Going on the road on short rest to play the San Jose Earthquakes, a team that Seattle always struggles with, was destined to be a nervy affair. It was exactly that, with poor field conditions adding to a sloppy overall game. Seattle had the best player on the field, and when he had a chance to change the scoreline, new DP Raul Ruidiaz sealed the 1-0 Sounder win. Seattle continues to pick up hugely valuable points on the road and come back to the Pacific Northwest with all three points against a team they have always had trouble with.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.1
I was surprised to see that San Jose had outshot Seattle 13-10 with five on target, until I went back and re-watched the Earthquakes take a ton of weak, right-at-Frei shots. In this game he was never really tested, instead cleanly “saving” soft shots to him and perfectly catching crosses in traffic.
One thing I liked: Another clean sheet! This is a trend we like and Seattle showed that even with multiple replacements on the backline, this team can keep the opponent from scoring goals. That’s great news for a team looking to go on a summer run. Frei did his part, cleanly catching and distributing.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first 25 minutes Seattle was on the back foot, and Stef fed into that by playing short and/or putting the ball into play quickly. This forced a somewhat shell-shocked defense to immediately be under the gun. He should organize his team quicker and calm them down.
Going forward: Seattle’s defense is on a roll, giving up two goals in their last five matches (0.4 GAA) which is tremendous. If they can keep up that kind of performance while rotating defenders, a run is very possible, especially with Frei able to step up as needed.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.4
I liked what Nouhou did in this match, and San Jose had zero success attacking down his left side. His defense is improving as the season moves on, and even with new partner Kim, Nouhou showed why he’s so good. His speed prevents anyone from getting down the line to cross in, and his strength allows him to body up smaller wingers and push them off the ball. In addition, his defensive awareness is increasing, and we saw in the 55th minute when he slid across to mark Chris Wondolowski that our young left back is making great decisions.
One thing I liked: The “ShouHou” combination down the left side. Harry Shipp and Nouhou worked excellently together, defending in unison and also creating attacking opportunities when Nouhou overlapped into space. The left side was very strong for Seattle, and these two were a threat in both directions.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou didn’t get the credit he deserves for his offensive play: in the first minute he perfectly found Ruidiaz for an open shot. I would love to see Seattle finally score off one of the HouTrain’s strong offensive runs, because he has created many good chances and deserves credit for that.
Going forward: I was happy to see that Nouhou hasn’t just been protected by Dad all this time; his ability to combine with Kim and Shipp was great. He is a young, dynamic player at left back and he continues to improve.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 7.4
Playing a somewhat new position at left center back and flanked by Nouhou and Torres, Kim was exceptional. It has been such a joy to watch this guy integrate with the team, and he continues to play at a high level no matter who is around him. It’s quite exciting to know that we have this guy locked up for a few more years.
One thing I liked: SAH contributor Mark Kastner said it best. Both Goose and Kim hustle back on this play, but I want to highlight Kim’s positioning and speed. These are both huge assets. Right before half he is the fastest guy on the field to recover defensively, and then he is head up, finding his man and marking him, allowing Seattle to defend the counter. This is awesome effort, desire and skill, and is the kind of thing that separates him from the other center backs on the roster.
One thing I didn’t like: Early on, he wasn’t on the same page as Torres, and it took Kim a while to adjust from Marshall’s steady positioning to Torres’ roaming.
Going forward: Kim is making a very strong case as the best center back on this team. That is tremendous.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.4
Stats-wise Roman looks amazing. 11 clearances! Unfortunately, a majority of these were defensive headers directly back to San Jose, and his 61% passing was indicative of his “just clear it out” defensive mindset. More so than the other center backs, Roman is dependent on the players around him, and is only as good as his outside back. In this match it took Torres a while to adjust to the erratic and struggling play of Osvaldo Alonso and Jordan McCrary. After a rough start, though, Torres settled down fairly well, and once he hammered out the defensive issues around him looked solid.
One thing I liked: In the 77th minute with Seattle holding onto a slim lead, Quincy Amarikwa burst into the attack for San Jose and when matched up with a backpedaling Torres looked to have the advantage. Instead, Roman played excellent 1-v-1 defense and won the ball cleanly, turning back the attack.
One thing I didn’t like: He just lost the ball so much. Nearly all of his passes seemed to go right to an opponent, and it was lucky that he didn’t pay more of a price for that. I know he can make better entry passes that skip a line and jumpstart the offense, but this game didn’t show that.
Going forward: It’s a luxury to have Torres play so well. I consider him the third center back on the team although he’d be an obvious starter for most other teams in the league. Seattle has an abundance of talent in this position and it’s great to be able to interchange and play tactical matchups or give rest as needed.
Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 5.7
McCrary had a big adjustment in this match, and some of the holes in his game showed early. He’s still young and dependent on defensive help from those around him. Instead of the range of Kim and Cristian Roldan supporting him, McCrary had the limited mobility of Torres and Alonso. This, when combined with Nicolas Lodeiro’s meanderings, left McCrary isolated, and as a result he was thoroughly picked on by San Jose early. A smart halftime move put Roldan in front of him which helped a lot.
One thing I liked: McCrary has tremendous offensive instincts, and his service from the wings is really nice. On multiple occasions he got into the attacking half and sent in beautiful passes, including a 19th minute cross that was perfect.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first 25 minutes, McCrary struggled to deal with the overload on his side. He exacerbated this by being badly out of position on a few occasions, and it took too long for him to adjust. Once he realized that he had no cover and couldn’t support Nico up the line, he tucked in defensively and was fine.
Going forward: This was a backup right back who played like a backup in this match. He’s in no danger of stealing the starting position from Leerdam, but as a midweek fill-in he’s quite good, and was as deserving of the shutout as any of his peers.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.4
The Goose was hugely under-appreciated in this match and yet was perhaps the most important player on the field. For the first 25 minutes he should have had a siren on his head as he flew around the pitch putting out fires left and right. His three tackles, three interceptions and two clearances included multiple key defensive actions early. His teammates’ positional issues were dire, and without Svensson’s incredible work rate and tactical awareness, Seattle might have conceded multiple goals.
One thing I liked: Goose had some great defensive work in the middle, and it was his pressure in the 62nd minute that created the turnover Seattle scored off of. He doesn’t get forward and do offensive things much, but this was a great example of his defense creating opportunity.
One thing I didn’t like: He was badly beat in the 18th minute in the midfield, and at that point he was the entire midfield, so San Jose immediately got a strong attack through the position he was supposed to be occupying.
Going forward: Svensson seems able to drop into nearly any position on the field and do the right thing, which displays his very high soccer IQ. He should continue to play big minutes in nearly every game, with Coach Schmetzer leaning on his versatility to make tactical adjustments.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 6.4 (Off 79’ for Dempsey)
Many people were happy with Alonso this week, but I saw a severely flawed performance. He immediately lost the ball at the beginning of the match while trying to dribble past someone and then was caught out and walking back. The first 20 minutes were a disaster for Ozzie, who was slow and out of position, putting immense pressure on his teammates to cover for him. Luckily, they did, and Alonso eased his way into the game and looked solid for the rest of his time. As usual he was impeccable with the ball, passing at a 97% clip, spraying balls safely wide but rarely forward.
One thing I liked: Alonso worked himself into the game after a poor start, and was serviceable in the middle, which makes me think he may just need fitness to be an effective MLS player. In the 44th minute he made a fantastic gliding run up field on the dribble, giving hope he might not be completely done.
One thing I didn’t like: It can’t take 20 minutes for our starting defensive midfielder to get into the match. Seattle was lucky to weather his walking and out of position play without conceding.
Going forward: I love Ozzie and this match kindled some hope that he could still provide something to the team. This grade raises quite a bit if he can play an entire shift as well as he did after the first 20 to 25 minutes. We know he is going to control the ball and make safe passes, but can he recognize his physical limitations and play better defensively for an entire outing?
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.1 (Off 87’ for A. Roldan)
Once again, Shipp showed he is willing to do all the little things necessary to help this team win. Against San Jose that meant dominating the left side via ShouHou, and opening space for teammates. Remember last week when I said Shipp didn’t open up Nouhou as well as V-Rod had done? Huge improvement this week and they combined wonderfully both directions. As usual Harry had a few shots, a key pass and some defensive actions, 91% passing, but his real value to this team is how much he works to help those around him. Shipp relentlessly reads the game and adjusts to his teammates’ movements in ways that continually create space for Seattle.
One thing I liked: Watching Shipp is so fun, because his movement always has a purpose. It took a great defensive play in the 20th minute to block a shot from Harry, who faked outside and snuck into the box on a diagonal and redirected a Lodeiro through ball on frame. Although this shot was blocked, it fell right to Ruidiaz, who nearly scored.
One thing I didn’t like: Harry wasn’t able to connect too well with Roldan, who seemed somewhat lost in the middle. Roldan’s movement prevented Shipp from getting central and connecting.
Going forward: When Shipp plays, good things happen. He should play.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.4
A lot of people (myself included) have thought about the idea of Roldan in a “destroyer 10” central attacker role. While I think it’s a good idea against teams that use that area for playmaking, San Jose wasn’t that team. Roldan did lead the team with five tackles and added two key passes, but for a large part of the game looked lost on how to impact the match.
One thing I liked: When moved out wide, Cristian flourished. This move was smart, as Roldan was already floating wide anyway, and with the comfort of the wing came his assist, a driving dribble into space in the 62nd minute before lofting a pass to Ruidiaz, who did Ruidiaz things.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 20th minute Roldan got the ball in a great attacking spot and was completely lost. Instead of driving at the goal or moving the ball through the middle, he hesitated and missed a big opportunity to push.
Going forward: Against a team like Toronto, etc., who rely on deeper creation, Roldan destroying from the front can be effective. As an everyday position, I think Cristian needs to be deeper, central, and allowed to dominate as we know he can.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.5
After a number of huge games recently, Nico had a bit of an off match. His “off” match still had him touch the ball 20 more times than any other Sounder (Nouhou) and included three shots and three key passes, but Lodeiro struggled to impact the match. He especially seemed to be affected by the turf, which was loose and terrible, creating numerous slips and trips when he tried to cut.
One thing I liked: Even less directly effective, Nico’s movement is mind-boggling. His work rate is so high that he is part of nearly every defensive or offensive action. When Seattle subbed Alonso it was Nico, not Cristian, who was moved back to defensive midfield, and he played well there.
One thing I didn’t like: This was a somewhat sloppy game for Nico, who “just missed” a number of passes and connections. He was a little off combining with Ruidiaz, and he forced a few plays.
Going forward: It’s possible a deep playmaker role is best for Nico, but whatever the position we know he is going to float and look for defensive weaknesses and overloads.
Raul Ruidiaz – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.6 (MOTM) (off 66’ for Bruin)
I’ve gotta give the man of the match to Ruidiaz. He wasn’t the best player on the field (that was Kim), but when asked to provide some magic, he did exactly that. The rest of his game was quite strong as well, with a key pass, some defensive (!) actions, and incredible passing in addition to his goal. Raul went 22/22 in this match and has yet to fail to complete a pass attempt as a Sounder.
One thing I liked: The goal. RR gets a touch in the buildup, then darts forward into the space between defenders. His positioning is absolutely perfect, and unteachable. He senses the run of Lodeiro back post and shades that way a little bit to force a decision, then steps to the ball immediately when it leaves Roldan’s foot. The first touch is directly to set up a shot, and unlike many others he didn’t need multiple dribbles in the box or touches that allow defenders to recover and give the keeper a better angle. Ruidiaz hits it on the half volley with absolutely perfect form. Landing on his kicking foot ensures that his incredible power is fully thrust through the ball, which is past the keeper before he has any chance to parry. Brilliant play that he made look fairly easy.
One thing I didn’t like: An early shot from a Nouhou cross was pushed wide, another free ball after a Shipp shot was blocked landed on his foot and he didn’t get it on frame. These are likely just some rust, but I’d love to see him bury those.
Going forward: This is pretty much exactly what was advertised. I was impressed with his desire to come back and play some holdup soccer, which helped the team out — but as soon as he gets one touch in midfield he is immediately back to the front, exactly where he belongs.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.6 (On 66’ for Ruidiaz)
Bruin was brought on for Ruidiaz and immediately found out how much space the Peruvian DP had created in the defense. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what to do with this room and failed to connect with his teammates effectively (56% passing).
One thing I liked: Bruin was somehow given a key pass for a short layoff to Dempsey who slipped trying a 45-yard shot in the 88th minute. His movement was good, but ineffective.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 67th minute he got the ball on a break and just passed the ball to no one, completely missing Nico who was in good position.
Going forward: I hoped to see more from Bruin in this match, given 30 minutes to come in against tired defenders and use his skillset to offset what RR had done. This is likely his role on the team going forward, and if so he needs to improve.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 79’ for Alonso)
Clint doesn’t come on as a sub much, but he made the most of his time against San Jose. 86% passing including some great holdup and a ton of really nice interlinking with the midfield were in addition to two shots and nearly scoring a layup at the end. Dempsey looks capable of connecting well with Sounders as they play quickly through the midfield and spring forward.
One thing I liked: Clint was so active linking up, one- and two-touch passing that completely eviscerated the tired San Jose midfield. He showed a nice touch and some of his signature flair.
One thing I didn’t like: I wish he would have scored that last shot. He deserved it from good play and it’s unfortunate he hit the post.
Going forward: I was excited to see him look so good on the ball, and definitely see a future where Clint plays well for a strong Sounders team. If this is the role he is asked to play, he looked great in it. His vision and passing look like they’ll fit with Ruidiaz as well.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 87’ for Shipp)
One thing I liked: Roldan the younger earned a key pass for finding Dempsey at the end, and likely should have had an assist. Nice vision to find the open man.
One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t pass the ball forward other than the one to Clint at the end. Ostensibly a defensive sub, he had zero defensive actions and 83% passing.
Going forward: A-Rold got some time, on the road. This may not be as valuable as S2 time but until others get healthy that’s about what he can expect for minutes.
Kevin Stott – 8 | Community – 6.1
Another great referee performance this week with Stott controlling the game well without needing to card or call a ton of fouls (15 total fouls, 1 card).
One thing I liked: There weren’t a lot of advantage plays, but in the 72nd minute I noted a very good one, as Alonso hacked a San Jose player and Stott correctly allowed play to continue with the Earthquakes on a break.
One thing I didn’t like: I thought the gameplay was good, but there were a few times that physical play was allowed to go unpunished and had someone like suspended Earthquake player Anibal Godoy been playing, there could have been issues with midfield hacking.
Going forward: This was a nice performance from Stott. This type of referee seems to fit well with Seattle’s clean style and his communication on the field is excellent.
San Jose Earthquakes MOTM
Shea Salinas was a constant threat from left back, particularly in the early stages of the match. Pushing forward, he was able to overload the left and bring an extra dynamic to the San Jose attack.
Seattle is on a nice run currently, but they are in for a big test with NYCFC incoming this weekend. Although New York is likely without a few big names, Seattle must show that they can defend their home field as they are capable of. It’s going to be hot, so come hydrated!
*These ratings approved by Nimajneb.