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Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Player ratings

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Nico Lodeiro dials up a brace as Seattle operates.

In a game they should have won, Seattle Sounders did just that, dominating from the kickoff. They scored early and then kept up the pressure and added another. Credit to the team for keeping a clean sheet and getting full points. I would have preferred more attacking even when up two goals, but I understand why the team played the way they did with a midweek game upcoming. Just as importantly, we got to see a new star get some minutes and he looked very good.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.9

Seattle has given up two goals in the last four games, which coincides with a four-game unbeaten run. In this match, Frei was rarely tested, and he did a good job of staying alert and preventing any complacency.

One thing I liked: Another clean sheet! After a single shutout earlier this year (aided by a red card versus Columbus) Seattle and Frei have managed to shut out two of the last three opponents. This defense is playing well.

One thing I didn’t like: Against a team not likely to use possession, it was odd that Seattle played short every chance they had, which nearly came back to bite them on numerous occasions. With Vancouver struggling to get the ball near our goal, it seemed that Seattle unnecessarily forced the ball through traffic and asked Frei to often distribute with his feet.

Going forward: It’s unlikely that Frei will always have such easy afternoons, but Seattle is capable of reeling in many more good results. It will be due to this defense, which has allowed the second fewest goals in the league this season.

Defense

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.3

Nouhou has shown immense maturity and growth in the last few months and has quietly turned into one of the team’s most consistent performers. His defense is very good, and Nouhou seemingly adds something new every week.

One thing I liked: Offensively Nouhou has been very raw, but like the rest of his game, he’s steadily improved. Not only does he pick his spots better for when to get forward, he makes better decisions when doing so. The best on the night was a 42nd minute give-and-go up the left which saw the young fullback cut into the middle of the field and find a square ball across the top of the box to Nico Lodeiro, a new angle of attack that was very effective and earned him a key pass.

One thing I didn’t like: When Nouhou makes a mistake, it can snowball, as was the case in the 17th when he mis-trapped the ball, had a bad control, and lost possession on his wing. He compounded this rather minimal error by trying to fix it via a sliding tackle that got enough of the opponent to earn him a caution. Everyone makes mistakes, and he needs to trust his teammates to recover for him. In this case, he had plenty of help but was overzealous, which earned a card and gave up an unnecessary free kick.

Going forward: Nouhou has a great mix of size, strength, and pure speed, and he improves with every outing at using them. We see him willing to use his body to shield the ball and his speed to beat people, and he is learning the decision making on the wing that is essential for his position. He should earn some more offensive stats as he continues to improve.

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.1

It was great to see Marshall back after injury forced a sub in the prior match, and he was everything we have come to expect. Winning tackles, passing 90% from the back, he also helped erase Kei Kamara from the match. The usually dangerous forward was completely subdued, held to a single shot all match.

One thing I liked: Marshall was up against one of the best set piece players in the league in Kendall Waston and completely dominated their matchup. In the 4th minute he beat his man on a corner, got into the box and put up a header that was destined to score before being handled, earning a huge early PK. In the 62nd he almost had another PK earned, with his shirt being nearly ripped off him.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 20th minute Marshall was hand fighting with Waston and could have been called for a foul. Late he had a PK overturned by VAR which was correct; however, he should be careful with his trailing hand that was inexplicably over his head and dangerously close to being hit by the ball.

Going forward: This team is made for shutouts, and Marshall is likely to lead the way as he has all year. Having depth at this position should only make him more effective, although I am not convinced he will miss many games for rotation purposes.

Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 7.1

After dealing with the quick Martinez last match, Kim changed gears and shut down Kamara in this one, combining excellent speed and size to perfectly match up with Vancouver’s leading scorer. His 88% passing was clean from the back, and Kim led the team with six clearances. Many of these were from beating Kamara to an entry pass, preventing the away team from getting footing in the offensive third.

One thing I liked: Kim was a nightmare for Kamara, equaling the striker in size and speed and hounding him all afternoon. On multiple occasions the Sounder center back would beat Kamara to the ball near midfield, completely disrupting any potential break out and thoroughly frustrating Kamara.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 54th minute Kamara faked a back-post run and dashed in front of Kim, nearly getting a header that could have been dangerous. With Frei as a backup, Kim needs to prevent the near run more than the far.

Going forward: This was another outstanding performance from Kim and he continues to show a versatility the Sounders lean on in the defense. His mobility opens up the players around him to add to the attack and Seattle is stronger in transition defense. It’s hard to see why this backline would be switched around at this point.

Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 85’ for Delem)

Leerdam came back from injury and immediately helped shut out Vancouver. His movement and tactical positioning with Harry Shipp, Kim, and Gustav Svensson was excellent. While Kelvin didn’t have a huge statistical evening, his steady and consistent play in both directions was effective in allowing others to succeed.

One thing I liked: In the 46th minute Leerdam showed off his above average dribbling ability, and after gliding by three Whitecaps players he pushed into the attacking third to get a cross in. I hope to see this more often.

One thing I didn’t like: Multiple times when Leerdam gets forward he hits a barrier at the 18 and turns around to pass backwards. I look forward to seeing whether the more dynamic near-post diagonal movement that Raul Ruidiaz brings will help offer different options.

Going forward: We forget with all the long throws and fancy dribbling that Leerdam is first and foremost a very strong defensive outside back, and he deserves credit for quietly being very effective on the right side. Hopefully he will also bring more of the attacking that we saw in this game.

Defensive Midfield

Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.9

The other defensive mids on the bench have some useful tools in their skillsets, but Svensson has the entire package. He showed exactly why he was chosen above Alonso and Delem to start. Goose was everywhere, jumping back into the middle of the field with Cristian Roldan and seamlessly working both sides of the ball. 93% passing, two tackles, three interceptions: Svensson just did a little of everything and did it well.

One thing I liked: His instant chemistry with Roldan was exceptional. In the 21st minute as Roldan made a slicing diagonal run into the box, Goose slid over and won the ball, which stopped an entire counterattack with the Sounders shorthanded. It was a perfectly timed, precise execution of the right play.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 76th minute, his chemistry with Alonso was less fantastic. Alonso got caught high and Svensson was unable to keep containment without his support.

Going forward: In my opinion this is his best role for the team, right next to Roldan with both able to interject energy into the attack as needed with incisive passing and runs while protecting the backline. There may be some rotation that changes if and where Svensson starts, but I believe he should play in every single match he’s available.

Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.1

Next to a better passer this week, Roldan expanded his movement and covered a lot of ground in the midfield, both vertically and horizontally. He filled out the stat sheet offensively and defensively, including 90% passing and a team high four key passes in addition to stellar defensive work.

One thing I liked: It might have been overlooked, but the only run-of-play goal happened because Roldan refused to allow Vancouver the ball. He charged Efrain Juarez, dispossessed the Vancouver midfielder, kept the ball in bounds, and then pushed the ball towards goal. This is the kind of effort he gives all match.

One thing I didn’t like: I’m not sure where Roldan was supposed to play in the second half, and in his defense, he made it work, but we need him to play two more games this week and asking him to sprint up and down the wing constantly seemed rough.

Going forward: Every time I think Roldan is a pure defensive midfielder, he shows an uncanny ability to make things happen offensively. He might be an effective player in a diamond of some sort, but the beauty of his and Svensson’s pairing is their communication and movement, which is not something I want to change.

Attacking Midfield

Victor Rodriguez – 6 | Community – 7.0 (off 45’ for Alonso)

It was a bummer to see Rodriguez subbed near half, as Victor has been our best offensive player since his return from injury. Before heading off he had taken two shots and created two key passes, as well as combining beautifully with teammates in a dominant first half. I thought he and Nico were especially impressive working quick passes through the middle, and the Whitecaps had few answers.

One thing I liked: When Victor gets the ball, he’s ready to score. In the 34th minute when he found the ball in the channel on the left, his first look was forward and to the middle. Marshall made a nice entry pass and V-Rod took it from there, driving up the middle and creating a big chance off the dribble.

One thing I didn’t like: Although there were no indications he was injured prior to subbing, hamstring injuries can be fickle. It will be a huge blow to the team if their best offensive player goes down right when others are getting back/healthy/signed.

Going forward: V-Rod has been involved in almost all of the positive offensive actions for this team for a month or more, and he needs to be on the field. Hopefully the injury is minor, and the precautions taken were due to game state and erring on the safe side.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.5 (MOTM)

Something has awakened in Nico. He’s now put together eight games since his injury and averaged 6.875 in those matches. This game was classic Lodeiro: a game-high 97 touches, 91% completion, five shots, three key passes, and two goals. He ran Vancouver silly, completely frustrating their midfield.

One thing I liked: He scored some goals, sure. But let’s talk about his vision. When he gets space in deep positions he is as dangerous as anyone in the league, and he proved it by putting Shipp through in the 57th and 67th. This second one cut out five defenders, and it wasn’t even the most dangerous ball. That came a minute later when he found an exhilarating Ruidiaz run and put him in on goal. When Lodeiro has runners, he will find them and put them in on goal with near-perfect precision.

One thing I didn’t like: That Nico and Ruidiaz weren’t on the field together more, and V-Rod didn’t get to join their party.

Going forward: Lodeiro is only going to be more effective with the injection of Ruidiaz into this offense. Look for him to eviscerate defenses going forward. It will be up to the staff to figure out how best to get these pieces on the field together and ensure that Nico keeps getting the ball in good spots to make things happen.

Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.7

When Shipp is on the field, good things happen. He is constantly moving, making space, and (more importantly) filling spaces left by roamers like V-Rod and Nico. With those guys dominating the ball, it’s so useful to have a smart veteran like Shipp be the glue that holds the offensive shape together.

One thing I liked: He’s such a great partner for Nico, as Shipp allows Lodeiro to float with impunity. They also work well together, as evidenced in the 60th minute when Harry stepped across the field to steal a pass in the middle, then immediately fired a perfect diagonal to Lodeiro churning up the right wing. This was an instantaneous breakout, transitioning into the kind of opportunity that Ruidiaz excels at.

One thing I didn’t like: Shipp wasn’t as good at opening up Nouhou as Victor has been.

Going forward: Starting ahead of some big names on the bench has to feel good for Shipp, who has definitely paid his dues this year. As long as he keeps minimizing personal mistakes and maximizing the team effectiveness while he is on the field, he should keep seeing minutes.

Forward

Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 61’ for Ruidiaz)

This was a pretty typical Bruin game. He touched the ball 13 times in 60 minutes (five fewer than RR in twice the time) and completed 75% of his eight passes. He contributed two shots and a key pass. That’s about it for Will, who wasn’t a factor against Vancouver.

One thing I liked: In the 31st he had a touch in the box that created a shot chance for V-Rod.

One thing I didn’t like: His game has gotten too cute, with backheels and flicks a big part of his limited touches. In the 57th, with space to control and shoot, Bruin chose to dummy the ball onto Leerdam, who was neither prepared nor in a good position to do anything with it. “Trying shit” isn’t always the best, especially for Bruin, who can play solidly without it.

Going forward: It can’t be easy to sub out for the guy who has ostensibly replaced you on the roster, and who gets a standing ovation. Bruin may talk Schmetzer into trying two forwards but if not, it’s likely he’ll have to pick his spots to get Will time. Bruin is a guy who can produce when asked late to push numbers forward, and that’s a possible role for him as the season continues.

Substitutes

Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 45’ for Rodriguez)

Alonso came into this game right before halftime and was okay. For only playing half the match he had an amazing 61 touches (equal to Roldan) and was tidy (93%) passing the ball. He was neither offensively nor defensively a standout, instead doing okay holding shape through the middle and passing the ball around the back. He did have a questionable tackle in the box that might have been a penalty, but was otherwise clean.

One thing I liked: Alonso held the ball much less this match, frequently playing one- and two-touch passes around the back instead of holding the ball and losing possession.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 76th minute he was wayyyyyy out of position and Vancouver immediately exploited the space behind him for a shot.

Going forward: This was a better outing for him, and while Vancouver helped by not being great, Alonso looked like a player who might earn minutes as the season continues. I still don’t think he is firmly a starter, but in this game with the team trying to kill the ball with possession, he did well.

Raul Ruidiaz – 7 | Community – 6.6 (on 61’ for Bruin)

Welcome to the Sounders! Ruidiaz only played 30 minutes but packed the stat sheet with a shot, 100% completion rate on his 10 passes, and even made two tackles. More importantly he showed the dynamic attacking that he is known for, continually pressing the Vancouver back line and creating trouble his entire shift.

One thing I liked: In the 68th minute he showed why I’m so high on him. Drifting around Kendall Waston, Ruidiaz made sure the defender was watching him, then slid into the hole between the Whitecaps back four and midfield. Forcing Waston to adjust, Raul then burst in behind, latching onto a perfect Lodeiro through ball. Using his body (now in between Waston and the goal), he charged into the box and forced a good save from keeper Stefan Marinovic. This was exceptional: high soccer-IQ players combining well.

One thing I didn’t like: Waston got a yellow for hacking Ruidiaz immediately upon arrival. He’s a strong player, but I sincerely hope that teams don’t decide the only way to beat him is to break him.

Going forward: If you haven’t read my preview on RR, it’s here, and it held up pretty well after one game of analysis. Having RR up at the point should make Seattle a consistently better team offensively and give the Sounders a homerun threat when a midfielder finds space and time to look for his runs.

Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 85’ for Leerdam)

When you’re asked to come in late guarding a two-goal lead, you want to do exactly what Delem did. He went 8/8 passing, played wide defense and allowed Seattle to give Leerdam a bit of a rest on a busy week.

One thing I liked: in the 91st Delem showed well, gaining the ball and then turning, head up, to find an open teammate.

One thing I didn’t like: It might have been a little cruel to play Delem at right back, where he has struggled.

Going forward: You can only do your best when given the chance, and if Delem wants to remain in the 18 it will likely be by doing exactly what he did: come in late, do your job, don’t make mistakes, and close out a match.

Referee

Chris Penso – 9 | Community – 6.5

This was one of the best referee jobs, on par with Armando Villarreal and Robert Sibiga earlier this year, and receives my highest grade on the season. It helped that Seattle scored early and Vancouver wasn’t able to do much, but there were a combined 35 fouls called and I thought Penso did well to keep the game from getting out of hand.

One thing I liked: After (imo) completely screwing Seattle and Dempsey earlier via a VAR designation, Penso did well to listen to his assistants and reverse a PK called versus Marshall in the 49th minute. This was combined with an unhesitating PK called correctly earlier and the sending off of Juarez in the 78th which defined a very strong, consistent day on the whistle.

One thing I didn’t like: He kept asking Seattle to play faster, and at some point, needs to be more assertive or give cautions if he truly thinks they are stalling.

Going forward: All his calls made sense, were reasonable, and when needed he used the tools (AR, VAR, etc.) to make the right calls. This makes his Dempsey call even more amazing, and maybe we’re lucky Clint didn’t play this match to test the “Penso hates Dempsey” theory.

Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM

Vancouver’s Man of the Match was Kendall Waston, I guess?


This was a great win, but there is much work to be done before we are in the playoff race. It starts with getting points from teams we should be better than, even on the road — that means three in San Jose on Wednesday.