Seattle has come a long way since the first game of the season, but the result stayed the same on Sunday. A 0-1 loss to LAFC was yet another game where Seattle deserved at least a point but came away with nothing. While there were some positives to take away from a solid road showing against a current top 5 team, it was a late miscue that ultimately cost the Sounders. More than anything, this game exposed some very strong positives and equally strong negatives.
Stefan Frei – 4 | Community – 5.2
Yes, this is harsh. Yes, he deserves it. No, I do not think that Stefan will get another score like this all year. Rating a keeper is challenging, because their scores often depend on them making saves, and if the other team isn’t shooting there isn’t a ton to rate. Any mistake is huge and game-impacting. I didn’t have that many notes on Frei, but he had a below-average game prior to the blunder that let in the only goal of the game. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is the exact same thing I wrote for Stefan on opening night against SKC in 2016, and once again it applies here.
Stefan had a number of strong plays against LAFC, including a 5th minute save from a long-distance shot. Frei was pretty good on punches, with 16th and 68th minute parries in traffic up and well away from danger. He successfully caught amidst a scrum in the 29th and when presented with Marco Urena 1v1 in the 48th did well to stuff the chance.
Unfortunately, Frei struggled all night with his distribution. In the 19th he led a slow Alonso a bit too much with almost disastrous results. In the 40th minute his bad distribution went straight to Benny Feilhaber who put a shot back down his throat. The second half was more tough distribution, forced to kick out of bounds in the 60th and eight minutes later punting to no one in particular. He missed a 79th minute punch that nearly scored. Most of my issues with distribution were based on forcing the ball short with LAFC pressing and Seattle playing a makeshift backline. This was poor tactical decision making and something the veteran keeper must be better at. Finally, there was the 93rd minute goal. Frei gets it all wrong, and his footwork initially put him in a bad position; he then compounded this by trying to catch the ball. There was tape of Ciman taking free kicks and this was just a complete howler for Stef. The good news is this is the first set piece scored against Seattle all season, and I don’t expect Frei to make this mistake again.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.7
The Houtrain had a governor on it, and you know it worked pretty well. This wasn’t a bullet train built to impress, but a commuter tirelessly doing its job while making stops on time. Gone were any consistent loping charges up field on offense but also missing were huge defensive gaffes and poor positioning that put his backline under undue stress. Interestingly enough, young Nouhou touched the ball most on the Sounders team and was good (84%) in distribution. Offensively, Nouhou was a non-factor, only getting forward a few times and not connecting on any of his crosses. Defensively he was very strong, with four tackles, four interceptions, and three clearances and doing a tidy job of limiting attacks down the wing.
In the first half, Nouhou was strong, recovering any time Steven Beitashour moved up field and I was pleased to see his angles on defense much improved since the SKC match. The communication with Alex Roldan in front of him was good, and Nouhou and Gustav Svensson were solid as well. In the 23rd and 26th Nouhou had nice defensive sequences, cutting off passes twice and funneling them forward. His supporting offensive overlaps were there, but not very effective and he was quick to hustle back on defense any time he went forward.
In the second half as the Sounders tired, Nouhou was besieged more often but did a fairly good job defensively to limit the LAFC chances to predictable ones. He did lose the ball dribbling in a bad spot in the 62nd and fouled Beitashour in another lousy position in the 74th but overall this was a reserved, solid job on defense with little else.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)
Stepping back into the defense, Svensson again reminded us of his skills in the back. Goose was very good, organizing a defense that likely had never even practiced together, and stifling an offense that was averaging nearly three goals per match. He filled up the stat sheet with two tackles, two interceptions, three clearances, 83% passing and an impressive two shots on goal from the center back position.
All match Goose showed off his range, moving across to defend Carlos Vela in the 2nd minute and five minutes later roaming behind Nouhou to help defend. After an unfortunate slip allowed Urena in behind in the 2nd minute, Svensson was back defending admirably, stepping forward to win possession in the 12th and combining well with Frei in the 24th. Gustav’s range helped out the defense time and again in the first half, and he even had a great defensive header that rivaled those of the guy he replaced in the 40th.
The second half was more frantic for the Seattle defense as LAFC adjusted well tactically, and Goose was lucky to get away with a no-call on a dangerous tackle on Vela early in the period. Urena got in behind him in the 53rd, and Seattle was lucky that he was unable to control the pass. After a poor decision on Svensson’s short clear was stolen and recycled, he showed off an athletic diving defensive header in the 61st minute and then defended nicely behind Nouhou moments later. Late in the match Goose was one of the few energetic Sounders, and his stellar defense three times on the same play in the 79th helped save a goal. He refused to give up on a poor set piece in the 90th and not only stole the ball from LAFC keeper Tyler Miller but was only thwarted from scoring by a goal line clearance.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 69’ for Delem)
Similar to Svensson, I thought Kim was very good. Pressed into his first MLS start in warm ups, Kim didn’t skip a beat. He only touched the ball 35 times (a little over half of Gustav’s number) and completed 75% of his passes. Defensively Kim was rock solid, stopping any attacks that came his way and showing intriguing speed and instincts in the back. I was really impressed by Kim’s composure during his last-minute start and even though he was pressed into emergency service, looked up to the task of an MLS starting center back.
In the 5th minute Kim excellently marked Urena through the box. Five minutes later he was passing cleanly in the back with Leerdam, easily clearing danger. Multiple times he would step forward assertively, beating LAFC attackers to the ball before they had time to receive service. In the 27th Kim completely outplayed Feilhaber, beating him to the spot in the box and forcing a rather pathetic dive from his opponent. Ten minutes later Kim stopped a counter with great positioning and multiple times before the half ended, the big CB stepped forward to cut out passes.
Kim showed off more strong positioning, this time in the 52nd, which allowed him to easily cut out a penetrating pass into the box. Even more impressive was a few minutes later when he lofted a perfect over the top pass to Leerdam who had leaked out, leading to a great chance.
Kim had a few mistakes, like an early header going to the middle which was immediately shoved back at the defense. He missed a few passes on outlets that were riskier than necessary and put Seattle under undue pressure. The right side of Leerdam and Kim was very strong, though, and they completely erased game one’s star Diego Rossi from the match. Very impressive performance.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.3
Leerdam had a great match. On the defensive end he was nearly flawless, combining with Kim to remove the dangerous Rossi from impacting the game, limiting him to a single shot off target and dispossessing him time and again. At the same time, Kelvin was masterful in leaking out on the right and joining the attack, showing by far the best wide attacking threat we have seen this season. Leerdam led the team in key passes with three, and had perfect timing and decision making on the offensive end.
In the 4th minute we saw the first of many leak outs on the back side of the attack with Kelvin popping up in the box and nearly getting a header on frame. In the 8th minute Seattle nearly scored again through Leerdam, this time off a long throw-in set piece. Three minutes later another long throw earned a corner kick. Defensively Kelvin wasn’t beat, and his communication with Kim was fantastic for players who likely had very little practice time together. When Nico roamed, Leerdam was solid in the space behind. In the 37th Kelvin again got into the attack and found a beautiful back post cross that caught A-Rold napping; it should have been an assist. Right before half he dialed in Bruin with an incredible pass but the striker was unable to get a shot off.
In the second half it was the same: rock solid defense and the most dangerous chances coming from the right of the Seattle formation. In the 54th an overlapping Leerdam found Dempsey on the top of the 18 for a dangerous look and Seattle earned a corner a minute later when Kelvin played Bruin through. He wasn’t done, as the right back playmaker put an absolutely perfect pass for Bruin in the 56th that again went wasted.
This team is no stranger to a fullback steering the offense, and that was exactly what Leerdam did. The veteran right back makes tremendous decisions going forward both in timing and where to put the ball. He varies his delivery points and angles. The offense looked strong going through Leerdam.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.9 (Off 79’ for Wolff)
There is no denying that Seattle looks very different with Alonso on the field, but like last week, he doesn’t look nearly fit or agile enough to take on the amount of responsibility they’re giving him. Ozzie still touches the ball a lot, connects a high percentage of passes (87%), and had three tackles and two interceptions defensively. Unfortunately, he struggled to navigate the middle of the pitch and showed a scary lack of pace that put him in bad positions often. In order to offset his agility and endurance, Alonso increased his physicality, with nearly disastrous results.
Early on Osvaldo was active, bothering keeper Miller in the first minute with a one-man press. Unfortunately, this led to him being slow to get back on defense. Just seconds later he lost the ball in the midfield dribbling, and then watched the play, missing a runner in behind. Alonso has always used his hands well, but in the 10th minute his attempts to pull back Vela’s shoulder led to a clear grab of the neck of the LA star in what could easily have been seen as a red card offense. Again, I believe this increased “veteran” holding is due to losing a step to age or fitness, and he needs to reevaluate this playstyle. Some of his positional choices were also concerning, like in the 15th minute when Alonso was playing offense in the left corner near the flag, way out of normal position. Seconds later (tired from that weird attacking run?) it was again a handsy Alonso who got the yellow card he likely deserved earlier, playing defense from the wrong side of the opponent. As if that wasn’t enough, a slow Ozzie missed a pass from Frei only five minutes later and put in a really stupid slide tackle that could have been another reason to send him off.
I thought Alonso helped make a break from Urena predictable in the 48th and his defense in the 73rd on Vela was nice, but in between he was messy, losing the ball in bad spots and forcing the defense around him to offset his positioning at times. Better fitness can help alleviate these issues: it’s easier to be in good position when you have the air to get there, and you don’t need to rely on physicality, hand fighting, and slide tackles if you are agile enough to have better positioning. We see glimpses of what his tight control and attacking passes can add to the team, and I hope he can round into form this year.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.7
Cristian had a very strong first half, but as his teammates tired down the stretch his play also suffered, although he put forth a ton of effort. His play in the middle was essential to stopping central attacks, and Roldan led the Sounders with five tackles. Many of these were very important plays as he ranged from side to side and was often forced to cover much ground as the spacing between himself and Alonso was suspect. Cristian had very little influence on the offense, getting off one shot and rarely joining the attack, and his 76% passing was indicative of a frustrating day for Roldan the elder.
In the 5th minute Alonso and Roldan couldn’t connect on a short pass and that was unfortunately one of the few times these two even looked to combine. Cristian wasn’t able to find Nico forward in the 13th or Bruin in the 24th and he struggled to get vertical passes to teammates. I loved Roldan’s defense in the 25th, completely bossing Jordan Harvey, something he repeated on multiple occasions.
In the second half Cristian made a few nice defensive plays, but he started to struggle badly in the last 10 minutes of the match, clearly exhausted. He fouled Rossi in a bad spot in the 81st, which earned Roldan yellow, and was again the victim of a foul call in the 92nd minute, which, while soft, did end up contributing to the game-winning shot. I don’t know what to do there, with both our backup defensive mids being forced to play center back, but asking Roldan to do everything didn’t work.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 87’ for Neagle)
Alex got another start this week and again had a pretty mundane outing. He didn’t do anything terrible, and adequately supported Nouhou on defense, but also added little to an anemic attack yearning for some wide creativity. He didn’t do a ton with his 70 touches (0/3 crosses), but 78% passing showed he was as usual funneling the ball to others without giving up possession. He had a single shot on goal. Alex did have an outstanding five tackles to co-lead the Sounders along with his brother, and did his brand of solid, unspectacular soccer.
Early on Roldan got forward a few times but his decision making on offense is not refined, and often times he deferred to a roaming Nico or just trotted back to play defense after being passive in the attack. He did have a nice cross to the middle of the box in the 14th minute but otherwise he worked hard to be a glue guy and minimized errors in bad positions, although it was his bad control that led to Alonso’s yellow. At times in the second half I wondered if Roldan the younger was even on the field. He did force Goose into a tough spot with a back pass in the 60th and I was shouting for him to shoot the damn ball in the 66th after making a good offensive turn on goal and then failing to pull the trigger, instead looking to force the ball to a veteran.
There is something to be said about having a strong defensive wing, and Alex provided that against LAFC. Seattle also looked worse the minute he subbed off. I think there is more to be shown offensively, though, and I would love to see him be more selfish going at goal, instead of consistently deferring to others in worse positions.
Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 5.0
My notes weren’t too harsh on Clint from a straight stat perspective. I even posted his halftime stats where he had 100% completion on 15 passes, a few shots, a key pass, etc. What was startling though was that Dempsey was dispossessed seven times in the first half which is downright terrible. He ended the match with 95% completion and two key passes and led the team with five shots. He only lost the ball three noted times in the second half for a total of 10, but this was mainly because he seemed to check out of the match.
Clint started off the game in the 4th minute with some nice defensive pressure. Right after this he ghosted into the box and was quite unlucky to have his goal-bound shot blocked. Dempsey did lose the ball a lot on offense, but many were due to Bruin being marked, no outside mid options, and Roldan forced back to defend. Although the steals weren’t often dangerous to Seattle, he has to find a solution when continually caught with the ball and no options.
In the second half his play dropped off completely. I liked his 49th minute holdup and he found the ball in a good spot in the 54th but took an ill-advised shot. In the 56th minute his control just completely left him, yet somehow he still managed a give-and-go with Nico and looked to have an open look before yet another bad touch allowed the defense to clear. I liked the defense in the 61st and 92nd minutes, showing a bit of fire when needed, but it was too little too late.
In the second half I saw very little effort from Clint. Maybe it’s fitness from the long time off. Maybe some had to do with referee Stott, who was the VAR ref who came up with the phantom red card in Dallas and who Clint never even spoke to all match. Dempsey clearly didn’t have his usual fire or desire, and without that intensity he struggled to help this team. Maybe scoring early would have helped, but Dempsey was a shell of the player we needed him to be in the second half.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.8
Many times Nico has seemed to pair well with Clint; this wasn’t one of those games. All three DPs looked ineffective and incapable of combining with any consistency. Lodeiro looked completely ineffective, unable to find his usual influence on the match. He had 82% passing and only two key passes to go with a single shot. He only connected on one cross all match and only had a single through ball completed. For a guy asked to set up the offense, Nico was absent.
After trying to meg a player and failing in the 2nd minute, I was surprised to see a lack of effort from Nico to regain the ball. He did have a nice cross to Leerdam two minutes later, but it wasn’t until 52 minutes later that he had another outstanding goal-dangerous pass, a give-and-go reaction touch that put Dempsey in space in the box. In between there were some good plays: a 37th minute pass to Bruin was special and he again found Will in the 48th that was predictably wasted. There were also bad plays: Nico was completely lost on defense in the 26th, dribbled into trouble on multiple occasions losing the ball, and tried to force ill-advised long balls to Bruin. Lodeiro also completely vacated the right side, looking for areas to combine with little luck. This worked well in the 66th to find Bruin and Leerdam did excellently to utilize the space, but when moved next to Roldan, Nico was a mess. His aggressive play late missed Leerdam, leaving a giant hole in the defense in the 90th.
We all know how dynamic Nico can be, but he was slow, all over the place, and completely unable to create against LAFC. One telling stat was the number of times he earned a foul: one. Although some of it was the ref, it’s telling that he wasn’t actively creating danger (and getting fouled as usual for it). There was zero cohesion from him and anyone on the field, which is mystifying to me. If it’s born from the DPs, then we need to adjust who plays where, and when.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.1
At this point Bruin isn’t playing great most games and I’m rating him on whether he manages to poke in a goal or not. That might be an overly simplistic view, but Bruin’s game is not pretty, it’s not refined, and expecting him to be anything but a grinder is unfair to him. Some games he can look strong combining with others. This game he was decidedly not good, showing a general ineffectiveness that mirrored the lethargy of the other attackers. Highlights included a shot on goal, and a key pass along with a surprising three tackles, but his 83% passing was coupled with some terrible decisions that killed multiple good chances.
I was happy to see Bruin with a nice holdup in the 7th minute, but I didn’t have him down for another until the 62nd minute. He did have a nice 23rd minute flick to Dempsey in the box and got in a great spot in the 37th only to mis-trap a pass and get dispossessed by a sprawling Laurent Ciman who was beaten and on the ground deep inside the area. Late Bruin realized the defensive deficiencies and came back to help in the 72nd but he needed much more intensity from the front to help the team and frankly there was none. His failed holdup in the 85th and 92nd minutes allowed LAFC to easily retain possession and keep Seattle under enormous pressure.
What frustrated me the most about Will in this match was his decision making. In the 35th minute he ran away from the ball in buildup. Seven minutes later he got put in by a nice pass and turned a 1v1 into a 1v5 because of his lack of separation and inability to take guys on. In the 56th minute Bruin called for an over the top pass and Leerdam dialed up an absolute beauty. Instead of turning onto the ball and taking an uncontested shot on goal from close Will inexplicably headed the ball back to Dempsey. That was our striker heading the ball away from goal with an opportunity to shoot, on a pass that he had his hand up frantically calling for, and at that point what more is there to say?
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 5.5 (on 69’ for Kim)
One of the pleasant surprises of this match was the inclusion, and performance, of Delem as a center back. Apparently ahead of Alfaro on the depth chart, Jordy filled in admirably as a sub at a position we hadn’t seen him play during an MLS match. He had one hiccup, marking space instead of a man in the 79th that allowed Urena to get behind him, but otherwise I thought Delem was solid as a defender with very clean passing from the back. After scoring last week, Delem has shown an ability to be a solid utility player who can give you MLS-level play at a number of positions. (Maybe not right back though.)
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 6 | Community – 4.9 (on 79’ for Alonso)
Wolff again subbed on for Alonso, and again tried desperately to inject some life into a listless Sounders side. Magnus only had four touches, but created a key pass and he showed excellent accuracy and offensive push with the ball. In the 84th he was part of a counter attack that died at the feet of Alex Roldan. A minute later he stuck in nicely, tackling Latif Blessing into oblivion. Wolff did lose his wing mark in the 86th as he was tucked well inside to support. A 92nd switch to Neagle was sublime and deserved oh so much better. This technical skill and vision is a glimpse of what Eikrem can bring that no other winger currently can.
Lamar Neagle – 4 | Community – 3.9 (on 87’ for A. Roldan)
88’ beat, concedes corner. 91’ too slow on defense. 91’ frozen feet, not an option for Nico to support clearing ball from danger. 92’ can’t handle incredible switching pass from Eikrem. 50% passing. Dispossessed more than brothers Roldan combined for entire game.
Kevin Stott – 4 | Community – 4.3
Stott was clearly in Seattle’s collective head. Other than Roldan no one argued with him, and it was clear the Sounders had no clue what he was going to call. Neither did I. Stott set a tone that it was going to take immense effort to get sent off, and while that likely benefitted Seattle the most, it also made for a really ugly game that devolved into hacking on both sides.
The referee let a ton of physical play go. While Cristian, Will, and Clint were earning seven fouls suffered, Seattle was hacking Rossi and Vela a massive 10 times. This needed to be curbed early and never was. Even though Stott let so much go, I still think Alonso was hugely lucky not to see red for the arms around the neck and again soon after for a second yellow on his slide tackle. I think Stott tries to give Dempsey four games if he even thinks about those fouls. One underappreciated thing about Vela is his refusal on these plays to roll around like he was Dwyer or Harris or (insert diving player here), and I honestly think this may have saved Alonso. I do feel that Vela sells much contact to earn fouls, but as fouls not as injuries, which often tend to change referee’s decisions when considering cards. Because of this decision to allow Alonso to remain on the field, Stott was consistent in not carding Harvey in the 25th on a very high studs tackle that is red from some refs. Leerdam also got away with hands around the neck of Vela in the 44th and Mark-Anthony Kaye came over the ball deliberately into C. Roldan; again these orange card-able offenses didn’t go into the book.
Most of the general soccer rules were handled adequately, although it’s amazing to me that he and the AR 15 yards away “missed” a blatant hand ball by Blessing and got suckered into Vela selling contact from Roldan late to earn game changing free kicks.
Laurent Ciman earned man of the match for preventing a likely goal by dispossessing Will Bruin from a prone position in his own box, and having the guile to test Frei on a game-winning free kick from distance.
Columbus is a good team who have underperformed their xG this year and are very dangerous. Seattle desperately needs to get all three points this weekend and that might be dependent on an offense that looks like they currently don’t like playing with each other much.