropping a low, cut back cross beautifully into space that no Sounders ran onto.
Defensively the left back was solid, shutting down Danladi on multiple occasions, showing off some high stepping flair to earn a goal kick in the 33rd and 53rd, and was only beat over the top by Quintero in the 63rd, requiring the steady assistance of Marshall. This was a much better, if a somewhat subdued performance. Only once did the Houtrain get caught too far forward and run out of fuel, struggling to get back on defense. He still offered a nice outlet and much better timing on runs forward. His decision making was also good, although the execution still leaves a lot to be desired.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.9
Pretty normal Chad Marshall game: 91% passing, four interceptions, three clearances, two blocked shots and aerial dominance. With Alonso pushing the ball more vertically than Seattle has this season, Chad touched the ball less and didn’t have a lot of interplay with the defensive mids or Frei. One thing I loved seeing was all four of his long balls completed to teammates, often passes that split the lines and offered great offensive position from the back.
Early and often Marshall got the better of Danladi, who was clearly scared of Chad’s pace and instead tried to out-physical the burly center back. This made Marshall’s job easy, as his near-perfect positioning allowed simple defense in the 35th and an easy control back to Frei right before half. In the second half Chad had a beautiful slide tackle to stop a rare through ball attempt, and he helped defend Quintero in the 63rd with some superb 1v1 defending after the Minnesota DP had gotten on the end of an over the top pass. Chad didn’t really put a foot wrong until the 64th minute, when his missed clearance helped lead to the scramble that saw Minnesota score through Ramirez. He ended the game strong, stepping up high to prevent a break in the 86th and clearing away an attack with a crucial defensive header in the 94th.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community – 5.8
Torres was all over the map in this game, with some spectacular plays on both ends of the spectrum. He had very few defensive actions, a lousy 64% passing completion rate (including 20% on long balls) but also chipped in two shots and nearly scored twice. One of those chances happened in the first minute, with Roman winning a header and sending it bouncing over the bar on a corner kick. In the 8th minute Torres was supporting Leerdam well defensively, but he was lucky a few minutes later that the offside flag came up for Danladi, who had gotten in behind him.
In the 14th he nearly ran himself out of the defense, and when presented with another unmarked golden corner kick opportunity got the power but not the precision on his header, sending it over from point blank range. He did slide over nicely in the 42nd behind Nouhou to force a Danladi attempt wide. In the 30th, 52nd, and 55th his bad passes from the back were immediately recycled into Minnesota offensive attacks, and his passing was not strong.
In the 58th Torres pressed very high and inexplicably in front of Marshall, but it worked well enough to create a turnover to Nico who nearly dialed up Cristian Roldan for the dagger. What didn’t work so well was his defense on Sam Nicholson in the 66th, getting completely beat and then compounding his error by watching the play, not recovering, and getting a nice view of Ramirez scoring around where he should have been. Roman did cover the goal line well in the 89th, making the goalpost effectively three feet wide, helping ensure that a late shot didn’t tie the game.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.2
Leerdam returned to the lineup after his suspension and looked very strong, but was also clearly reserved emotionally — when frustrated he calmly dropped the ball and ran back on defense each time. While he only had 76% passing, he led the team with five clearances and made some very smart runs in the attack.
Kelvin started the game with a terrible 5th minute pass toward the middle of the field that was stolen, and he ended it with a 94th minute bad clearance that was also taken by Minnesota. In between these two actions he was very strong, supporting the right wing often and providing an outlet to play through. His 11th and 16th minute wide runs offered an option when Nico vacated his side. In the 18th, with the bigs up for a corner kick, it was Leerdam who chased down the ball and stopped a counter, expertly keeping his angles and forcing Danladi away from goal. Two minutes later Kelvin won a header from a Frei clearance and helped Seattle break out from defense to offense.
The second half was more of the same, with Kelvin generally helping the defense but also exhibiting impeccable timing to choose runs forward to take advantage when there was an opening. In the 50th he was across smartly to pick up Alonso’s runner who was completely alone on goal, correctly choosing to mark the goalside man and leave his less dangerous mark. Eight minutes later Leerdam really hustled forward, keeping the pressure on and stealing the ball right back after C. Roldan had nearly scored. Comfortable on offense, he then put Cristian in on goal, setting up a shot for Bruin. This was a nice return to the field, and I was impressed by his decision making on the wing.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.7
This was another standout performance by the Goose, doing all the little things that allowed teammates to perform effectively in their jobs. He filled the stat book on both sides of the ball, with an impressive six tackles in the midfield to lead the team, solid 84% passing (4/5 long balls), two key passes and one massive shot on goal, that nearly ripped the net and put an exclamation point on a beautiful 22 pass sequence of Seattle dominance.
All game Svensson roamed in conjunction with Alonso, often supporting defensively so Ozzie could push more offensively, but always under control and with purpose. When he stepped forward, like in the 3rd minute, he won possession and found a teammate quickly. His 5th minute slide tackle stopped a counterattack chance after a poor Leerdam pass, and this was a very intelligent decision with Minnesota on the break. When given a chance to join the offense, Goose crushed a ball through the soul of keeper Bobby Shuttleworth and onto the scoreboard from 25+ yards out. I loved that thirty seconds after he scored, Svensson put up great sideline defense, earning a throw in.
Goose was the enforcer in the middle and stopped nearly all first half midfield traffic. With Alonso tiring, the second half was more of a struggle, and Svensson himself lost possession in the 61st and was forced to foul to prevent a break. He was lucky to not see a caution there but his 69th minute tackle was nice to prevent another counter. As Seattle tired Goose was forced more and more into desperation defense and did a fair job helping to close out the game.
Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 7.9 (off 74’)
Starting his first match of the year Alonso did a lot of things right. He also had a number of fairly egregious errors that weren’t easy to catch live. From a statistical standpoint, he was outstanding, leading the team with phenomenal 93% passing with the third most touches on the team (even though he subbed) including perfect accuracy on his seven long ball attempts. Defensively he added five more tackles to a strong midfield, as well as a clearance and plenty of calm control under duress.
In the 1st minute you could see the difference in an Alonso midfield. When he won possession he immediately looked to push the ball forward, willingly dribbling and passing vertically, instead of moving the ball wide or back to the defense. He repeated this in nearly every touch on the night, and this controlled urgency was a massive driver of team tactics. With Ozzie there is suddenly much more purpose to the Seattle possession, and even on their buildup to the first goal we saw the maestro in the middle poking and prodding directly without relying on lofted crosses.
Unfortunately, Ozzie doesn’t look fit yet, and it showed as early as the 18th minute. On this occasion he was slow to support the defense and when he did break up the play it was towards his own goal, forcing more pressure on the backline. He was again defending from behind an offensive player in the 30th, and there were other instances where he was slow to rotate across on defense. As good as he is with the ball at his feet, Alonso got caught dribbling in the 49th, leading to an instant break the other direction. Most alarming for me was Ozzie completely losing a vertical run from Minnesota midfielder Miguel Ibarra in the 50th, and again in the 59th, each time seeing the opponent unmarked in the heart of the Seattle defense. Leerdam left his man to cover on the first, but the second time was just luck that the Sounders weren’t punished for shoddy defending. Most of these issues will be fixed with a full-game fit Alonso, but it was concerning to see how drastically his play fell off as his endurance waned.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.4 (off 60’)
Roldan the younger got his second surprise start in a row and showed that his performance in Kansas City wasn’t a fluke. He does a lot of good soccer stuff very well. He had 82% passing and got a shot on goal, but it was his four tackles and two interceptions that more than doubled his defensive output from last week. This showed Alex was much more aware of his left back partner and his defensive duties, although his offensive contributions were also halved as a consequence.
Roldan didn’t have many highlights, instead being content to do a lot of needed grunt work in the midfield to support and open space for others. Importantly, he just doesn’t lose possession on the wing, which is very valuable to this team. In the 9th minute he showed some inverted attack in the middle, but then forced a too strong pass to Cristian who struggled to control and turn. Alex mostly stayed out of the way of his brother who covered massive swaths of real estate and instead focused on coming inside to defend and allow Nouhou to overlap. He had an early chance on a set piece from Nico, trying an audacious first-time volley that shrossed its way out for a goal kick but otherwise was a non-factor on offense.
In the 55th he had a chance to find one of four options in the box but failed to get a cross off and a minute later was badly beaten by Ibarra for a header on the backside; he was lucky it found Frei and not the net. Alex does a lot of things solidly, but in this game he failed to show anything dynamic whatsoever. While the team definitely needs hustle, defensive cover, and possession from wide areas, Alex’s lack of creativity will be an issue at some point.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.2 (MOTM)
Somehow Roldan the elder managed to play hold-up forward, attacking midfielder, box-to-box destroyer, and serve popcorn in the stands versus Minnesota. He had a sparkling five key passes (of which two became assists), three shots, 78% passing and ran his tail off everywhere on the field for a majority of the match. While he didn’t have the defensive stats, his positioning and movement were so disruptive that moving him out of the middle put a harsh strain on the defense until the midfield adjusted.
In the 4th minute Cristian picked up a loose ball and promptly ran into multiple defenders and lost possession, but he redeemed himself with great holdup two minutes later. Roldan was excellent in doing this all match, holding the ball up and bringing the outside wingers and Alonso into the attack. He also made excellent runs from his central position, such as an 11th minute diagonal (that he chose to shoot instead of a wide-open drop to Leerdam) or a similar beautiful inside out run in the 20th. In the 23rd minute Cristian kept moving and found the open pass for his first assist, and moments later after more hard work, his pass to a dangerous area was rewarded with assist No. 2. While Roldan is remarkably polished on offense, he still struggles at times and in the 33rd he wasted a three-on-two break when he was unable to find a teammate.
Roldan bookended the half with two nice holdup plays where he showed for Alonso, allowing the captain to find him through multiple lines of defense. In the 58th minute Cristian made a tremendous run only to have his volley saved by Shuttleworth, but he wasn’t done there. Instead of quitting on the play he chased it down and after Leerdam helped recover possession, slipped into the box and put a perfect ball to Bruin for a point-blank shot. By this point Roldan was exhausted and was easily pushed off the ball in the 64th. He failed to record any other notable actions for the remainder of the game.
I don’t know how long Seattle sees this formation working, but moving Nico back and Roldan up seems to have helped both be effective. The team also seemed to lag as Cristian and Ozzie tired. A lot of what Roldan offered in this game was redundant with what Bruin should be doing as far as movement and holdup, but in the short term having five center mids on the field allowed Cristian to show that he has more going forward than we are used to seeing.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 7.0
This wasn’t a great game from Nico, but he sure filled up the stat book: 78% passing on a team high 67 passes, two tackles, an interception, a shot, and a team-leading five key passes (he was also credited with a secondary assist). If others had played better on some of his passes he might have had multiple assists, but this rating is only OK because Lodeiro struggled for long parts of the match and did not exert his usual influence.
Nico was outstanding against Minnesota on dead balls. In the first minute Nico had a wonderful corner kick, and Torres alone could have scored twice from Lodeiro’s corner service. In the 10th Alex had a chance off another well-crafted set piece. Unfortunately, Nico didn’t seem to connect too well in the Seattle offense, trying multiple times to dribble from trouble and losing the ball and losing runners on defense much too often. When Nico tries to do too much and gets dispossessed, it’s often hugely problematic for the Seattle defense, and this game was no different.
In the second half Nico looked tired, at least he left multiple passes short and his usually pinpoint accuracy faded. He was slow to recover on backside defense which is rarely an issue with Lodeiro. Even though he was struggling to combine, Nico had an amazing over the top pass to find Cristian unmarked in on goal that could have been his third or fourth assist of the night, but instead was saved by Minnesota. Nico had his own chance to score in the 67th, receiving a perfect Dempsey pass and missing badly into the crowd. Lodeiro wasn’t crisp, wasn’t great, but it’s important to keep in perspective how many opportunities he still created.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 91’)
This was another Bruin special where he gets a few shots, scores a goal, passes horribly, fails to hold up the ball with any regularity, makes silly runs, and plays solid defense from the front. That’s Will Bruin for you. If you value the ball in the back of the net, he did that. If you value everything else, he didn’t do a ton of that.
The coaching staff hid some of his hold-up deficiencies by putting the tall (he’s 5’-8” if we’re being generous), imposing (165 on a good day) Cristian Roldan underneath Bruin, and Roldan promptly did the link-up play and off-ball runs I wish Bruin could make. Will failed his hold-up attempts in the 4th, 9th, 29th, 68th, and 70th minutes. While not being much of a connector, Bruin did make some great adjustments from last week, most importantly going near post on attacks instead of fading away from goal. This paid off excellently in the 25th minute when he dragged multiple defenders across the goal and then dropped off them to miss-hit a shot that wasn’t pretty but counts the same. In the 33rd he nicely put in Roldan with a flick but badly missed Nico on an easy pass to the width, again showing massive variation in his play with his back to goal.
When Bruin was forcing an excellent save from Shuttleworth in the 58th minute it was again a near-post run that got him in great position to shoot. He did go far post and have a header in the 73rd. I really liked Will’s choice to head it back across goal, instead of trying to shoot off balance. He missed a wide-open Wolff in the 76th and often looked redundant to Dempsey when they were both on the field.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 60’)
Dempsey came on in the second half as Seattle transitioned to a different playstyle and it was ugly for a while. Without team Roldan Bros defending throughout the midfield and with Alonso exhausted, Seattle was a mess that took some time to sort out. Though he didn’t defend much, in only 30 minutes Dempsey led the team in shots with three, and had two key passes and an assist. His passing was terrible, however (58%), and he added to his defensive deficiencies by giving away possession five times.
Offensively Clint made stuff happen, setting up Nico in a great position in the 67th and a minute later drifting into a perfect spot to receive a drop pass from Cristian but having his shot saved. Clint won free kicks in the 80th and 92nd and capped off the game with a perfectly weighted pass to proven goal scorer Delem to ice the game. Seattle has to adjust a lot when Clint joins the game, and it will be interesting to see how Schmetzer uses him in the next few matches.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 75’)
Wolf sure was active, clearly looking to earn more time on the field. He immediately connected well with Dempsey and not so well with most everyone else. In the 80th they combined well, he nearly put Clint through in the 85th, and he won a set piece in the 93rd with more combination play. Wolff overcooked a driven cross late and he was not back on defense in the 89th minute when Minnesota nearly leveled the score. Nouhou and MWE don’t seem particularly well-fitting pieces on the wing.
Jordy Delem – 7 | Community – 6.5 (on 91’)
Delem missed his first and only pass. Then he stepped brilliantly on defense, won possession from Rasmus Schuller in the midfield, refused to quit on the play and got up quickly from the ground, hustled forward to support Dempsey, made a smart, well-timed vertical run, and finished calmly in the side net to end the game on a burst of jubilant excitement: exactly what you would expect from this superstar.
Armando Villareal – 8 | Community – 6.3
Villareal was excellent and has been one of the best referees for the Sounders in the past. I loved seeing him tell Schuller to calm down in the 17th minute, taking time to communicate with the players instead of chest puffing, random cards, or ignoring them. This is the mark of a great referee and I believe the game played out relatively cleanly as a result.
There were only a few calls that I questioned, the first being Marshall getting what may have been an elbow from Danladi in the 13th, and then a minute later Danladi was kicking out at Frei as he ran by. This young striker has gotten a bit of a reputation for dirty play and these deserved closer looks. It’s hard to fault a guy who tore his knee on the play, but there’s definitely a question in my mind about Finlay’s 36th minute elbow to the face of Alex Roldan (and ensuing body slam). If that’s Almiron he falls over backwards, rolls all the way to I-5, and earns a month suspension for hands to face. Instead Alex used that ridiculous Roldan balance to not only fail to get knocked backward but react forward and throw Finlay down. Who knows what’s hand to face anymore?
I thought there were two handballs that were missed, although it was very hard to tell. In the buildup to the Minnesota goal Ramirez controlled with his upper arm and similarly in the 89th minute Francisco Calvo also controlled with what looked to me to be an arm before shooting into side netting.
Otherwise, this team was excellent, keeping players safe with a number of fouls and each yellow was deserved. Well done, that might have been the best refereeing we will see all year.
Minnesota United FC MOTM
Darwin Quintero was the danger man for Minnesota United throughout the match, and provided the assist on their solitary goal.
Seattle is definitely building something, and now it’s time to take that momentum into a brand-new building to face the fighting Aaron Kovars in LAFC’s first home match. This will allow us to determine how much Seattle has improved as players have gotten healthy, AND to see if LAFC is for real.