Seattle finally won a “must win” game. It came in July and on the road, against a Colorado team that had just gone on the road to beat Vancouver. The mighty Sounders came out with a solid team lineup that made sense and played on the front foot for the vast majority of the match. A few mental lapses and a definite drop in intensity after taking the lead twice led to a much closer match than was necessary. Seattle only put two shots on frame all match, although they consistently created a lot of pressure in the attacking third, which worked well for a team that desperately needed the full three points.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 8.3 (MOTM)
I may have been guilty of placing Frei in the same mold as Marshall — a veteran who does everything right so often that it becomes the norm, and rarely is expected, or needs, to do the spectacular. After an early blunder that cost points against LAFC, Frei has “only” averaged a 7 in the nine matches since. This includes back to back 8s with his match against Colorado showing that he can indeed provide the spectacular when Seattle needs it most. Frei was terrific in this game.
One thing I liked: Seattle had two huge defensive lapses, and each time Frei stepped up and carried the Sounders over the finish line. In the 40th with Badji getting in behind, Stef stood tall and stopped Colorado from stealing a lead going into halftime. In the 82nd with a debatable break and awful defending in front of him, Frei performed a herculean leap to his left to parry a goal-bound shot from Shkelzen Gashi and retain a lead. I’m not sure another keeper in the league could make that save.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 80th minute Frei misplayed a free kick badly, and I don’t know whether the altitude and wind helped or what happened, but instead of safely punching away, he feebly touched it out for a corner. Especially with pressure mounting, I’d like to see him just punch out and regroup.
Going forward: There is a huge upgrade from backup to starter with Frei, and he showed that he is indeed one of the top keepers in the league. With some quality returning to the defense and an upgraded offense hopefully taking some pressure off the back, I hope Stef will go on another shutout streak similar to last year, as his superior game management ability is showing as summer continues.
Waylon Francis – 3 | Community – 4.4
Thanks to a late yellow for Nouhou, we got the Francis adventure again at left back. To say Francis struggled would be an understatement. This was as bad as the Nouhou SKC game but luckily it didn’t end up costing Seattle points. Promised a refined, attacking left back, we’ve seen little of this. In addition, his defensive positioning has been shambolic and Seattle was lucky that only a single goal was scored as a direct consequence of his poor decisions.
One thing I liked: Francis did have two nice offensive plays, a 7th minute cross that Will Bruin wasn’t able to head on frame and a nice cut back cross from the end line to Nicolas Lodeiro in the 30th which was nearly a score.
One thing I didn’t like: He doesn’t seem to understand how to defend, namely how to be goal-side of a player. Players consistently get in between him and the goal and that’s how Colorado’s 40th minute goal was scored. His defense on at least six other occasions was just as poor, and it was only Frei’s heroics that saved Francis from being directly responsible for multiple goals.
Going forward: With a chance to make the left back role a competition, Francis has fallen on his face in the last two matches. He was a huge defensive liability and offered almost nothing constructive going forward. I don’t know if he has just lost the plot or is indeed this bad, but he needs to regroup and figure out whether he’s an MLS-level player.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.6
Marshall isn’t exactly built to play against quick counterattacking teams that want to pump stuff over the top and run, but as usual, he adjusted his positioning well and prevented Colorado from getting in behind. A steady defensive effort came along with 92% passing and a surprising two shots. The defensive shape was very solid.
One thing I liked: In the 66th minute Dominique Badji had a head of steam and the ball and was surging towards goal when Marshall inserted his giant frame in between him and goal and just slowly turned him bit by bit until Badji was no longer attacking goal but forced backwards. Badji was so frustrated that he lost possession and committed a yellow card foul. This was just a beautiful display of using your body and positioning to mitigate any speed deficiency and it was absolutely perfect.
One thing I didn’t like: Marshall lost Jack McBean badly in the 92nd minute, nearly allowing the Colorado forward a chance to whiff on a shot. I would love to see the veteran defender close out the game and help prevent these nervy moments as we cling to a lead.
Going forward: It’s Chad Marshall. He’s going to be quietly great and combine with whoever is around him to give Seattle its best chance to win games. Marshall is getting more and more offensive chances which is just another weapon for a guy whose defense is as good today as it was when he arrived in town.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.2
I heard some complaints about Kim in this game and frankly, I didn’t see it. He led Seattle in interceptions, often darting forward to prevent Colorado a chance to start their offense. Kim had a shot, converted 84% of his passes and was in good position most of the match. In addition, his elite defensive pace allowed him to stick with the fast Colorado forwards and limit them from getting in behind.
One thing I liked: Kim was consistently across to support any time Marshall was pulled out of the left central channel, and every time Colorado thought they might have some success getting in behind, Kim popped up to clear danger. His connection with Marshall is excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few high profile “mistakes” that were really just unfortunate bad luck. A slip on defense in the 71st gave Badji a sliver of space that required the ever-vigilant Marshall to slide across, and a mis-kicked clearance almost summoned the ghost of Owen Goal (although I think he’s in Russia). It’s hard to blame Kim for being smacked in the face on Colorado’s best chance of the second half.
Going forward: This is the defensive performance that we would expect consistently from the back two, only being beat on a sequence of poor soccer from the ref, outside back, and defense in front of them. This pairing looks strong, although I would like to see a few of those free-range “shutouts” that I’ve heard about.
Jordan McCrary – 6 | Community – 5.4
With McCrary and Kim, Seattle has tremendous speed on the right. When paired with a winger who knows how to incorporate the outside back, we suddenly saw McCrary the overlapping winger. I was pleased with how aggressively he played; he has mitigated the loss of Leerdam with some very strong two-way play.
One thing I liked: In the 47th minute McCrary not only took the ball into the offensive third with pace, he attacked the heart of the Rapids defense with his head up, charging into the middle, weaving through the defense and being goal-direct in ways that few outside backs on this team have done. He was eventually turned into the middle and found Nico, but this was a nice piece of soccering.
One thing I didn’t like: He was caught in possession a few times, and expectedly isn’t as clean with the ball as the TAM level player he is replacing. I would love for him to use his exceptional speed even more, with the intelligent Shipp covering for him and Kim able to monitor behind.
Going forward: I think McCrary has quietly turned into our best right back backup since Evans was healthy. He offers good speed, solid if unspectacular decision making, and he plays both directions. He is a great bench option should Leerdam be slow to return, and even a guy who can come on late defensively to hold a lead. (What’s that?)
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 5.7
I liked what Delem brought to this game. He was positionally sound all match, controlling the middle and drifting wide to support when necessary. He completed 90% of his passes and patrolled the middle in a calm, measured, defensive manner that has been missing from the Seattle central midfield. He earned four fouls merely from playing strong positional defense, forcing a frustrated Colorado to hack him as he consistently kept position for his team while protecting the back line.
One thing I liked: When Cristian Roldan was beat by Badji with pace down the wing in the 16th minute, there was Delem perfectly positioned in the direct middle of the field, defensively goal side of the break and preventing any penetration from the Rapids striker. After forcing this attack back, it was filtered down to the Colorado left wing and there was Delem again, earning a throw-in with stellar wide defense in support of McCrary.
One thing I didn’t like: Delem got beat up in the second half, but also lost some of his positioning as he tired late. With Colorado pressing high consistently after both goals, Delem had a few chances to control the game, slow things down, and offer a break to the defense, and he was only okay at doing so.
Going forward: Delem is better than Alonso at this point, both for how he plays individually, and for how much better he makes his teammates. Opening up Roldan, Nico, and Victor Rodriguez to be successful as well as sheltering the defensive back line from breaks is exactly what this team needs until that gorgeous Swedish guy — who is even better — returns from his little tournament.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.6
Unshackled from playing positions or combinations that don’t suit his strengths, Roldan was back with a vengeance against Colorado. He was perfectly placed in the middle of the field, pushing forward ahead of Delem and shading slightly left to defend in support of V-Rod. When it was appropriate, he pushed forward into the attack but was always aware of his defensive duties. I thought Seattle did a good job of defending the middle and forcing all attacks wide.
One thing I liked: In the 58th minute Roldan made a purely instinctual decision to charge at Gashi off a short roll-out from keeper Tim Howard. This instant pressure created a turnover that Seattle scored off immediately. This is the kind of play that stars make, unhesitatingly doing the exact right thing at the exact right moment to create a winning chance. He was also able to do it because he had confidence in Delem to cover for him.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 40th minute Roldan was marking the back-post run and then got a little lost. He had Francis behind him and correctly assumed support was coming (kinda), but he got caught in no man’s land in the middle of the box marking nothing.
Going forward: Back in his best position, Roldan did exactly what we expect from him. He defended excellently, transitioned well to offense, and was able to have impact on the score line from a deeper position. Look for more dominant performances as he continues to play like he’s capable of, and Seattle adds better pieces around him.
Victor Rodriguez – 7 | Community – 7.7 (off 85’ for Wolff)
Victor Rodriguez is offense in a bottle. He gets the ball and his one intent is to shove that ball through anyone in his way into the goal. It is tremendously fun to see a dynamic offensive player on a team that has been playing conservative, possession soccer. In this match his fingerprints were all over the offense, directing traffic and spraying dangerous passes around while adding a few near-goal shots of his own.
One thing I liked: In the 58th minute with Roldan creating a turnover, it was a little piece of V-Rod magic that created the goal. His one-touch chip was delicately over the 7-foot 9-inch Axel Sjoberg and dropped neatly onto the leg of Bruin for the game winning goal. Good players have the game slow down for them and this was a calm, perfect first-time touch amidst the chaos.
One thing I didn’t like: He came off in the 85th minute and I doubt he can play three games in a week, which is a shame because team offense has been much more goal-dangerous since his return.
Going forward: I hope he can play this weekend, but if he can’t, I hope he’s getting ready to team up with a new DP forward on offensive surges. V-Rod has been one of the best players on the field every time he has played healthy and he should continue to perform at a high level.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.3
This was a “quiet” game for Nico, who still had three shots, three key passes, led the team in touches, earned five fouls against, and ran Colorado’s midfield ragged over 90 minutes. The amount of disruption in opponents’ midfield when he is central and marauding around is immense, and Nico had nearly all of his touches in the Colorado half of the field pointing at their goal.
One thing I liked: In the 30th minute Nico popped up in the box and nearly hit an uncontested volley. This play might not have seemed big as he missed the shot, but when your central midfielder is popping up unmarked on the six-yard box he’s doing a lot right. Lodeiro consistently got into these great spots.
One thing I didn’t like: His service was up and down, with a few really nice set pieces offset by a lousy 6th minute corner kick and follow up pass that missed a wide-open Marshall inside the box.
Going forward: It’s Nico Lodeiro. Adding a fast, clinical striker to this guy’s team is like adding nitrous to an engine. He might be the best in the league at finding hidden passes through to smart vertical runs and look for these two to try to stretch defenses early and often. First, he has to run New England’s midfield to tatters this weekend.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 73’ for A. Roldan)
Shipp just keeps doing Shipp stuff. Unless you are really paying attention, you might not notice, but looking back he is playing so smart and consistent that it’s opening up others beautifully. He had a shot and a key pass, but also countless diagonal runs to attack the goal or open up space, allowing Nico and Victor room. He also was able to help make McCrary a viable two-way threat down the right side.
One thing I liked: On Seattle’s first goal, it was Shipp who dropped deep, worked a give and go through the midfield via Roldan, and then first-time touched it to Victor in the middle. This was overshadowed by the goal but his pass, move, and then one-touch pass was essential, with him getting the ball from the back line to Victor Rodriguez in zone 14 completely unmarked with the ball and space to attack.
One thing I didn’t like: An errant pass in the middle of the field in the 12th would have been an issue had a stronger team forced the play off the turnover.
Going forward: Once again Seattle’s offense worked better with Shipp combining with players around him, making a better team attack. He continues to be a glue guy who, while maybe not as dynamic as some, just makes those around him better. I look for him to play this role for the rest of the year.
Will Bruin – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.6 (off 60’ for Dempsey)
A few things were very different for Bruin in this game, notably two goals and 100% completion rate after 20 touches on the ball in two thirds of a match. Will was tidier with the ball and when presented with chances to score, did so. On neither goal did he do a ton individually, but he gets credit for doing what a striker should do when the ball finds him deep in the box, unmarked. Also, good job on moving to stay onside on both goals.
One thing I liked: I loved the calm finishing on the goals. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, when presented with two balls deep in the box, he found the net. His second was deceptively difficult, and although he had time to control, he made a nifty two-touch finish past the onstumbling Howard.
One thing I didn’t like: This was a pure holdup game for Bruin, as none of his touches other than the goals were towards Colorado’s goal. Even though this is an effective role for him, Bruin seems intent on continuing to run over the top to balls he can’t reach and call for headers he can’t finish.
Going forward: Getting Dempsey and Bruin out of each other’s way was something I have been hoping for, and the schedulers finally made that happen. If Bruin can just plant himself in front of goal and kick the round thing in the net, this team can create those chances for him, and based on this performance, he is quite capable of finishing them.
Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 4.6 (on 60’ for Bruin)
Again, I liked splitting Bruin and Dempsey up as they have played in each other’s way for months now and this worked out well for both. Clint didn’t play with a lot of urgency in this match, but he was very good possessing the ball (90% passing) and helping Seattle transition out of a bit of a bunker they found themselves in late.
One thing I liked: Clint is very good at holding the ball up and switching the field, something that was huge late as Seattle couldn’t get out of their own way defensively. Finding Clint in the 75th, 83rd, and 90th gave the defense a rest as he calmly controlled, turned, and opened up the field for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: There wasn’t a lot of urgency to Dempsey’s play at times, and while I don’t need him to run around hacking people, I thought there were a few times that he was caught in between playing high (where he ostensibly was told to play) and dropping back to help with a beleaguered defense. Instead of committing to one, he was caught in between and then lackadaisically did neither.
Going forward: Clint showed late that he can do some forward stuff, but there is no denying how much better the midfield ran without him in it. He will have to demonstrate that he can either work up top with Raul Ruidiaz or bring more intensity to a midfield role if he wants to continue to be a starter on this team.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 4.6 (on 73’ for Shipp)
The return of younger Roldan brought more of the same — some hustle, some weird positioning, and a weakening of a solid defensive cohesion from the player he replaced and the fullback behind him. He worked hard but was unable to replace Shipp’s positioning and ended up running more than he needed to, trying to support the defense. Offensively, he was nonexistent.
One thing I liked: In the 80th he had a nice defensive challenge and in the 94th had a defensive play that helped close out the match. As a defensive-minded replacement on the wing he was okay.
One thing I didn’t like: He immediately fouled upon entering and had numerous bad touches including one rather humorous miscommunication with his brother, ending in zero Roldans in possession.
Going forward: I am not sure playing 15 minutes every few games is a great way to develop players, but that appears to be the future for Alex. He seems to have a good intelligence for the game and while I would love to see him get tons of time with S2, he is high enough up the depth chart on the first team that it’s likely he continues to get this type of defensive, close out time.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 85’ for Rodriguez)
Magnus got some late game time apparently only because Victor nearly got hurt on the sideline. Getting five minutes a game is doing nothing for his game from what I can see, as he isn’t really built to be a lock down defender or whatever it was that the coach wanted from him late.
One thing I liked: In the 91st minute we saw what he is capable of, stealing a pass and combining nicely with Nico to take the ball to the corner and kill some clock.
One thing I didn’t like: He got a yellow for kicking the ball away after a play where he lost possession. Hard to find things when a guy gets eight touches a match.
Going forward: I like Magnus, and he’s a great option to play centrally flanked by Nico and Victor, but I doubt we ever see that. Realistically going forward, I fully expect him to be a third sub option for a coach that for whatever reason hasn’t seen potential in giving this player more minutes.
Fotis Bazakos – 3 | Community – 4.6
Had this ref in 2016 and he hasn’t improved from the 3 I gave him then. This was a mess, with the referee not carding people appropriately and then handing out six yellows in the second half to Colorado (with more deserved). I don’t understand why referees aren’t ever seemingly prepared for the physicality of teams like SKC and Colorado and allow players to get away with bad tackles and twenty-three called fouls. It’s absurd.
One thing I liked: In the first minute he allowed advantage to play instead of whistling a foul on Sam Nicholson. It was all downhill from there.
Multiple things I didn’t like: Two of Colorado’s three big scoring chances came as a direct result of fouls not called. Their goal came from a clear foul on McCrary (no, you can’t win the ball and follow through a guy’s leg without it being a foul) and Kim (clear hand to the face that conveniently left a huge hole and our fastest central defender on the ground). Gashi should have gotten a yellow in the 48th for a foul when he didn’t even try to play the ball and again in the 56th, which would have been a sending off, but instead neither was even yellow. Professional fouls were ignored on both teams, then Enzo Martinez got one in the 87th. This made no sense. I have a page of awful decisions by the ref.
Going forward: If this ref had correctly called fouls in the first half, he wouldn’t have needed to blow his whistle upwards of 40 times for fouls and cards, and we wouldn’t be debating how many guys should have been sent off. Let’s hope it’s two more years before we see this guy again.
Colorado Rapids MOTM
Shkelzen Gashi comes away the winner in a hotly contested MOTM race, either for his involvement in the buildup leading to Colorado’s first, or Seattle’s second. You decide.
Short week, time to go steal some points from New England.