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Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew SC: Player ratings

Kim Kee-hee puts Gyasi Zardes in his pocket.

I have consistently thought that if Seattle had some of the same red card luck that teams seem to have against them, the Sounders would look great with an extra man. While that wasn’t entirely wrong, Seattle showed a woeful inability to break down a very secure bunkering Columbus Crew side, a side that played down a man for 75 minutes and looked quite comfortable doing so. The 0-0 result was a demoralizing one, as an offensively lost Seattle team continually lumped in crosses and bashed their heads against the wall of defenders between them and goal, rarely mixing up angles or changing a strategy that failed repeatedly. The team has to be held accountable for not executing, but I also question the tactics and adjustments made by the coaching staff that saw a squad failing to change the plan to break down an organized defensive opponent (or failing to implement desired changes).


Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.3

Frei didn’t have much to do. In the 20th minute he had a nice positional save on Gyasi Zardes who had an angled shot. Two minutes later Stef had his most important play of the match, coming out big with Zardes in behind and forcing this notoriously bad finisher to curl a shot around him; the Columbus striker missed and the away team wouldn’t test Frei’s net again until the 37th minute. This was perhaps the best chance of the night with Zardes again getting in a good spot and touching wide to an open Milton Valenzuela with a flailing Sounders keeper watching happily as the Crew left back flubbed a close shot. One interesting tidbit was Frei ended the match with a perfect 100% completion rate, including four long balls. He was very tidy with the ball and moved it quickly to teammates in an attempt to urge his team forward.


Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.1 (off 76’ for Wingo)

Again, Nouhou looks to have been holding back quite a bit in this match, but much of that may have been due to generally bad spacing in the offensive third. With Seattle playing most of the match high, technical ability and movement was necessary versus the raw pace and athleticism that highlights Nouhou’s skillset. He, along with nearly everyone else on the team, had a tremendous (90%) passing rate. A shot and a key pass offensively added to a team leading four tackles and two interceptions for Nouhou.

After being beat in the 2nd minute by Cristian Martinez, Nouhou recovered well, ushering the ball out with flair to earn a goal kick. In the 19th he charged up field and earned a free kick in a great spot after a pretty Dempsey pass. Although Zardes got in behind three minutes later, I loved seeing Nouhou turn on the speed and hustle over to get a gentle tug on the shoulder, forcing him into a rushed shot. In the 37th Seattle was beat into the space behind Nouhou and they rotated slowly. Right before half Nouhou completely shut down Hector Jimenez in one of the last offensive attempts by Columbus in the match.

In the second half Nouhou was exposed as a player with good defensive chops but either a reluctance or inability to integrate into the attack. With Bwana apparently asked to take people on in isolation, the Houtrain was left at the station, idling in defense. He made great defensive plays in the 51st, 59th, and 75th (right before subbing) but these amounted to little more than possession gainers rather than counter attacks. I like getting Nouhou lots of game time, but this is a match that the veteran offensive abilities of Waylon Francis might have come in handy.

Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 46’ for Bwana)

This was the first time I have ever seen Marshall not get credited for a defensive action. That in itself shows exactly how little attack Columbus mounted. Of his 35 pass attempts few were successful vertically and his 89% passing was efficient as normal. This was a very quiet match for Chad, who got a needed rest in the second half.

In the 2nd minute Marshall came across to help Nouhou on the left and he did this a number of times in support of his left back. Chad was a big part of Zardes getting a 1v1 attempt versus Frei in minute 22 and he was again beat in behind in the 37th. Marshall did single handedly turn back a break attempt by Columbus in the 44th with a nice piece of positioning. Perhaps most importantly in this match Marshall and Kim looked very good together, as these two may be working with each other a lot this summer.

Kim Kee-hee – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.6 (MOTM)

This is the second stellar performance from Kim and Seattle looks to have found a solid center back in the offseason. Kim possesses tremendous speed for a big man and was able to use this to match up very favorably with Zardes. He had 79 passes in the match and completed 75, good for 95% and best on the team (other than Frei). Kim was one of the few players who played with urgency, pushing the ball direct and forward, adding a shot and a key pass to his strong defending.

In the 4th minute Kim stepped aggressively, stopping a counter attack and then pushing the ball offensively as an attacker. Eight minutes later he was smoothly behind Marshall covering, and the chemistry from these two center backs was solid for a first-time pairing. When Columbus attacked well in the 22nd Kim was caught marking space, allowing a man to run in behind. This was really the only mistake that Kim had on defense, and boy was he strong otherwise. Zardes was completely flustered matched up with the Korean center back, who matched him in both size and pace, forcing the Crew forward to lash out multiple times as Kim physically dominated him. Kim used this pace often in the second half to eliminate any counter attempts by Columbus and dash into attack when possible. After destroying Zardes in the 56th Kim played quickly to Dempsey, who put one of the best chances of the night just wide. It was again Kim’s quickness of play on a nice 69th minute hustle forward that broke the defensive lines of the Crew. Zardes just got worn down, unable to ever get by Kim and fading badly before being subbed off. Meanwhile, Kim was charging through and nearly getting on the end of a pass in the box.

Having speed in the center of the backline is very valuable and should be something that enables Seattle to push more coherent numbers forward. Kim was fantastic in this match and looks to be settling in to the pace and physicality of the league well. In a game with a lot of slow thought and reactions, I thought Kim stood out as someone playing quicker than the rest of the team. Although Kim looked as strong in the last two matches as Torres has all season, I will say that this was a game we missed Roman’s offensive savvy from the back.

Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 5.9

Kelvin was so dynamic last week that I hoped Seattle had found a way to create offense from the fullbacks through Leerdam, and he had mixed results against a bunkered Crew. Seattle looked to have the same idea, finding Leerdam for a team high 110 touches. While he pushed high often, and got the ball in good spots, his 2/9 crossing and single key pass showed a limited offensive playbook and failure to take advantage of the wide spaces he occupied with the ball often.

In the 4th minute Seattle looked strong going forward and Leerdam found Bruin with a nice early vertical pass into space. After the red card resulted in Columbus becoming more defensive, Kelvin found less space to work. He did utilize his long throw on multiple occasions to set up extra set pieces, and found Bruin again in the 21st, with similar disappointing results. Unable to find appropriate angles to attack the box, Leerdam seemed unable or unwilling to attack diagonally into the area, and often recycled the ball back around the midfield.

Kelvin had a tough give away in the 56th and chipped nicely to keeper Zack Steffen on multiple occasions. His defense was strong as needed, playing against 10 men, and Leerdam wasn’t beaten down his side all match. He did make good runs on the backside that were unrewarded, and especially late made a few different, angled moves towards goal that at least tried to break up the Crew defensive lines.

Defensive Midfield

Osvaldo Alonso – 4 | Community – 5.5

A lot has been debated on the relative worth and decline of Alonso, and this game was an unfortunate illustration of how he has struggled this season. This game needed quick, incisive passing and a midfield willing to dive at goal and overload the opposition. Instead, the midfielders refused to penetrate the lines of Crew defense via pass, dribble, or run, settling time and again for shuttling the ball from side to side. Alonso’s passing map in particular shows massive amounts of wide passes with only 5 of his 98 passes attempting to penetrate the box (zero successful). This lack of desire to probe the central areas just neutered the forwards and made for an ugly, stagnant offense.

Alonso looked up for the match with a crafty dribble into space past a defender earning a free kick within the first five minutes. After that he just disappeared from the positive column in my notes. Caught in a faulty one man press in the 20th minute, Columbus easily counter attacked around him. Two minutes later Zardes got an open look, again with Ozzie much too high up field. In the 30th Alonso was in a good spot, but got completely ran by, looking embarrassingly slow. Seconds later he lost possession and was forced to foul (earning a yellow). Throughout the rest of the half Alonso filtered the ball from side to side, rarely moving from a central position and hitting passes to the outside backs in the corner. A shot attempt in the 38th gave the Hawks Nest a souvenir.

In the second half it was more of the same. Alonso kept possession, but there was rarely a purpose, instead passing the buck to another player to make a play. On multiple occasions he was walking, showing a lack of urgency from the captain that was a bit disheartening. I think Ozzie can still be a quality player, but this performance was so listless, so lacking of intensity, that I really think he needs to get much better fitness to allow him to stay involved in matches mentally and physically.

Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.0

The Goose was solid in this game, but similar to Alonso, didn’t play through the middle a lot in the first half. At halftime Svensson switched to center back, although he still managed a key pass in each half. Svensson was immense in the air, winning game high five aerials and helped create dangerous set pieces from Leerdam throw ins. In the back Goose did what was needed defensively, combining with Kim to rarely even allow Columbus out of their own half.

I liked the balance Gustav had in the first half, with a 7th minute defensive effort quickly followed by a nice pass forward. Svensson showed often for Frei, collecting and turning up into the attack and keeping Seattle on the ball. He was unable to replicate his earlier season magic in the 27th, putting his one shot well wide. In the 33rd Goose smartly thwarted a Zardes leak out and turned in his own vertical run moments later to win a corner. This run and his interest in playing quick balls forward unfortunately left the offense with him as he moved back a line after the half. In the second period Svensson played very high, and constantly kept the ball in the attacking third, combining excellently with Kim to kill any counter attack attempts, but usually found a midfielder with the ball and resumed his defensive duties.

Attacking Midfield

Alex Roldan – 4 | Community – 4.6 (off 63’ for Wolff)

This game highlighted my concerns about Roldan’s lack of creativity from wide spaces that I have touched on the last few weeks. Especially with a man advantage, Seattle needs to get much more than zero shots on goal, zero key passes, and 1/5 crossing. This was a mess of a performance from a young player who really struggled when asked to be more than just a possession and defensive minded wide player.

A-Rold had a nice defensive recovery in the 6th minute but was easily pushed off the ball moments later. His connection with Nouhou was erratic, and they rarely combined going forward. In the 12th Alex had a bad first touch which gave Pedro Santos the space to karate kick him in the neck. Ouch. Playing with a man advantage Alex was lost with no ideas how to break down the bunker. His 25th minute awful giveaway to Federico Higuaín nearly cost Seattle dearly. Alex struggled crossing, with two in a row in the 26th minute that went to no one. Alex was terrible pressing, and in the 32nd minute with Seattle pushing numbers at the ball A-Rold inexplicably didn’t, allowing Columbus to easily pass through the lines with the Sounders extended. Five minutes later he completely lost the run of Valenzuela, who should have scored for the Crew. He closed the half with a nice shot that was over the bar and a cross to a decent spot.

The second period was a mess for Alex. He was unable to combine with anyone offensively and resorted to just kicking the ball backwards on nearly every occasion. To accentuate this, he also didn’t make off ball runs, instead holding space on the line and clogging up overlap potential from fullbacks. It was a startingly bad display of tactical awareness, and something he will definitely need to learn about. He missed a back-post header and a 61st minute ball from Bwana on a night that portrayed Alex Roldan as a reactionary player incapable of creating at this level.

Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 4.4

I was surprised to see as many positive notes for Clint as I did after my re-watch, as I thought he looked ineffective live. This only showed some of the story, as a second viewing saw a lot of attempts to create chances, but also highlighted a failure by both Dempsey and Bruin to keep useful distance from one another. In a game where Seattle struggled to create offense, Clint was the only one to put a shot on target and had six total (three times as many as any other Sounder). Dempsey was one of the few players willing and trying to move the ball through the middle, consistently attacking through zone 14. His 46 touches were twice that of Bruin, even though both were effectively playing as forwards with the compressed field.

My first note is an 8th minute defensive play by Clint, something he did consistently all night, showing up multiple times including a 77th minute tackle in Seattle’s defensive third. In the 19th minute Dempsey’s slip pass put in Nouhou and the Sounders won a free kick. Clint took a shot in the 24th that went over but he might have been better off putting in A-Rold who was darting into the box to his right. A 27th minute holdup found Bruin before the first of Dempsey’s overhead kick attempts; both his 29th and 91st minute tries went wide. In the 41st minute there were flashbacks of 2014, as Dempsey picked up the ball in midfield and weaved through traffic with touches off players until Alonso bungled possession away. This attack direction and focus was exactly how I believe Seattle could have countered the bunker, yet this was the only attempt at quick vertical passes through the middle.

In the second half Dempsey moved from side to side to try to get on the ball and found a nice shot that went just wide in the 58th. Seattle’s best chance saw immense hustle from Clint to get on the end of a great Bruin pass but his shot was not wide enough and Steffen made a great save. In the 92nd Clint dropped and made another rare diagonal entry pass to Bruin who flubbed it away. Dempsey clearly needs to do better, but the compact field with a man advantage covered a lot of Clint’s mobility issues and he was one of the few players who looked to attack the few soft spots on the Crew defense.

Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.2

This was an up and down shift from Roldan who never looked comfortable on the wing and was lacking his usual direct runs through the middle when moved back centrally. He did have two key passes but was a dismal 1/9 crossing and had no idea how to attack the compact Columbus defense. Roldan also had zero shots. What he brought was solid, boring possession play devoid of any ideas and missing the dynamic movement we have seen from him originating in central areas.

Cristian’s blind pass back to the CBs in the 4th minute was nearly stolen, a 20th minute free kick went harmlessly to Steffen, and he uncharacteristically lost his mark in the 22nd minute which allowed the Crew a big chance. More disturbing was his lack of impact on the match at all in a first half where he rarely did anything notable at all. As a winger Roldan the Elder did little to impact the score line and was a nonfactor linking with others going forward from wide positions. He did support a dominant right side for Seattle and was the primary provider on free kicks, which were good.

In the second half I noted a few times where Cristian won the ball with aggressive pressing play, and he linked well with Eikrem in the 75th and 87th minutes. He also missed teammates multiple times on the wings, failed to connect on any crosses into the box and looked tired and ineffective as early as the 69th (not nice) minute. This was an underwhelming performance from a player who’s shown much better in the past.


Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 4.3

Bruin struggled nearly all match against Columbus. He had a single shot, in the first minute of the game as he got in behind and punted a blind, well wide, and weak 22 yard try across the face of goal. He went the next 95 or so minutes with 22 more touches on the ball that saw him try 14 total passes with a single one successfully completed towards goal. Will’s key pass was a good one, but he added very little for the rest of the match.

After the early weak shot, I liked seeing 18th minute hustle from Will to chase down Higuaín after a Seattle corner kick opened up a mini counter try. One of the big mismatches in this game was Lalas Abubakar vs. Bruin, with the 5th pick in last year’s draft completely outplaying the Sounder forward. Open in the box in the 21st, Bruin was dispossessed by the Ghanaian CB, and a moment later it was again Abubakar who killed a Sounders chance by stealing from Will after a poor touch. In the 24th with Roldan open, Bruin chose to go backwards with the ball, a habit that he repeated on nearly every touch. In the 71st minute he ran himself offsides on one of the few counter chances Seattle had but he redeemed himself well just seconds later, getting behind and to the end line and niftily picking out Dempsey in a crowd for what should have been a game winning assist. In the 92nd minute these roles were reversed as Clint dropped an angled cross into the box that hit Will’s foot and was harmlessly fumbled away.

Getting largely outplayed by who I thought was MVP of the match in Abubakar is something that happens for forwards sometimes. What made this performance from Bruin notable was his complicity in allowing it to happen. Bruin refused to check to the middle of the field and offer simple holdup play or a wall pass option for midfielders running through, and instead peeled back post ad nauseum. His movement (or lack thereof) was completely stagnant, he again refused to make near post runs often, instead allowing center backs like Abubakar or goalie Steffen to clear weak crosses. His poor movement was a huge reason why the Sounders offense was so predictable.


Handwalla Bwana – 4 | Community – 3.9 (on 46’ for Marshall)

After peaking in the home match again Chivas, Bwana has taken considerable steps back in his development. He just isn’t playing above a USL level and that’s frankly not good enough versus MLS competition. 90% passing efficiency on 47 touches show a player who got the ball a ton and found teammates. Unfortunately, out of his 29 passes he only attempted to pass into the box seven times and completed a dismal two. Even worse I only counted four completed passes going towards goal all half. That shows a remarkable inability to attack as a winger and it was way too cautious by the young homegrown talent.

After immediately being isolated in the 46th minute Bwana beat a defender and earned a set piece — then was unsuccessful with every dribble at goal for the rest of the half. After not getting back on defense in the 51st Bwana missed Nouhou overlapping in the 57th. I counted around 10 passes backwards in areas I thought he should have taken on a player. His 72nd minute shot found ECS.

Bwana has a lot of talent, shown when he created the early set piece, a nice 61st minute cross, and finding Bruin in the 72nd for the best chance of the match, but his extremely cautious play didn’t show the correct amount of urgency from a team with a man advantage, and he needs to be coached to better take advantages of this talent while he is still getting playing time.

Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 7 | Community – 4.5 (on 63’ for A. Roldan)

The Wolff subbed in and did everything he could to be a difference maker. His passing percentage was by far the worst on the team, but much of this was due to trying things no one else seemed willing to. Seven of his 13 passes from the run of play entered the box. He completed a third of his crosses, had two shots, and added a key pass while completely changing the angles that Seattle looked to.

Eikrem floated around looking for the ball, offering a nice middle option in the 68th and combining in the centrally with Dempsey in the 70th. He finally made the vertical run I was begging for in the 75th but Wolff’s control took him away from goal; he has to pull that back and get a shot off. Magnus had great corner kick and set piece service, connected with Clint again in the 82nd, had a tremendous 87th minute chest pass that deserved better and busted his ass in the 91st minute to get the ball and cross it to Dempsey. Wolff could be a bit cleaner and rushed a few plays, but I thought he was great as a sub who was at least willing to try to attack the goal, instead of pass casually around it.

Henry Wingo – 4 | Community – 4.1 (on 76’ for Nouhou)

Wingo came in and tried to use his speed to open up the field but with the defense so compact it was wasted. His 67% passing at least included three that entered the box but none were particularly dangerous. An 88th minute run down the sideline saw zero targets available for him. He went backwards half the time, which is not optimal for an attacking sub late in the match.


Hilario Grajeda – 7 | Community – 5.7

This was an above average refereeing job, aided by a very clean game that was well controlled and devoid of many chances to make mistakes.

Grajeda got the big call right, using VAR in the 12th minute to correctly send off Santos. I thought prior to this he let Martinez get away with some unnecessary physical play, and a 39th minute Zardes undercut on Marshall is one of those calls that refs in this league rarely penalize but I would like to see curbed. On multiple occasions Grajeda played advantage, once on a Goose foul and another when Wil Trapp fouled Roldan. Each was allowed to play, with the second being brought back after Seattle failed to move the ball forward. I think this play by Trapp (in the 54th minute) may have been much closer to a red than many realized, with cleats clearly extended and I think if there hadn’t already been a player off for Columbus the referees may have taken a closer look at this tackle. Allowing Steffen to delay the play every time he had a dead ball was ridiculous — at some point warnings have to have some weight and a single, warranted, early yellow would have saved everyone some grief as the Crew keeper took full advantage of Grajeda’s unwillingness to penalize his blatant delays.

Columbus Crew SC MOTM

The readership split their votes to a greater degree than normal, speaking to the overall organization and teamwork of a shorthanded team keeping a clean sheet and earning a point on the road. Ultimately, it was Zack Steffen who won your praise, as he made a few key saves and came off his line well to deal with all those darn crosses.

That was a good team that came in and did exactly what they wanted. This Sounders team currently isn’t showing the ability to impose their will on anyone, which is a really bad sign going into Toronto to play a team that is slowly rounding into form. This match will be a test of both teams’ depth, and its essential that Seattle play better than this last weekend.

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