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Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Player ratings

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Victor Rodriguez gives glimpse of what team can achieve. Sounders score multiple goals, still lose.

It’s a sad day in Sounderland when a home loss to Portland is considered fairly expected. The 2-3 loss was entertaining and featured lots of goals, but the result wasn’t a surprise. That sucks as a fan, but until this team starts to play as well as the talent on the field should be able to, that’s what we are going to get. Annoyingly, it was the set piece defense that repeatedly let the team down, as they just find new ways to lose.


Goalkeeper

Bryan Meredith – 6 | Community – 5.3

Asked to start a game for Seattle for the first time in six (?) years, Meredith started out well and did a decent job as a Frei replacement. It is telling, however, that once again a backup Sounders keeper played a regular season MLS match and once again the Sounders gave up three goals. There is more to goalkeeping than just saving shots and we should appreciate the organization Frei provides in front of his goal.

One thing I liked: In the 22nd minute with Seattle firmly in the game, Portland earned a corner kick and Larrys Mabiala won a header on goal. Meredith not only leapt to his right to get a hand on the ball, he was able to keep it from goal and give Seattle time to try to earn a lead in the match.

One thing I didn’t like: In the first half he made good use of the punch, being very aggressive and coming out in crowds to win the ball, but I thought he got more and more tentative as the score line changed and the game moved along. He needs to keep that edge.

Going forward: There were little things that I really liked, with Meredith making smart decisions on when not to mess around with the ball in the back. He did better than expected, and I would like to see him continue to build off his Open Cup and this match to continue to show that he can be more than a “questionable backup.”

Defense

Waylon Francis – 4 | Community – 3.8 (off 81’ for Nouhou)

After Nouhou was my MOTM in the last Portland game, I thought he was a sure start this week, but lo and behold, there was Francis. He did little to impress, somehow combining poor defensive positioning with ineffective offense, failing to complete any of his 10 entry passes into the box in the match. Defensively Francis had a measly three recoveries and struggled to defend against Portland after a middling first half; his second half was dreadful.

One thing I liked: He made a concerted effort to get into the attack all match. 75% of his touches were in the Portland half and he continually pushed the left side high as Victor Rodriguez pinched in.

One thing I didn’t like: 1-v-1 defense is integral to stopping a counter-attacking team that looks to spring a single attacker or two forward. In the 57th minute Francis completely botched his 1-v-1 defense on Samuel Armenteros, losing position, setting up badly, letting a left footed player easily back to his strong foot, allowing a nearly uncontested shot, etc. This was just startlingly bad defense from a player who hasn’t defended well in a single match all year. Also of note: he unnecessarily gave up the game winning corner kick, off another poor defensive play.

Going forward: I don’t know why he keeps getting chances to play ahead of Nouhou, who has been markedly better. I don’t know what the staff sees in him, but it’s costing the team goals. I would like to see either some semblance of play that justifies his continued playing time or stop giving him time.

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.1

Chad had a very quiet defensive shift against Portland, mostly because the away team rarely possessed the ball in the Sounders half and looked to score from buildup. Instead, they utilized quick counters and set pieces, and scored off both of these methods.

One thing I liked: In the 68th minute Marshall scored his first goal of the season and it was a beauty off a corner kick. This is the kind of dominant aerial force we have seen him be, but that requires consistent quality service to utilize his skills.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 74th minute it was Chad being beat by Mabiala, getting outjumped and conceding the game winning goal. Mabiala was by far their most dangerous attacker in the match and he traded goals with Marshall.

Going forward: I don’t know how often Marshall will be beaten on set pieces, but it’s worth watching as Portland had consistent success there just in case a tiny chink in Marshall’s armor has been found. Other than a few missteps, this was exactly the kind of game that you would expect Chad to produce, and I believe he can continue this level of play moving forward in the season.

Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 5.7

Kim had a lot more movement than Marshall, often showing off great speed to track runners through zone 14 and preventing Portland from getting in behind. On the few times the Timbers managed to get down the field, Kim was able to recover well and was in good position to support the defensive effort.

One thing I liked: With Armenteros deep in the box in the 11th minute, Kim completely dominated the tricky Portland forward, smoothly tackling the ball away and shutting down a good chance for the away side. Kim has been excellent when tasked with 1-v-1 defending in the box.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 48th minute he lost Mabiala on a corner kick and Portland opened the scoring in the match. Kim has shown a number of problems with aerial defense, and he must improve this aspect of his game to remain the starter when Torres returns.

Going forward: I am really high on the Kim/Marshall pairing in the back and I believe this is the best combination even though Torres is likely to return soon. I would like to see Kim both tighten up his aerial defense and add some offense to his game on set pieces as well, as these are the biggest deficiencies I see.

Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 4.5 (off 81’ for Shipp)

McCrary provided what you want from a backup right back. He defended well, got forward on a number of occasions, and limited mistakes. He doesn’t have the offensive fluidity of Kelvin Leerdam, but I thought Jordan did well to fill the consistent hole that Nicolas Lodeiro leaves on the right side. This was a solid, unspectacular match from a guy who was apparently playing hurt.

One thing I liked: In the 19th minute McCrary cherry picked a defender, showed off his great speed to get up the line, and made a nice cross to Will Bruin, who wasted this chance. Jordan needs to do this more often, as he looks great when he surges into the attack like that.

One thing I didn’t like: His offensive impact on the game is nonexistent, and other than a late shot he didn’t take advantage of the space Seattle created.

Going forward: With Alonso an awful void of help in front of him, I understand why McCrary didn’t get into the attack much, but I believe his future here is as a decent defender who can use his speed to race into the offensive third and put pressure on teams. In the 59th minute he had a carbon copy of the play Armenteros had just scored on against Francis, and Jordan completely handled his 1-v-1 defense on the break. He is not quite there yet, but the potential shows on both ends of the ball to be a good MLS player.

Defensive Midfield

Osvaldo Alonso – 4 | Community – 4.4

It’s frustrating to think “Ozzie hasn’t been bad for a few minutes” while watching a soccer game. This thought was then almost immediately reversed as he did something that made me cringe before another few minutes of not-terrible play. He just isn’t good right now in spite of near-perfect passing numbers, and I am not sure if the small improvement he showed in this game was due to increased fitness or not, but there was no reason for him to play 90 against Portland. He found himself way too wide time and time again and Diego Valeri had nearly free reign behind him on multiple occasions to create opportunities for the away team. To compound things, Ozzie continually tried to do things that failed and immediately put enormous pressure on the defense.

One thing I liked: In the 40th minute Alonso stepped up well to win the ball in the offensive half, something that “the old Ozzie” would have done, and that gave me pause on completely condemning his play. This play at least showed he can do a few things well, especially when he plays within himself.

One thing I didn’t like: I could note him easily being rounded in the 8th minute and being too slow to recover or making an awful decision to head a weak ball back towards his own goal that was nearly shoved into the goal three minutes later, but the play that frustrated me the most happened in the 22nd minute. Alonso inexplicably tried to dribble through multiple people and after predictably being dispossessed, Asprilla had a near instant shot. This complete lack of self-awareness of his current skill level was shocking.

Going forward: I didn’t see anything to move him in front of Delem on the depth chart for me, as at least Jordy plays solid predictable defense, something that I bet Marshall and others would love right now in front of them. As a longtime fan of Alonso, I want to think that he can work his way back to fitness and offer an option off the bench. Right now, I don’t see him being a starter on any team trying to win and he’s actively hurting the team.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.7

Back in his best position, Roldan was excellent against Portland. With Alonso badly struggling, it was up to Roldan to summon superhuman endurance and play 90 minutes all over the field. Both of these guys struggled to contain the excellent Valeri, who was constantly finding space and releasing runners towards goal. I thought Roldan did a very good job covering both ways.

One thing I liked: Right before halftime Roldan snuck forward and found a bit of space and the ball. He first-timed a dangerous shot that forced a good save from Timbers keeper Jeff Attinella. This was a great example of how Roldan knows when and where to get into the attack and be a direct option.

One thing I didn’t like: I realize he was chasing space left by Alonso, and covering for advanced outside backs, but neither of the defensive mids did a good job on Valeri, who continually found space in between the lines and looked to release attacks. Someone has to deny him the ball or limit his ability to facilitate quick counters, and Seattle failed at that.

Going forward: This was more of what we should expect from Roldan, who can be a league dominant player from this defensive midfield position. If we give him the help he needs in there, Seattle can and should be a strong team defensively, and he is still awesome at covering ground in front of the back four.

Attacking Midfield

Victor Rodriguez – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 6.8 (MOTM)

I’ve heard a few people say stuff like V-Rod is a bust, we should get rid of him, and he’s injury prone etc. Games like this one against Portland show exactly how valuable he is, and what an incredibly good player he is. He was the most dynamic player on the field, constantly creating for others and making phenomenal runs for himself. He scored a goal while leading the team with four shots and kicking in a key pass to boot. Rodriguez was consistently goal dangerous every time he touched the ball and really showed what Seattle has been missing this season.

One thing I liked: The easy answer is his goal, but it was so much more than a goal. Victor started his run before Nico even got fully turned on the wing and he was just so smart in attacking the space. This is what great players do. They go to where the ball should be, and for one of the first times in the season, a guy on the other end was able to put it there.

One thing I didn’t like: He struggled some with Francis and seemed to utilize Nouhou’s runs much better last week. He also hasn’t been able to link up with Bruin this season.

Going forward: Rodriguez is a very good player and people need to learn his off-ball movement and get him possession in dangerous areas. Having a forward to link up with will be a huge bonus to him, as he’s currently forced to go mainly square with his play. The more quality around him, the better he is likely to perform.

Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 4.1

Dempsey was very good until about 25 yards from goal, which is a big problem for a central attacking mid. He struggled to get the ball in good positions. While I was actually oksy with his effort and movement, it again was too similar to the runs of Bruin as these two (literally at times) were tripping over each other. This game accentuated Seattle’s current problems. When you have to build your team around protecting Alonso or carrying Dempsey, others will suffer. Clint wasn’t necessarily bad, but we can and should expect much more out of him if he’s going to play centrally.

One thing I liked: In the 72nd minute Clint made a gorgeous run behind the defense and was in on goal via a Lodeiro pass only to have Attinella come way out of his box to intercept. This was a great example of how these two might play if there was no one in front of Dempsey more often (or someone who knew how to create space for others).

One thing I didn’t like: When given a chance to make a play in the 44th minute, Clint was unceremoniously stuffed by Alvas Powell. It appeared that Clint didn’t have either skill, speed, or ideas to get by a very average defender, and he looked very bad trying.

Going forward: I know there are ways to put him in good position to help this team, but at what price? He and Bruin don’t appear to be able to play together any more, and his link-up play with others is suspect as well. It no longer seems worth it to set up the team to protect Dempsey’s accumulating faults, but I think that there are lineup changes that could help both him and the team.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.5

While V-Rod was the engine of the offense, Nico was the steering wheel. All match the offense flowed through Lodeiro to the tune of four key passes and numerous other dangerous attacks. Nico didn’t have a ton of success completing passes forward (74%) but he attempted an awesome 17 passes into or directly at the Portland goal box.

One thing I liked: In the 51st minute he made a tremendous cross to the back post. This was a spectacular play that very few in the league could even think to do, let alone convert on. The pass was sublime, but I really loved how smart he was in making it. Four minutes prior, he had put a similar pass on a free kick that nearly scored, and Nico trusted that if he continued to put the ball in dangerous spots someone on his team would be there.

One thing I didn’t like: In the first half Nico wasn’t moving the ball quickly enough. He was often looking for the killer pass instead of the quick pass and move combination. Much of this looks like a lack of trust with some teammates.

Going forward: Looking at Valeri’s consistent, near perfect set piece delivery, I have hopes that Nico can do the same for us. Lodeiro is only going to get better with pace up front, as Nico continually put Morris in great spots every time they are on the field, and is already dialing up the good (not great) pace of V-Rod for goals. As Seattle gets additions from injury and signings, look for Nico to go on a tear stats-wise.

Forward

Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 4.8

20 touches this week. One shot. Zero completed passes towards goal (one attempt). I just don’t know what to say about this slump Bruin is in other than repeating “if he’s hurt, why is he playing; if he’s not, why is he playing so badly?” It’s beyond frustrating to see such little movement from the point of the offense and your forward cannot have eight total touches in the offensive half against a team that is bunkering and countering! Through it all, Bruin continues to play full games and offer little to his teammates.

One thing I liked: In the 44th minute he earned a key pass for a nice layoff at the top of the box, creating a shot for Roldan.

One thing I didn’t like: Again, Bruin and Dempsey were constantly stagnant and in each other’s space, with horrible results in the 57th as Will literally ran into Clint after passing him the ball. Then, Portland stole the ball, ran down field, and scored. WTF?

Going forward: I don’t know how Dempsey, Bruin, and Alonso are all getting starts right now and I sure don’t understand how all three played 90 this match. I would like to rest Bruin and get him healed up so he can be a quality bench option instead of running him out there to struggle. He completely quit multiple times in this match and I think the first move to make is to have Will be a substitute option next match.

Substitutes

Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 5.1 (on 81’ for McCrary)

Shipp was forced to sit and watch Seattle struggle for 81 minutes before finally being asked to come in, and then he was shoved over to the left and got 10 touches.

One thing I liked: He covered defensively for both his wing and central, as Seattle shoved numbers forward. This was by necessity, and kind of killed any offensive impetus he may have been asked to bring, but I always appreciate his smart play.

One thing I didn’t like: Shipp had so little time to get into the game and looked to be almost an afterthought sub going down a depth chart. I don’t know what the staff thought he was going to add to the game. He had no real chances to change the game, and I would have liked to see him come play in front of Roldan on the right, a combination that was very good all of … a week ago.

Going forward: Shipp is a good linking player who can combine well with others and accentuate their skills. He is good at releasing a quality offensive outside back like Roldan and should be used as a player who is going to improve everyone around him.

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 4.9 (on 81’ for Francis)

I am not sure the point of both outside backs being replaced, but Nouhou looked to be defensive and covering speed-wise as Seattle pushed Chad Marshall forward. In his nine minutes of play Nouhou had two recoveries (compared to Francis’ three in the 81 minutes prior) and did well to shut down Portland from getting a game ending goal.

One thing I liked: Nouhou was great on defense, first 1-v-1 in the 84th, then outstanding defense in the 88th and again in the 91st.

One thing I didn’t like: If he was expected to be an offensive threat, that is contrary to everything the coach has stated.

Going forward: Nouhou is clearly the better left back for Seattle (5.5 to 4.6 in my ratings) and should be starting every match the team wants to win.

Third sub – 0

Not used for…reasons.

Referee

Ismael Elfath – 5 | Community – 4.6

Elfath always lets a lot go. It was no surprise he let a lot go. It’s annoying that you must prepare for a ref to be bad, but here we are in MLS. What was more annoying was as the game progressed the story didn’t add up, as he was very inconsistent.

One thing I liked: After the 85th minute Elfath gave three justified yellow cards.

One thing I didn’t like: Valeri high kick, Kim pull down, Powell professional foul, Dempsey hammered — all these were yellow cards that weren’t given. They are easy cards to give, and yet they weren’t, which then changes the entire way people have to play soccer. Instead we got Diego Chara with multiple “last warnings,” etc.

Going forward: Stop being cute. Just call the damn fouls and give the damn cards instead of trying to be mister negotiator and hand out a bunch of warnings until the game devolves into you rushing up to card someone on their first touch.

Portland Timbers MOTM

Larrys Mabiala had two game-altering headers via corners, but I’m amazed Diego Valeri didn’t come away with this award, as he assisted all three Portland goals and constantly found pockets of space within Seattle’s dysfunctional defensive midfield.


This week is a chance for a coach who appears to be struggling to be saved thanks to fixture congestion from having to make hard choices. The short week is a built in excuse to sit older/injured/ineffective players and maybe stumble into a lineup that compliments each other. Beating a bad Colorado team means this team has hope for the rest of the season. Losing is abject failure shared by everyone.