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Seattle Sounders vs. DC United: Player ratings

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Uruguay’s 24th is back in Seattle, scoring goals and winning games.

Ed. Note: Realio isn’t able to get to ratings for the DC United match, but we can’t leave everyone hanging after the first goals and win in * checks calendar * one whole month! Brett drew short straw to “replace” him and has to try to pretend he knows anything about anything. Welcome to Not Realio’s Ratings.

It’s amazing what a little health, a little wealth (of talent), and not overthinking the tactics can do for a team, eh? This looked in some ways like an early season match, with spacial miscommunications and reactive rather than anticipative runs; no surprise, since it featured a number of key players returning to the lineup after long absences.

This was also a match against the one of the worst performing teams in the league. Their offense was all but worthless for the first 45 minutes, put on spurts of functionality in the second half, and was backed by a defense willing to concede just about everything up until their own 18 line. The result shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a successfully completed turn around, but the individual performances on the field should give a lot of hope going forward.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei 7 | Community – 7.1

In the 5th minute Chad Marshall fed him a difficult ball that he proceeded to stand on almost until Darren Mattocks kicked it out from under his foot and into goal. He and Kim Kee-hee still seem to be getting to know each other and that shows from time to time.

Apart from that he was his usual fantastic self. He stifled Zoltan Stieber in the 49th by coming out strong and did everything humanly possible on the goal sequence to cover for his defenders’ goofs.

One thing I liked: The kick save on the initial shot of United’s goal was just tremendous. His ability to consistently pull off these sorts of saves is such a huge asset for the team.

One thing I didn’t like: This is a few matches now where Frei has had some miscommunications in the box between he and his centerbacks. I can’t recall any of them leading to goals, but some of them have come close.

Defense

Nouhou 6 | Community – 6.2

The first thing I noticed about Nouhou’s play was that it was much simpler than in matches past, and not in a bad way. There seemed to be fewer forced passes and more checking to the ball rather than blind sprints to the end. The second thing I noticed was that he spent much more time taking the outside overlap (this was true of Leerdam as well), making his cut towards the box much later.

He was a key component of the attack, racking up the third-most touches on the team, a significant number of them past the halfway mark. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in a couple decent crosses into the Seattle box via well-executed counter-attack overloads.

In the 16th he got off a really great cross to the penalty spot off a tremendous ball from Victor Rodriguez; then recovered right away to defend Oniel Fisher’s attack. In the 35th, however, he allowed Fisher too much time to line up a cross, resulting in a great chance for Mattocks, and the same thing occurred in the 53rd as he allowed the cross that led to DC United’s goal.

One thing I liked: His combination play with Rodriguez was very good. This very easily could become the Nouhou/Jones dynamic Schmetzer seems to have been searching for.

One thing I didn’t like: The quality of his final ball is still hit and miss. If there’s going to be a left-sided emphasis in the attack, it absolutely has to improve.

Chad Marshall 6 | Community – 6.8

Steady Marshall had little to do against a mostly toothless United attack. He did put Frei in a tough spot in the 5th minute (that Frei proceeded to exacerbate). In the 27th he was oddly wide and high, leaving the defensive line exposed to a decent chance from Mattocks.

It was also his man that ultimately scored DC’s goal when he was caught ball-watching, and I felt this was an egregious enough decision to knock him down from what I thought was otherwise a 7. That seemed to wake him up a little, and from then on he was a black hole, including a 59th minute strong last-ditch recovery to save Frei from a 1-v-1 with Mattocks.

One thing I liked: Chad remains one of the best at anticipating movement and passes in front of the 18 and cutting them out before they can happen. It’s such an invaluable skill to have on any team.

One thing I didn’t like: His lack of movement on DC United’s goal allowed Mattocks to run right in front of him uncontested to knock the ball home.

Kim Kee-hee 7 | Community – 7.6

Kim is so smooth and calm on the ball; his passes from the back often aren’t just to someone, they put someone moving in the direction they need to be to progress. Roman Torres is a good long-ball passer, and Marshall a decent passer in his own right, but neither possess this in the same way and it’s clear he’s the preferred distributor from the back right now.

His ability to identify the point at which an otherwise last-ditch tackle is almost certainly going to succeed is positively Marshall-esque, and his ability to stay with speedy runners (he ran down Arriola from a number of steps behind at one point) isn’t a CB skill we’ve seen here since Brad Evans was in the role. He also excelled at using his positioning to shepherd attacks away from goal, such as in the 82nd where he pushed Arriola wide deep in his own territory like a fullback, then killed off the attack with perfectly timed tackle. It’s a pity that his only major mis-step all match confused his defensive partners and resulted in a conceded goal, and I knocked him down a point as well for such a poor decision.

One thing I liked: His tackling was on point all match. Live it seemed like there were more of them, but every one of them was wisely chosen and perfectly executed. He was masterful at wrapping around without fouling or going to ground.

One thing I didn’t like: I thought he was mostly at fault for initial free header that led to DC’s goal. He’s goal side of Arriola, but inexplicably drifts forward towards Marshall’s mark. This leaves Leerdam to try to figure out how to get goal-side from two yards away and directly behind right as the cross is being hit.

Kelvin Leerdam 6 | Community – 5.9 (Off 68’ for Magnus Wolff Eikrem)

The right back had a quiet, steady game. Early on there was a clear and obvious focus to get Victor Rodriguez involved and this came at the expense of right-side activity, but he still ended up with almost as many touches as his left-side counterpart in just two thirds the time. His first real action didn’t come until the 12th minute, wherein he promptly ignored an open Harry Shipp slightly wider than he, drove deep, and got dispossessed without any real threat happening.

Warmed up, he then hit a great two line pass a couple minutes later, and with better pre-recognition from Will Bruin, would have resulted in a dangerous chance, and followed it up with some nice ball control to break free from three (!) defenders around the midline. He continued to harass and harry the left side of DC’s defense, using his movement to push and pull without the ball.

His tenacious defense didn’t wane at any point, best exhibited by his strong defense on Mattocks on DC’s series of three corners that were clearly aimed at him. He marked Paul Arriola out of the match so well that Arriola began to pinch inside and clog up United’s midfield.

Hopefully the hamstring issue that popped up was minor enough that the short World Cup break will be enough to recuperate. Even when he’s having quiet games like these he’s a critical component to one of the top defenses in the league.

One thing I liked: Wasn’t interested in just pumping in garbage crosses time after time. Smart to step on ball at times and recycle.

One thing I didn’t like: Would like to see more early crosses, a la Roldan’s that went for the game winner, but that would require people making early runs into the box.

Defensive Midfield

Nicolas Lodeiro 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (MOTM)

I’m a charter member of the Lodeiro as a box-to-box/deep playmaker club. He’s never going to be a true defensive midfielder and he needs to improve his positioning in transition defense, but the trade-off for a few smaller scramble drills is just too positive to ignore. He did a great job working between the DM and AM lines, and I believe today showed just how well the position fits his movement and passing styles. His heat map is huge compared to everybody else’s, maximising his contributions across the field, but also providing enough separation to keep he and Clint Dempsey from floating into the same spaces so often.

His team-high 105 touches were almost all in the middle half of the field, and he accounted for nearly nine percent of Seattle’s possession. Even though he was much deeper than typical on the field, he still provided two key passes - right about on average - but with a better than normal pass completion rate. Putting him deeper also reduces the amount of time hacking CDMs spend around him, a huge boon to his ability to keep his head up and pick out developing attacks.

I wish there was more to say here, but there’s not much else to say about him that hasn’t already been said in past weeks. He does so many small things that don’t really register, but aren’t really small, either. He’s so vital to team success; it’s really, really good to have him back.

One thing I liked: Everything. He was exceptional and barely put a foot wrong, aside from the one thing noted below.

One thing I didn’t like: His corner service continues to disappoint. Tactically it makes sense to have him take them (where else, after all, do you put him on corners?), but he really needs to figure out how to hit them consistently to threatening spots. Line drives into the first defenders is not an acceptable thing to do consistently.

Cristian Roldan 6 | Community – 7.1

Cristian had a bit of a tough start, floating between marks early and playing a bit of Neagle-esque defense. He was caught in no-man’s land in the 12th minute as DC mounted an attack all around him — clearly confused as to how he should react, and where his support would be. I chalk most of this up to the role change and think he’ll be fine if the team chooses to continue like this going forward. In the 18th he didn’t get stuck in at all and was caught obstructing and hoping twice, one of which left Victor Rodriguez to have to chase nearly the entire length of the field to cover.

Even over the course of the first half he settled in and clearly grew more comfortable. I noted that by the 40th he’d grown into it, understanding the more defensive role and was more decisive with positioning. This also helped him play a semi-pivot with Lodeiro a bit better and contribute to the attack from time to time. His distribution was a well-balanced mix of square and through balls, and his touch map fills many of the spaces Lodeiro’s doesn’t. By two-thirds of the way through the two had worked out many of their early kinks and were playing quite well off each other.

Right Back Roldan was helped out by DC’s right-sided focus in the late stages of the game. He rarely had much to do defensively, but was up to the task when needed. His 83rd minute smart early cross was to a good spot that gave the runners the ability to run forward onto it to generate power, but not so tight to the keeper that he could come out and defend it.

One thing I liked: The difficulty of changing from the box-to-box role to a more defensive-minded role is, I think, understated. His performance may not have lit up the world, but to make the switch and still play around league average for the role is promising going forward. He probably won’t spend a ton of time in the role this year between Alonso (if he can stay healthy) and Gustav Svensson, but with El Corazon’s impending contract situation and Svensson’s uncertain future it’s nice to know there’s a promising alternative option if they choose to change over full time.

One thing I didn’t like: His early defense was really disappointing in light of his potential, and he’s fortunate United aren’t capable of taking better advantage of those sorts of things. One thing I’d really like to see is him knock more balls down in defense rather than heading them away. He’s not heading randomly, but I think he heads unnecessarily and into more 50/50 situations than need be.

Attacking Midfield

Victor Rodriguez 7 | Community – 6.6 (Off 65’ for Osvaldo Alonso)

What a sight for sore eyes he was! Rodriguez brought so many things to the table that this team has been missing, not the least of which was actually knowing how to play the left wing position (note: there are others who do as well, but none of them have been starting in that position). He was very positive with ball early on; always turning forward quickly and keeping his head up created space to move forward by keeping defenders unsure whether he’d be passing off or driving at them.

This is partially informed by how absurd some of the decisions that have gone against the Sounders have been, but how Frederic Brillant got away without a red card for that elbow to V-Rod’s face, I’ll never know. Thankfully he was okay and continued to make the United back line’s life stressful.

His service, like a 16th minute amazing ball for Nouhou that perfectly positioned him to hit a deep one-time cross, and his high defense, like a 33rd minute great press to take the ball from Brillant in the top left of the box and set Bruin up for a shot (that he didn’t take), will be vital for the team to find success through the rest of the season.

Unsurprisingly he began to tire in the 50s, and by the 60th was clearly toast. His defending had been solid-to-good to this point, but half-hearted defending in the 63rd minute left Nouhou trying to cover two guys and he was pulled almost immediately after. He’ll regain full 90 fitness eventually, so this isn’t a real concern going forward.

One thing I (really) liked: Partnering really well with Nouhou. They seem to understand each other’s spacing and location well. The difference this interchanging added to the entire function of the team is hard to understate.

One thing I didn’t like: He drifted in and out of the play more than I would have liked to see, even for a first match back. I expect this, too, will improve with more competitive minutes.

Clint Dempsey 5 | Community – 5.7

Clint’s game was the hardest for me to rate. On the one hand, he clearly benefited from having other high-level attacking talent around him. On the other hand, a lot of the frustrations I have with his play that I think are detrimental to the team were just as prevalent. He also suffers from being stuck with Will Bruin in front of him. Arguments of whether Bruin is good enough aside, he matches really poorly with Dempsey.

His decision-making has slid from “tries shit” to “hopes shit comes together”; in the 2nd minute a wildly speculative shot from well outside the box ignored that he had multiple runners going in. Why rush it? In the 8th minute he decided to try to take a free kick shot from 35 yds out, and then drove it into the feet of the wall like he was taking it from the very edge of the box. Why?

It may be because he’s now regularly being dispossessed from behind by defenders (I counted this happening three times), whether via being ridden off the ball, or just having a defender “speed” past him and take the ball. There are other concerns as well — his speed in turning the ball has slowed to the point it’s affecting the team’s flow (he looks like a shooting guard trying to play point guard), and I counted at least four times he inexplicably got the ball stuck in his feet (to say nothing of the few times he popped a fine pass waist high with his touch and had to wait for it to come down).

He’s still a smart player. He did great work to find space between the back line and defensive midfielder time and time again, only to be let down by teammates not finding him, bad pass deliveries that forced him to become a defender before the ball even arrived, or his own touch. It’s highly valuable space he’s finding; the team needs him to do more with it.

If this all sounds like a lot of criticism, that’s because it is. He’s in a very high leverage position and needs to do better than below league average.

One thing I liked: Dat space. Earlier this year he wasn’t even finding the space. The improved lineup probably helped some, but it was encouraging to see and hopefully the start of a trend in the right direction.

One thing I didn’t like: Needs to get into the same flow as the rest of the team. Lateral movement with the ball with intent needs to improve.

Harry Shipp 6 | Community – 6.1

Watching live I was highly impressed by Shipp’s game, and a rewatch only confirmed that he’s drastically better than the options that have been started and substituted over and around him. In the 5th minute he made a smart run just too early for Rodriguez to hit. He continued to make intelligent runs into space but often they were missed or ignored by his teammates. The few times he did get found deep in attack, he had little in the way of support.

As a result, most of his touches came in the middle third, acting as a transitional piece, and that’s okay. They were smart, high leverage touches that set others up to make good passes, and they were a quiet-but-vital reason the offense got better over the course of the match. It’s impressive to watch him navigate the flow of the game; he moves towards space that hasn’t opened up yet because he anticipates the next two or three passes so well. He was rarely poorly positioned, and almost always available as a relief valve no matter where the ball was.

One thing I liked: His high completion percentage mixed with his forward attention works really well for this team in transition from defense to attack.

One thing I didn’t like: He struggled to combine with his outside backs consistently. He seems much more comfortable heading inside and having the full field in front of him to choose from. That’s not a spot he’s likely to be given anytime soon, so this is something he’ll need to figure out to be more effective.

Forward

Will Bruin 5 | Community – 5.6 (Off 88’ for Tony Alfaro)

Bruin was his usual mixed bag. 11 minutes in I didn’t still didn’t have a single note about him. He continues to struggle to play on the same page as the rest of the offense during defensive situations. His tandem play with Dempsey is often lacking any sort of coherence and more than once I thought I saw legitimate frustration from Dempsey as a result.

His seeming inability to make any useful anticipatory run means he’s often a step or two away from balls played to him. He also seems to struggle to do anything facing goal, failing to turn and shoot given a perfect opportunity in the 33rd, and put his shot in the 75th straight into the keeper. In the 83rd he was in a good position on the header Wolff scored on, but given his track record I have no confidence that he would have.

His position doesn’t demand he be touching the ball, but he often isn’t even really moving to open space up, and if you’re not doing either of those things you’re just in the way. He’s often found running hard in a particular direction while defending, but not necessarily with a particular purpose in mind, and not with any connection to the rest of the team.

One thing I liked: Backheels are fun, and he’s getting good at making them productive. He had five or six (I didn’t bother to actually count them until too late) that were legitimately helpful and well placed.

One thing I didn’t like: Bruin’s lack of impact on goal is much harder to take when he isn’t poaching a goal. He had but one shot today, and was largely ignored by the defense.

Substitutes

Osvaldo Alonso 6 | Community – 6.2 (On 65’ for Victor Rodriguez)

This was a good match for getting feet wet again, as there wasn’t much offensive pressure from DC United. Alonso was still probably lucky to stay on the field after stiff-arming Luciano Acosta in the neck. There were moments of clear rust and moments of much-needed offensive contribution. Hopefully he can avoid becoming the liability over 90 minutes that he was earlier in the year.

One thing I liked: Played quite contained compared to what we’re used to (situations noted above notwithstanding), and it helped the team better structure around him. With his range diminishing, it’s good to see a bit of adaptation to ability there.

One thing I didn’t like: There were times he conceded space too readily defensively, one of which offered Arriola a clear look at goal from about 20 yards out.

Magnus Wolff Eikrem 7 | Community – 7.0 (On 68’ for Kelvin Leerdam)

With the substitution of Rodriguez just before, his movement and aggressiveness was injected at just the right time. In the 72nd he immediately showed an attacking focus. He was repeatedly active on defense and transition offense, showing well for the ball even when it wasn’t delivered. He provided smart possession throughout his time and helped keep the pressure on United so they weren’t able to commit as fully forward near the end as they clearly would have preferred.

His goal wasn’t just a great header, it was great recognition of spacing and game flow to step into the space between and behind Dempsey and Bruin as they made their runs. His position meant that there was almost no chance at least one of them wasn’t going to get some sort of a shot off. He fully earned and deserved the goal.

One thing I liked: His control in tight spaces is very much needed with the way the Sounders crowd the edge of the box.

One thing I didn’t like: He has a habit of drifting inside and leaving extensive space on the wing all to the outside back. That’s less of an issue with an actual RB behind him, but something he needs to be aware of with someone playing well out of position there. Ultimately this had no real effect on the match, though, so it’s pretty nit-picky.

Tony Alfaro N/A | Community – 5.0 (On 88’ for Will Bruin)

Not enough to rate. I suspect this was as much a “get back on that horse” substitution as anything, and it hopefully helped after an incredibly difficult outing in last Wednesday’s Open Cup match.

One thing I liked: Didn’t give up a goal.

One thing I didn’t like: Didn’t do enough to comment on.

Referee

Sorin Stoica 4 | Community – 5.0

A week after having one of the more memorable defenses of a referee’s ego since Daniel Radford, he seemed almost afraid to pull any cards at all. Frederic Brillant should have seen red for his elbow to Rodriguez’s cheek, and Alonso stiff-armed Luciano Acosta’s neck in a move that has a pretty good chance to get a red card in any other match. Probably could have yellowed Lodeiro for diving in the box if he’d been so inclined. Did well to swallow his whistle a couple times, but also swallowed his whistle a number of times he shouldn’t have.

One thing I liked: He was consistent, I guess? He called a total of just 23 fouls (13 against DC, 10 against Seattle).

More than one thing I didn’t like: Missed what should have been a straight red, failed to card for persistent infringement by DC for fouling both Lodeiro and Rodriguez. All of this by the 30th.

DC United MOTM

DC United’s Darren Mattocks came away with the MOTM award. Not only did he notch the opening goal of the match, his constant movement gave Seattle’s defense headaches throughout the contest.