It’s frustrating to lose, and tying a mediocre team at home feels like a loss. The 1-1 result against the Chicago Fire both felt like stealing a point and dropping two depending on what moment you looked at. There were multiple times that Seattle should have taken a lead that I believe they may have held onto, but the end was a nervy last 20 minutes that saw a tired and ineffective Sounders team get repeatedly run over while still managing a few incredibly wasted chances of their own. Seattle must get more points at home from struggling teams and this effort from team and staff simply wasn’t good enough.
Stefan Frei – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7 (MOTM)
Frei did enough to win the game. He was very strong in this match, only letting one long shot get past him in the first 10 minutes.
One thing I liked: In the 75th and 80th minute he stood on his head and stopped first Elliot Collier and then Nemanja Nikolic in 1-v-1 situations where Chicago was in on goal. He absolutely kept Seattle in the game and gave them a chance for all three points.
One thing I didn’t like: This is the third or fourth time this year Frei has been beaten by long shots from outside the box. That is a problem.
Going forward: This defense is good enough for shutouts. We have to have more of them. (I wrote this last week too!)
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.2
Until he tired late, Nouhou was good at both shutting down everything down his wing and getting forward to support attacks. Once again paired with Victor Rodriguez, Nouhou feasted on the width in the first half, finding himself on the end of repeated service into the left corner. Unfortunately, he is still very unpolished in the offensive half, and must be better at taking advantage of the space he’s getting on the wing. His 89% passing rate showed good decision making on the wing.
One thing I liked: His defensive work rate was very strong. In the 36th minute he was alert and able to dash inside to support Marshall, who got cherry picked. People underestimate how good he is on defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Without much support after V-Rod subbed out and with Nico tiring badly, Chicago repeatedly victimized the left central channel after the 75th minute. A 91st minute foul very nearly gave Chicago a game winning penalty kick, showing how drastically his decision-making falters as he tires.
Going forward: In the 3rd minute Shipp made a fantastic run that just needed a sharp, driven, low cross and Nouhou was unable to earn the assist. Somebody on the staff needs to have a long sit down with him on how to drive hard passes across the defense and force mistakes. A little bit of offensive refinement would be huge for this team, especially if the rumors of a quicker forward incoming are true.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 6.1
Marshall led the team with six interceptions and possessed the ball well, but rarely looked for any long passes, and other than getting forward on a few set pieces, was mainly a stay at home defender against the Fire.
One thing I liked: In the 10th minute Marshall stepped up wayyyy high, winning a ball and putting the notoriously fleet-of-foot Bruin through on goal. This was an uncharacteristically adventurous action from Marshall and it nearly paid off.
One thing I didn’t like: The communication breakdowns in the back late were many, and Chad has to get his team together. Too often Marshall just cleaned up Alonso’s mess, instead of holding him accountable.
Going forward: With any functional defensive midfielders in front of him and a tactical setup that makes sense, I think that Chad is fine, but it’s worrisome that the Fire repeatedly attacked down his left side late in the game. There should be more of an adjustment from a veteran defender.
Kim Kee-hee – 5 | Community – 6.1
Kim didn’t have a lot of noteworthy actions against Chicago, and although he had five clearances, most of his work was done in limiting Alexsandar Katai and Nikolic from getting in behind.
One thing I liked: Kim seems to understand how to work offensively from defensive tactical positions, and he smoothly slid behind Cristian Roldan to allow him to push vertically. It was Kim’s excellent pass in the 22nd minute that jump-started the Sounders attack toward their only goal of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim got beat over the top late by Alan Gordon, which is a fairly common defender mistake, but the biggest issue I have was the lack of organization in the back as the defense around him shuffled. Communication has to be better about whoever is around him and seeing players sub in and be lost is a concern.
Going forward: Kim’s pace is a game changer in the back and allows Seattle to play much more aggressive defensively through the midfield, something I would be elated to see this coaching staff recognize and take advantage of.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.8
I don’t get it. Roldan was our best player last year and while he is a decent stand-in at right back, this move put so much stress on other players that it was a failure in my book. That aside, he was very good at outside back and added an offensive aspect to the position that has been sorely missing.
One thing I liked: His connection with Shipp was notably excellent, as both smart players moved and covered for each other seamlessly. Time and again they kept spacing and width in such a fashion that it opened up huge lanes for Seattle to attack into, and it’s no surprise the goal came via tremendous movement and connection between these two.
One thing I didn’t like: Playing Roldan at right back sapped him of all his late game energy and forcing him to the wing when McCrary entered was really confusing. Instead of central defensive midfielder Roldan bursting into the box to score in the 77th it was tired winger Roldan who put a ball well over a wide-open net.
Going forward: You aren’t going to convince me that playing him at right back was anything more than yet another attempt for Schmetzer to lean on his veterans. I want him to use our best players at their best positions, and not keep moving the entire team so struggling and/or hurt veterans can keep their spots in the starting lineup.
Osvaldo Alonso – 3 | Community – 4.9 (off 84’ for A. Roldan)
He was dreadful. Someone pointed out he had 100% completion rate on his passes. Somehow, he was credited with three key passes. This is all completely irrelevant as none of his passes were difficult or particularly dangerous and this was a dismal performance from a player who was inexplicably playing higher than Lodeiro in the defensive midfield. His effort was nonexistent, either due to injury, fitness, or desire. Alonso was the worst player on the field and it wasn’t particularly close.
One thing I liked: Until Chicago scored, he looked okay, even tracking Luis Solignac into the box in the 4th minute and giving us a glimpse of how he used to be able to play.
One thing I didn’t like: There was so much bad positioning, poor effort, and terrible decision making from Alonso, but the kicker was him yelling at Nouhou in the 75th minute after Chicago nearly scored. On the play, Chicago scrambled in the box and nearly got a shot on goal after a Fire attack down the left. Alonso, who not only didn’t help defensively but stood there watching, then had the gall to shout and gesture at Nouhou, who was busting his ass trying to make up for the lack of central help from Ozzie (among others). Just embarrassing.
Going forward: If this game is indicative of his ability, he should sit behind Jordy Delem in the defensive midfield depth chart. Delem would have at least hustled in to some semblance of defensive position on their goal. Schmetzer is going to play his veterans so Jordy won’t start. I’m sure Alonso will win some duels or something that will earn him starts. If that’s the case, please put a fit, tactically sound defender (read: Roldan) next to him and limp him through how ever many games it takes to get Svensson back.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.0
I like playing Lodeiro in the defensive midfield to give him space to create from deep, but combining him with the ineffective Alonso was a mess. I have no idea whether he was asked to or was just forced to be the stopper defensively, but making Lodeiro into an enforcer defensive mid was a complete mistake. He gamely hustled but as expected he had but a single defensive action. Even so, he still managed via his enormous work rate to get involved in many Seattle chances and even led the team with four key passes from such a deep lying position.
One thing I liked: He continually put people through and into great positions to make stuff happen. It’s not his fault the “people” I refer to is a hurt Will Bruin, so nothing ever came of these great plays.
One thing I didn’t like: Asking Nico to be a defender was a mistake, and he didn’t show much to change that opinion. Their goal was indicative of a defensive midfield pairing that was not remotely tactically sound, and the gaps they left all match were enormous.
Going forward: Get him someone other than Bruin to combine with moving forward. Anyone. If you are going to play him in the defensive midfield, pair him with someone who is more defensive minded and both able and willing to cover for him. Floating Nico in the middle of the field is a glorious thing.
Victor Rodriguez – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 69’ for Eikrem)
This guy gives you that missing element, the exciting offensive play that we have been yearning for. Unfortunately, Seattle was unable to take advantage of his beautiful play, often due to a misplayed cross or failed touch in the middle. V-Rod showed he can push a team forward and he continues to improve as he gets fit.
One thing I liked: In the 34th minute he spun through two players, beating both to the center and then dashed at a sprint into the heart of the Fire defense. He raced forward and only a silly back heel attempt prevented him from a give and go that should have seen him in on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: He struggled to connect with Bruin, and after the first half wasn’t able to work with Nico much either. When he pushes inside he needs more options than just Dempsey.
Going forward: V-Rod is going to score one of those cut in from the left, right footed curler shots. He is also going to get better runs and service wide and a quick forward in front of him to play off of. He should be an integral part of Seattle’s offense going forward.
Clint Dempsey – 7 | Community – 6.2
I thought Dempsey looked good in this game, and moving Nico back seemed to open Clint up into spaces better. He still struggles to connect with Bruin, but in this match, we saw some of the old Dempsey: a whopping seven shots, three key passes, a goal, and plenty of goal-dangerous movement.
One thing I liked: His goal was hustle down the middle of the field and a tap in, and he had a near-spectacular volley in the 85th that would have brought the house down, but what I liked the most was his 56th minute move and vision to put in Bruin. Dempsey juked a player, cut to the middle and slipped in a magical pass. This kind of creativity has been sorely missing.
One thing I didn’t like: He still didn’t combine with Bruin much, and they get in each other’s way a lot. They combined on the goal but otherwise really struggled to work well together.
Going forward: I think this version of Clint would work well with a DP forward who could make smart, fast runs off his movement. There are definite signs of age with Dempsey, but he may be one of the biggest beneficiaries of adding new players.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.1 (off 72’ for McCrary)
Man, we gotta give some love to Shipp, who is the glue holding Seattle’s attack together right now. Since his return from injury he has been fantastic, and he does so many little things to help this team that it’s hard to understand why he was ever in the doghouse. He made the most of a low number of touches, getting three shots and showcasing an impressive ability to move off the ball and open space for others. His tactical positioning is very strong and while he doesn’t do a lot to wow you, I continually see very smart movement from him. He also puts in an underrated defensive shift.
One thing I liked: He was great combining with Roldan, and early and often I saw him slide comfortably in defense behind Cristian’s vertical runs. When Roldan got a pass wide in the 22nd, Shipp smartly dashed into the channel in the Fire defense before first-timing a great pass on to Bruin. This decision making was perfect.
One thing I didn’t like: As a natural central player, I kept hoping that Shipp would slide in behind Dempsey more. I realize that Alonso was there gumming up the works, but there were consistent gaps in the middle where a more aggressive run from Shipp would have ripped open the Fire. It wasn’t until his 71st minute run (on which he got hurt) that he did this to great effect.
Going forward: There are more talented, faster, flashier, and more athletic players on this roster, but no one is playing smarter or more effective soccer than Shipp. I don’t know that his play translates well into a sub role, though, and I would love to see him continue to be the one glue guy amidst all the fancier players.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.0
If he’s hurt, why is he playing? If he’s not hurt, why is he playing so badly? He had 26(24) touches in the entire match and his movement and effort were decidedly poor. This is the same thing I wrote last week and it still applies. Bruin seems to stick out like a sore thumb in the offense. What’s infuriating is he is getting good chances, like a near-perfect 10th minute Shipp cross that he inexplicably whiffed on. For a big man he’s been awful in the air.
One thing I liked: Finally listening to my advice, Bruin made a near post run in the 22nd instead of fading to the back post and lo and behold found the filling pass between a great first-time Shipp pass and a central Dempsey run for a goal.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 54th minute he finally got service after begging all game for a through ball, and then Will promptly kicked a half hearted shross right at the keeper.
Going forward: It appears the coach is willing to play him hurt so I guess this is what we get. I sure would love him to stop trying to backheel everything like he’s Pele, as for every one that gets through there are three that kill promising attacks (like V-Rod in the 34th). Keep running near post and forcing defenses to collapse.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 4 | Community – 5.0 (on 69’ for Rodriguez)
Coming off an injury, Wolff was ineffective when added to a wide-open game against Chicago. Unlike the NYRB match where he didn’t complete a pass, MWE was a tidy 10/10. He also had a shot and a key pass, but was abjectly bad on defense and with the musical chairs in the midfield, he needed to help out Nouhou a lot more, especially late.
One thing I liked: MWE has nice movement, and Seattle needs to utilize it more as he is often open and the team just doesn’t find him. In the 82nd McCrary put a blind cross into the box and Wolff popped up to get a piece of the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: He had zero defensive presence and if he was told to play like that, the coach forgot to tell everyone around him. Chicago nearly won because of the holes in the late game Sounders defense and Wolff’s left side was a big culprit.
Going forward: Wolff is a good player and I would love to see him get some time central. Dempsey already doesn’t play a ton of defense from the middle; how about moving him up and dropping Wolff in behind when we are pushing for a goal late to win a home game?
Jordan McCrary – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 72’ for Shipp)
I don’t quite understand why Bruin can play 90 minutes but Jordan only 19 when they have the same injury. He looked fine when he subbed in and did his job well.
One thing I liked: Confronted with little help, McCrary took initiative in the 82nd minute to beat two, drive in on goal, and cross to where someone should be. Wolff nearly got a shot on goal and the team earned a corner.
One thing I didn’t like: He and Kim weren’t in sync and late in the match the entire defense looked lost. These guys have to get on the same page.
Going forward: McCrary is a serviceable right back and hopefully he can heal enough to get Roldan back where he belongs on the field. McCrary’s speed is elite and should be used more, especially if he learned anything from watching how Roldan just played his position.
Alex Roldan – 4 | Community – 4.2 (on 84’ for Alonso)
I don’t quite understand bringing Alex into this game as there seemed like other options to open up players into better positions. When he subbed in it looked to me that he went into the central defense, leaving his brother to play wide still. That would have made much more sense if he had a clue what to do there, instead of running around for 10 minutes without completing a single pass and only touching the ball twice.
One thing I liked: He had one tackle.
One thing I didn’t like: After having a great seat to watch Katai score and repeatedly victimize the defensive middle to set up shots, Alex did exactly the same thing in the 86th, dropping off the Fire goal scorer and leaving him wide open to shoot.
Going forward: Apparently this team sees him as a defensive midfielder, which was a confusing place to put Alex at the end of a contested game. The last time we did that, Portland scored late and Chicago nearly did here. I dunno what else to say.
Armando Villareal – 4 | Community – 5.0
After Toledo, this guy lets more hard fouls go than anyone in the league. This game was a mess directly because he didn’t call fouls when he should have.
One thing I liked: In the 85th minute he correctly yellow carded Collier for a dive, something I wish more referees would be confident in doing. He also got the late PK shout correct.
One thing I didn’t like: A tactical foul earned Roldan a yellow in the 87th but didn’t earn Vincent the same in the 16th.
Going forward: Call some fouls. Stop letting guys like Schweinsteiger push you around the field.
Chicago Fire MOTM
Goalscorer Aleksandar Katai came away with the MOTM award, not just for his goal, but for the danger and confusion he unleashed on the Seattle back line throughout the match.
A good way to end a struggling stretch of soccer is to beat a rival. Seattle did that with Toronto, now let’s see if they can do it with Portland this weekend. These teams are currently far apart in form, but this is a huge opportunity for the Sounders to take a large step in the direction of righting their rough season.