How you view this Sounders season will likely determine how you perceive last weekend’s 0-0 match versus New England. If you are cautiously optimistic, you might call it a quality result: a road draw, the third game in a week on a few days rest, a shutout against a playoff opponent. On the other hand, if you’re ready to throw in the towel, you were likely unsatisfied with a listless, sometimes downright boring match where the two sides combined for a paltry two shots on frame in a scoreless 90 minutes. I like to look at it both ways, appreciating that this was a game we’d have lost a month ago, but there is still much room for improvement.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.9 (MOTM)
Not much to say about this single-save game, other than it’s what I’ve been asking for from this defense. A shutout is a shutout and we should applaud and be appreciative of such, in any circumstance. This game was all about management, something at which Frei excels. Seattle handled the NE pressure and offered them nearly zero chances to score.
One thing I liked: In the 78th minute Frei took no chances, bravely punching out a cross in traffic, a play on which he earned a foul. This guy just missed a game due to getting thrashed in the mix on service into his area, so it was great to see Frei assertively clear.
One thing I didn’t like: The pressure from NE got to him a few times, forcing errant clearances and punts upfield that weren’t great.
Going forward: Let’s hope this result jumpstarts a string of shutouts that pushes Seattle up the standings. Frei and this back six are very capable of shutting out any team in the league, and it will be due to consistency and decision making if they can do so.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.9
This match demonstrated exactly why Nouhou is the current starter at left back. He was dominant defensively including a tackle, three interceptions, and four clearances, and he also added two shots and four won headers in a solid performance. There is room to grow (especially offensively) but Nouhou is consistently turning in strong shifts on the left.
One thing I liked: With New England pressing high in the 38th minute, Nouhou single-handedly broke this pressure with a nifty dribble to space before turning on the speed. I loved seeing that and think he can definitely use this ability to move the ball into the attack with a dribble. Nouhou has the skills to be nearly impossible to press.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few times when Marshall slid over behind him, and Nouhou got lost (watching). I love how fluid the cover from Marshall and Kim is, but when someone is in your defensive area, you need to recover goal side to the middle, not watch the best defender in the history of the league work.
Going forward: This is Nouhou’s job to lose and nothing in this match led me to believe he lost it. There are a ton of opportunities for him to improve, and he has now put up 10 MLS average outings in a row. The consistency is great (and likely due to coaching after SKC) but I would love to see a few higher grades as he turns some of this potential into results.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.6
Chad Marshall likes boring games. He excels in them. No matter which of Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo, etc. came into his area, Marshall casually inserted his giant frame in between them and the goal and escorted them back to their own end of the field. His 88% completion rate helped against the press and as usual his positioning was great.
One thing I liked: In the 32nd minute Fagundez thought he had space to attack the defense. Marshall read the play perfectly and handled the clearance so easily that what could have been a quality chance for the Revs was snuffed out nearly before it even began.
One thing I didn’t like: He passed the ball out of bounds. Twice.
Going forward: This was exactly what I expect going forward. Strong central defenders covered by destroyer central midfielders, outside backs pushing high and Seattle defending across the field.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.7
In a game dominated by defense, Kim stood out as the best of the group. Every time a Rev player looked to be able to get through, up popped Kim to stop the attack. He slid over behind Marshall and even Nouhou when necessary, while also working seamlessly with Jordan McCrary. Kim being the best defender on a field that included Chad Marshall is a testament to just how much he has grown into his role with this team.
One thing I liked: In the first ten minutes Kim tracked Fagundez all the way over into the opposite corner behind Nouhou before dispossessing him. This was just fantastic effort and tenacity and set the tone for Seattle pressing defensively the whole match.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim misjudged a cross in the 7th minute and for a tall dude, has missed a few balls over his head.
Going forward: Kim has all the tools to be the best defender on this team, which is insane to think about. What I love about his combination with Marshall is how well they move off of each other, covering so much ground with positioning and using Kim’s defensive pace. I am not sure what will happen with Torres back soon, but I hope Kim remains utilized as much as possible.
Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 5.7
This was another strong outing for McCrary, who showed near starting level play on the right multiple times this week. For the first time in quite a while we are deep on the right fullback position, and I think Jordan can improve enough to be a starter in this league.
One thing I liked: In the 13th minute with the ball on the wing, instead of forcing a pass up the field he found Delem in the middle. This was really important because he was able to run a give and go up the wing and open up space with his pace, while involving the middle of the field.
One thing I didn’t like: He was beat by a pass in behind in the 64th minute (thanks Kim for sliding over!) and looked to tire late and thus be beat a bit more.
Going forward: McCrary was strong in this match, composed, making good decisions, and defending excellently. He isn’t as good as Leerdam, but the gap isn’t enormous and he can be a solid player in spot starts as needed.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 5.6
Delem has drawn a blueprint for how to combine with Roldan in the middle. Defensive first, Delem was strong and provided a ton of cover for the backline while allowing offensive players to push forward while he cleaned up behind.
One thing I liked: In the 54th minute with McCrary pushing high on the right wing and Kim supporting him towards the line, Delem slid back next to Marshall almost as another center back. This was tremendous, as when New England tried to attack the space on the right he was able to beat Fagundez to the wide pass. This was fantastic instinctual defense.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 35th minute Delem was caught high and isn’t as comfortable in possession as he needs to be. He lost the ball, and this put pressure on the defense behind him to recover.
Going forward: Delem didn’t complete as many passes as I would have liked, but his defense was top notch. He’s a guy who allows the other more creative players around him to excel. He is not going to give you much forward push with the ball, but he will shelter the defense and allow a slowly improving offense to concentrate on their duties.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.5
As usual Cristian was a rock in the central defensive midfield. He had a monstrous seven tackles in the game, roaming and destroying NE attacks all match. With Delem defending behind him, Cristian did get into the attack some but didn’t have a lot of success in doing so.
One thing I liked: Cristian was so dominant that in a 41st minute shoulder-to-shoulder tackle against Fagundez, completely bossing the Revs player. Fagundez immediately earned a yellow, retaliating with hurt pride.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few times when he had some lax passes, and losing the ball in the midfield happened more than necessary. Passing success rate was a little low and he wasn’t able to help an attack that was mundane.
Going forward: This was a monster defensive game for Seattle and Roldan, but I would love to see him pick a few more opportunities to dive forward and use his good attacking instincts to show deep vertical runs. These are very effective when Nicolas Lodeiro is central and drifts, leaving gaps.
Victor Rodriguez – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 92’ for Neagle)
I was pleasantly surprised to see Rodriguez go for his third game in a week and he played 90 to boot. He wasn’t as active as earlier in the week but was still looking to combine going forward as much as possible. He only had a single shot and one key pass but added a few tackles and three interceptions in a strong defensive effort.
One thing I liked: In the 36th minute he just missed Kim with a cross, and that was after he had pushed forward, gotten a shot off, and nearly combined to put a teammate through. V-Rod never gives up on an offensive sequence and it nearly paid off when his pass was just a little too tall for the Sounders’ center back.
One thing I didn’t like: He was beat in the 84th minute on defense and was clearly tired, about what you would expect playing his third game, but it also indicates he’s close to being fully fit.
Going forward: I can’t wait to see how he combines with different players moving forward this season. He is an incredibly dynamic player who can create offense from nothing, which is hugely rare on this team (and in this league, for that matter).
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.5
Another quiet outing for Nico, who doesn’t seem to excel when playing a central attacking midfield role. He did have the only shot on goal for Seattle (a hopeful 40 yard chip) and a key pass, but surprisingly was third in number of touches and just wasn’t able to get untracked in a congested midfield playing his third game in a week.
One thing I liked: In the 35th minute Nico had a tremendous defensive play in the midfield; it showed how much a midfielder who defends can help this team.
One thing I didn’t like: When Nico plays in the attacking central midfield, he roams so much it often leaves a huge hole in the middle of the field. This game had a minuscule amount of possession by Seattle in the center of the field and was overwhelmingly in wide areas as a direct result of his positioning.
Going forward: Next weekend Nico will run whoever is near him into the ground, wherever he lines up. That could be wide midfield, deep lying playmaker, or hybrid central attacker like this game. Wolff, V-Rod, and others who have proven good service should be given a chance to take set pieces, as Nico’s inconsistency is frustrating. Giving this guy smart pieces to work off his exceptional movement is the recipe for success.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 61’ for Dempsey)
I was excited for Wolff to get a start, and he while he wasn’t amazing, there was plenty to build on with this appearance. He didn’t dominate, but there were enough times where he was close to breaking a big play that you could definitely see potential. Unfortunately, it’s pretty far into the season to be discussing a guy’s potential.
One thing I liked: There wasn’t a ton of great attacking, but when it happened it usually had MWE in the middle of it. On a number of occasions, you could see his elite thinking and the team (and Wolff, to be fair) was just unable to execute. He also worked hard on defense, which had been a criticism.
One thing I didn’t like: No one was very effective offensively, but in the 34th and 38th minutes he wasn’t on the same page as Nico and especially Will Bruin. This might be due to a lack of opportunities to play with these guys in games.
Going forward: Up until now Wolff was a luxury player on a team that had no room for luxury players. As they get teammates back and the bench fills up, I honestly don’t know how he will fit in. While I am not sure that “impact sub” is his best role, that looks to be where he is headed, for better or worse.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.2 (off 71’ for A. Roldan)
After a strong midweek game Bruin crashed back to earth with a lackluster one versus the Revolution. His 20 touches contained but a single one attacking goal. He mostly tried fancy backheels and other holdup touches that were largely ineffective.
One thing I liked: Bruin did have a nice drop that was credited as a key pass in the 68th amidst a scramble play.
One thing I didn’t like: His runs were once again counterproductive; this time it was MWE who Bruin was constantly in the way of. In the 17th minute with Nico and V-Rod working on the left wing to create a break, Bruin faded away from the play (hoping for the over the top 40-yard chip) instead of incisively cutting through in front of the defense and offering a near-post pass. He also didn’t make any room for a strong Wolff run up the right wing, instead gumming up the entire play, making the exact run that he could have opened up for Wolff had he chosen better.
Going forward: We got Dempsey out of Bruin’s way only to have Bruin get in Wolff’s. That makes me very nervous about trying to pair Bruin with Ruidiaz, and I don’t think these two make sense starting together. If Bruin goes to the bench he can be a very good option late.
Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 4.0 (on 61’ for Wolff)
If this is a glimpse of Dempsey’s future, I can see how it works. He was fine as a sub and while not effective attacking the goal, no one in this game was. What he was good at was controlling possession and was a perfect eight for eight passing.
One thing I liked: Once again he played a mostly holdup role and did well at it, bringing teammates into the attack. I liked his combination with Rodriguez in the 91st minute, getting him the ball in the box on a play that should have changed the score line.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few times when Dempsey could have worked harder to be an attacking destroyer, but this just isn’t his game. One thing he can do, though, is press when he is pushed to lone forward and make the opponents more predictable offensively.
Going forward: Seattle nearly stole all three points with Dempsey on the field and he showed the ability to find what few runners were available. I’ll be curious to see how he interacts with new players and how well he can perform for a healthy team, but he is no longer an automatic every day starter with his current production.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 4.2 (on 71’ for Bruin)
Alex came into a tie game as an … offensive sub? Were we completely parking the bus with 20 minutes to go? He had a couple of tackles and a clearance but was more noteworthy for his defensive mistakes. He may not be the defensive stopper people want him to be.
One thing I liked: Alex combined well with teammates and had good accuracy on his passes. He does bring a lot of hustle.
One thing I didn’t like: In the five minutes after subbing in, he was exposed three times before settling down; luckily no damage was done. The worst was some lax defending on Cristian Penilla, who the younger Roldan allowed to easily cut inside and get an uncontested shot off in the 73rd. The defense has to be better there.
Going forward: Although he struggled early, Roldan settled down and did his part for the shutout. He doesn’t give anything going forward but tackles hard and seems to have the confidence of the coaching staff. I don’t know whether there is room for him on the bench with a healthy team, which might be the best thing for him.
Lamar Neagle – 5 | Community – 4.3 (on 92’ for Rodriguez)
Lamar came in late to see out the game.
One thing I liked: He didn’t have a single notable positive action.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 94th minute with Seattle breaking out for a last-ditch counter, Lamar sprinted into the play, directly into Lodeiro’s way, effectively killing the game off.
Going forward: Lamar is a good dude and a great person off the field, but although he somehow found playing time in this match, I don’t see that happening much (if at all) for the rest of the season.
Nima Saghafi – 5 | Community – 4.2
There were two fouls called in the first minute, which set a very physical tone. I thought this game needed an early yellow, as Saghafi waited ‘til nearly halftime to show a card. With 25 combined fouls and players like Caicedo and Bunbury committing four each, it’s telling that neither of these two players got a yellow for persistent infringement. Rowe and Bunbury each had fouls that weren’t close to playing the ball and should have been automatic yellow; neither was carded. V-Rod and Delem could have gotten cards.
One thing I liked: The cards to Delem, Nouhou, etc. were the correct calls, and he got most of the average, mundane calls right.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 91st minute V-Rod got into the box, beat the defender to the ball, and had his leg kicked from behind. I think that is a penalty, and not even giving it a look on review seems a fairly major mistake. That is a call that has been made many times this season, and it shouldn’t have been ignored just because it was in extra time. That was a potential winning spot kick Seattle was robbed of.
Going forward: He was okay, and compared to a lot of the PRO refs, wasn’t absolutely horrible. I think he could have curbed the very physical play by Rowe and others early, which may have allowed either team to play soccer, instead of the sloggy, dreary match that resulted.
Andrew Farrell was robbed.
With people getting healthy, returning from the World Cup, and joining the team as new signings, there are many decisions for the coaching staff to make. There have been some confusing choices so far this year, but perhaps with a full deck they can assemble a team to go into a very hostile environment and get a positive result. Atlanta has a dynamic offense, but they have some pretty large flaws I would love to see exploited. If the Sounders are serious about making a run, bringing points home from Atlanta would be a great way to introduce themselves back into contention.