As requested, a ratings haiku:
Sounders got a draw
Away against the top team
I can live with that
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.2 (MOTM)
I’d wager that Frei enjoys the single-save shutout type NER games more than the crazy attack that Atlanta can throw at him, but for the most part he was very good. Frei hasn’t had his first choice back line together in a while, and once again he was working with many interchanging parts.
One thing I liked: In the 30th minute he had a huge save on Will Bruin, who had created some space from his man and launched a dangerous shot at goal. It took a huge reaction save to stop this striker from scoring from a few yards out, Frei leaping to his left to somehow keep the ball from the net.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 48th minute having held a lead for all of about five minutes, Frei was caught in no man’s land and was chipped on a floating header by Josef Martinez. This was a poor play from Frei, who needed to come out and punch or keep his line; doing neither cost Seattle a goal.
Going forward: All told, Frei and the defense held a very volatile offense to a single goal and limited their chances for most of the evening. He needs to find better outlet passes from the back, but hopefully the spacing and decision making are things they’re working on in training.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.4
This was one of the most understated performances of the year from an outside back, and a very solid outing from Nouhou. He quietly stopped the home team from getting anything down the width or pushing into the box. He was tremendous at completely shutting down Hector Villalba. His game included a whopping seven clearances and should have solidified his role as starter.
One thing I liked: Nouhou just refused to get beat down his wing. Late on, Villalba repeatedly pushed into the box at him, and repeatedly he was rebuffed. In the 79th minute matched 1-v-1, it was Nouhou who again was the victor and emerged with the ball, killing a promising Atlanta attack.
One thing I didn’t like: His communication with Victor Rodriguez wasn’t as good as it has been, and while he was clearly asked to stay home defensively, in the 21st minute he made a poor choice to push the ball square, losing it and creating a shooting opportunity for Atlanta. Instead of forcing it, he should push the ball up line and get goal side.
Going forward: Nouhou showed this weekend he can quietly go about his business and shut down his side of the field. While he didn’t constantly charge up the field, his speed and positioning were excellent and against less explosive teams I expect him to get more involved in the attack.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 73’ for Svensson)
Chad was good in this game, marking Martinez through his zone when necessary and stepping up to defend as expected. His passing was rock solid (90%) and he had five clearances before subbing out early with an injury. If he wanted to sell the headbutt, he could have earned Atlanta a red card, and although it’s ridiculous that I have to type that, Chad isn’t the type to embellish anything, even a call that 100% should have been made.
One thing I liked: Chad stepped up early and often to prevent entry passes to Martinez, and his intensity set the tone all the way across the back seven.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 72nd, just before subbing, he lost Jeff Larentowicz on a set piece, allowing a free header that luckily went well over.
Going forward: In a game this big, for Marshall to have to sub out is a big red flag. Such a fierce competitor only subs if there is something really bothering him, although since I didn’t see much on the replay, we can hope it’s short term. Chad is penciled in as the starter whenever he is available, but times like this show the value of having depth on the back line.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 6.7
I again was very impressed by Kim, who had the difficult job of matching Martinez for speed across the field. He did just that for most of the game, frustrating the striker by marking him all the way across the defensive zone on repeated occasions. This mobility is a huge asset to the defense, allowing others to play off his athleticism.
One thing I liked: In the 55th minute Martinez got KKH 1-v-1 in the box, and the Sounder’s defense was perfect. Kim breaks down, gets great position, doesn’t dive in or give any opportunity for the striker to throw himself at the turf, and turned the ball away from goal with textbook defending.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 48th minute Kim was beaten on a header for the Atlanta goal, something that I have noted as a weakness. What set it up, though, was failing to mark a checking run from Martinez a moment before, which created the separation from Kim that Josef utilized to get just enough room to head the ball.
Going forward: Kim has been a phenomenal pickup and with any potential Marshall injury I imagine that Kim would continue to start. That will be particularly necessary this upcoming weekend to help deal with Vancouver’s pace.
Jordan McCrary – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 63’ Red Card)
I debated back and forth about this grade, and ultimately came up with below average. His play in the match was great, showcasing strong defending and good connection with teammates. He wasn’t great passing (64%) and stayed home mainly to help in defense. The problem was decision making, and perhaps exacerbated by being in his home state, Jordan compounded small mistakes with big ones, ultimately getting sent off.
One thing I liked: In the 42nd minute McCrary joined the offense, and his cross started the goal scoring sequence. He is very good when he gets forward but hasn’t shown it consistently.
One thing I didn’t like: He got two yellow cards in this match, and both were because he made a mistake and then compounded it. Baldomero Toledo was bad, and McCrary likely had no idea what was and wasn’t a yellow, so I don’t completely fault him for getting sent off, but I do think he needs to understand why he was sent off. Not because he had two bad tackles (he did) but because on the first he missed the first tackle and compounded it by charging into Ezequiel Barco and the second because he forced a pass to Nicolas Lodeiro, who was covered, and McCrary fouled as a result. Yeah, the red card sucked, but young players especially need to learn the root cause and fix the issues.
Going forward: No harm done with this red for me. Who knows what’s a foul in a Toledo game? McCrary made a mistake hustling in front of 20 friends and family. As long as he learns from it, I have full confidence that he is a quality backup right fullback who will get minutes as such.
Jordy Delem – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.7
This was the most cerebral performance of Delem’s career and it’s not particularly close. Huge credit to both the coaching staff who diagnosed how to combat Miguel Almiron’s runs and Delem for shutting him down. I am working to contribute to a column detailing exactly how masterful this performance was. This was exactly how I thought they should have closed down Portland and Valeri, but other personnel played. Delem was constantly aware, searching for Almiron’s runs through his zone and passing him off when the ball switched field. When the Atlanta star did get the ball, Delem was always there to stuff him, force him wide, or make his play predictable.
One thing I liked: His field awareness. He was so good. Seeing Delem with his head on a swivel, constantly watching his defensive zone before making smart, strong defensive plays against a guy who is one of the best in the league (and makes more than forty-one times as much money!) was just awesome to watch.
One thing I didn’t like: Delem didn’t have great luck passing the ball forward, but who cares?
Going forward: Jordy has really shown that, defensively, he has all the physical tools to lock down the middle and work well opening Roldan. There’s a guy who just got back from the World Cup who is good defensively and a massive upgrade offensively that might take his spot, but as the season continues and squad rotation is needed, this match showed how Delem can contribute when needed.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.8
With Delem playing well and rarely handing off his mark, Roldan was also asked to play a very smart match, which he did. Constantly shading to the ball but being aware that Delem was not next to him, Roldan spent a majority of his time in the center of the field, rarely getting caught wide helping on defense.
One thing I liked: In the 10th minute Roldan led the attack with a surging run through the heart of the Atlanta defense, putting huge pressure in the center of the pitch. This was a fantastic run (he had five dribbles in this match) and something I’d love to see more often.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 59th minute Seattle had a nice breakout and he just missed Lodeiro with a pass that could have seen the Sounders star in on goal.
Going forward: This game showed Roldan’s versatility and intelligence, as he completely changed his positioning and play to allow Delem to man-mark Almiron out of effectiveness. It’s that positional awareness that convinces me he should be a defensive midfielder in every iteration of Seattle’s future lineups.
Victor Rodriguez – 6 | Community – 6.8 (off 88’ for Alonso)
I didn’t think V-Rod was that great in this match, then I watched it again and saw many impressive little things. His 70% passing was good, and he created multiple scoring chances (three key passes) and his movement was purposeful and dangerous. He also had three tackles and three interceptions, showing a solid dedication to defense.
One thing I liked: In the 42nd minute V-Rod saw the delayed run of Harry Shipp into the open space and laid a perfect pass around a defender instead of trying to dribble through the box, and this led to the penalty.
One thing I didn’t like: V-Rod didn’t get Nouhou involved, and there were a few times that sending the speedster up the wing would have been a good choice. Victor was too slow to pass him the ball at least twice.
Going forward: This guy makes goals happen. Adding more pieces to the team that allow his ingenious passing and movement to combine more frequently is a recipe for lots of goals.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.8
Nico again was underwhelming in the central midfield, but did what we expect via movement and creation, leading the team with three shots and kicking in a key pass. As usual, he covered a lot of ground, as he picked up events in nearly every area of the field, showcasing the best motor in the league.
One thing I liked: Down a man, Lodeiro charged up the field in the 66th minute and put a near-perfect cross that I imagine a finisher like Raul Ruidiaz would have scored. It’s the ability to create a huge chance out of nothing that is so special about Nico.
One thing I didn’t like: Roaming from the center put pressure on a defense that was already dealing with a lot. He also had a few poor decisions, and it was his checking run and subsequent lost possession that led to the red card.
Going forward: Nico is best when cutting in from a wing and drifting around to create overloads in dangerous areas. That likely doesn’t mean starting him in the central midfield, where he has merely been okay for me. His vision and passing should be a great fit with a fast striker.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.6 (off 65’ for Leerdam)
This was your usual solid Shipp game wherein you might not notice him doing a ton. Then you go back and realize that he missed one pass all match, a few minutes before he subbed off, while demonstrating strong positional awareness and adding multiple tackles, interceptions, and defensive actions. Oh, and it was his switching ball that started the sequence that ended with his own shot that earned the penalty kick. Is it any surprise that Shipp was involved in yet another Sounders goal?
One thing I liked: If you didn’t catch the 4th minute pass from Shipp, I hope someone has it clipped. Pinching inside, he got the ball and put a diagonal through ball onto the feet of V-Rod that beat seven Atlanta defenders. It was one of the best passes I’ve seen a Sounder make this year and I fully believe if the pass had gone to Ruidiaz, Seattle would have been up in the first five minutes. This was fantastic vision and execution by Shipp.
One thing I didn’t like: Shipp got tired and lost effectiveness in the second half, which may have contributed to McCrary attempting to do too much.
Going forward: I am not sure how many people could even see that pass, let alone complete it. It’s plays like that that should earn Shipp consistent minutes for the rest of the season.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 5.4
I had a lot of negative notes for Bruin this week, but when I went back and looked at what he was being asked to do, it wasn’t too bad. Will played the ball more than normal (37 touches) and turned this into a decent two shots and nice 69% passing clip. My frustration with Bruin was mainly chances missed, but his entire body of work was adequate and had a penalty been called correctly, he would have earned the first pk for Seattle.
One thing I liked: A number of times he checked to the ball and opened up teammates. When he takes time, he can do this pretty well, but when he tries to first-time his holdup, things go badly.
One thing I didn’t like: When he got in on goal in the 35th minute he missed. When given a beautiful cross in the 66th he didn’t get to what should have been a header goal. Even though he was called offside in the 78th he still should have put his wide-open shot on frame. These are all opportunities that a good striker needs to make.
Going forward: Seattle is creating chances, but Bruin doesn’t appear completely suited to the chances he is getting, instead feasting on being in the right place to finish versus creating goals. It might be unfair to expect him to do both. Changing the formation to keep him on the field with Ruidiaz doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 65’ for Shipp)
Welcome back, Kelvin. Tasked with subbing on in a super hostile environment right after going down to 10 men, Leerdam showed how good he is, calmly slotting in defensively and being a rock on the right. He had multiple tackles and clearances and showed strong 1-v-1 defense with Seattle playing at a deficit.
One thing I liked: In the 77th minute Leerdam got forward and let it rip from outside the box, forcing Brad Guzan into parrying his heavy shot wide. This was a good shot, gave Seattle a rest, and also created a set piece chance for a team down a man.
One thing I didn’t like: I wish that he had been healthy enough to sub on earlier. Its dumb, and hindsight, but … sigh.
Going forward: With the red, let’s hope Leerdam is 90 minutes ready. He is the starter and is a clear upgrade to McCrary. I would love to see him get involved offensively, as his early crossing and diagonal vision should combine well with pace up front.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 73’ for Dad)
It was nice to see the Goose back on the field, and his versatility was immediately put to use as a center back for the ailing Marshall. As usual his calm, competent defense and good communication saw him seamlessly slot in next to teammates he hasn’t seen much of lately.
One thing I liked: He is so calm, which was exactly what the game needed as it got crazy late. After handling the pressure of World Cup games, it was clear that Svensson’s unflappable demeanor had a calming effect on those around him, contributing to strong play of the defense to close out the game.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 82nd minute he was beat badly by an Almiron give and go and was lucky to see the Atlanta star miss high.
Going forward: I think his best and most useful position is combining with Roldan in the defensive midfield, but if there is any concern about Marshall’s health it’s a great safety net to have Svensson available to start or sub in at any of about five positions on the field.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 88’ for Rodriguez)
Alonso came on at the end of the match to support the defensive wall that Seattle was trying to hold in between Atlanta and the goal. Instead of being a calm defensive stalwart, however, Alonso played poorly, including completing neither of his two pass attempts.
One thing I liked: He was credited with a tackle and a clearance.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 90th minute Ozzie was just too slow to reach the ball. Watching him try to get to a ball that even last year he would have won and charged up field with is painful.
Going forward: This seems about the best role for him, although his defense wasn’t stellar. Imagining him trying to do what Delem did in this match is sad to think about. I hope he can get more in shape and show some degree of the player he was, but right now he’s just a guy.
Baldomero Toledo – 2 | Community – 3.4
Dunno what to say. He didn’t call a lot of stuff he should have, and then started handing out yellows that put players like Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and McCrary in jeopardy of being sent off every time they touched the ball. This all happened because he is so damn inconsistent. In the 50th Julian Gressel (how’d he stay on the field btw? He got away with so many hacks) fouled Nico behind the play and advantage was played with no yellow. In the 82nd minute Delem fouled an Atlanta player behind the play and no yellow was given after play continued for advantage. In the 84th Delem was fouled behind the play and advantage given with no yellow. The only time advantage was played and a card given was in the 63rd, coincidentally the second yellow on McCrary, which Toledo didn’t even realize was a red. This is completely inept refereeing.
One thing I liked: He finally made a VAR call, which was a minor miracle.
One thing I didn’t like: He clearly hates VAR and has, multiple times as Seattle’s referee, refused to use it. In this match he missed a yellow for LGP for diving, a red for LGP (or second yellow) for sizing up Nico and elbowing then slapping him. Toledo missed Martinez headbutting Marshall for another red card. A blatant handball was missed that should have been a penalty for Seattle, and a bear hug from Kim should have been a PK for Atlanta. I doubt McCrary gets sent off if it’s 11-v-9 (as it should have been) with LGP earning the second yellow. Martinez scored their only goal. It’s pretty simple to make a case that Seattle got completely robbed out of a more positive score line.
Going forward: ALL OF THE ABOVE SUCKED. MAYBE STOP DOING THAT.
Atlanta United MOTM
Josef Martinez won MOTM for his chipped header. Atlanta United, one of the most offensively dynamic teams in the league, scored their only goal thanks to some uncharacteristic positioning by Frei.
Time to get three from Vancouver in a match that should have a lot of things helping Seattle — new star player, home field advantage, Vancouver playing some guys midweek, etc. None of that matters if the Sounders don’t figure out how to win a game like this.