It’s time to give the Sounders some credit. Playing their third game in a week, against a team that hadn’t conceded a goal in four games and led the league in PPG, Seattle won convincingly at home 3-1. Sure, NYCFC had to travel and was missing a few key pieces, but they were still a very strong team and Seattle limited them to few good chances while putting away multiple goals of their own. This was one of Seattle’s most complete games this season, and they now have a six game unbeaten streak over which time they’ve earned 14 of a possible 18 points. The playoff line is now in sight for a team upon which many had given up.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.9
This was another match where Frei wasn’t really tested, a testament to how well the defense played. I had very few notes for him and he wasn’t called on to make any big saves, instead relying on strong positioning to handle a small number of weak, unimpressive shots.
One thing I liked: While not a clean sheet, Seattle only allowed one major look at goal from the run of play and NYCFC was unable to consistently pressure the Sounders. Much of this was due to good spacing and Stefan making use of solid foot skills to move the ball quickly and prevent trapping.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 44th minute Frei came out of his goalmouth to gather a ball and fumbled it away. Luckily there were no opponents around to make him pay and Seattle took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Going forward: There was a minor hiccup defensively after a terrible set piece, and Seattle conceded, but otherwise this was a surprisingly easy match for Frei. I look for him to continue to rack up a low GAA and be part of the top defense in the league in the second half of the year.
Nouhou – 8 | Community – 6.5
Somehow the narrative was that Nouhou wasn’t playing well, and I just don’t know what people are seeing. Nouhou was fantastic this week, completely dominating his side and always in great positions both offensively and defensively. He hasn’t lost a 1-v-1 in months. His support defense is perfect. He just doesn’t get beat, turning in some of the best lockdown left sided defending I have seen by the Sounders. His runs forward are well timed and he is making good decisions when he gets the ball in the attack. He was quietly one of the best players on the field again this Sunday.
One thing I liked: Nouhou never allowed NYC around him, but he’s also growing quickly in other aspects of his game. No longer does he struggle with the ball in possession, instead working the ball into the offense. On multiple occasions he pushed the ball into space and used his speed to dribble out of trouble, creating havoc for NYCFC in the middle. In the 44th minute he connected on the sideline to get out of the back before bursting in behind to surge (CHOOCHOO) onto a Lodeiro through ball. His cross was blocked but it was a fantastic piece of transitional play.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 62nd minute Nouhou dropped the ball to no one, and it was stolen. This was one of the few mistakes he made on the day, but he needs to make sure they don’t come toward his own net.
Going forward: I dunno what happened to everyone else on this HouTrain with me, but ya’ll need to get back on board. This defense is very good, and Nouhou is playing as well as anyone on the backline (and has for weeks!) while improving with every match.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.8
Chad played exactly as expected, the near perfect defensive lynchpin whose leadership and positioning allow others around him to take risks and support forward. Marshall as usual was in the right spot to protect for an alarming number of Osvaldo Alonso errors, while almost casually turning away nearly every NYCFC attempt forward. His clean passing and strong defense were once again in evidence all match.
One thing I liked: NYCFC had a good chance to tie the game up right before half time, and when they cut a ball back into the six there was the giant Marshall to get a deflection and prevent a point-blank shot from going on frame. Just Dad doing Dad things.
One thing I didn’t like: Chad gets some of the blame on a terrible sequence in the 68th minute that started with a bad free kick and culminated with a goal for New York. The pass to him was terrible, and ill-advised in the first place, but Marshall’s clear was equally bad and compounded the error. Seattle had easily handled the game to that point so giving up a cheap goal was a big mistake.
Going forward: Some of the other defenders around him are deservedly gaining accolades for their stellar play, and Chad just keeps doing his thing. He is such a smart defender that he is able to read the game and partner excellently with anyone around him.
Kim Kee-hee – 8 | Community – 7.4
Seattle’s defense is playing some very impressive soccer and perhaps no one exemplifies this more than Kim, who has grown into his role as attacking center back. He is the one charging forward to prevent hold up; he is the man tasked with sliding wide to cover both channels. He had a massive 11 clearances and was a stalwart in defense.
One thing I liked: You’ve likely seen his fantastic 56th minute run forward, but it’s not just his pure speed that impresses. First, his awareness to pick these spots is perfect, and he gets into not just a forward position, but quality attacking areas. Second and more importantly, he makes great decisions when he gets there. On this play he picked his head up and found a smart pass to the center, which nearly resulted in a goal.
One thing I didn’t like: When NYCFC scored in the 68th minute, Kim looked like he should have cleared. Was he screened? I am not sure.
Going forward: With Kim now added to the back line, there is size, speed, control, vision, aerial ability — everything you want from a defense. And they continue to look stronger and stronger the more they play together. This is amazing depth for a position considered weak in the offseason.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 83’ for A. Roldan)
Leerdam was okay in this match, but he had both some great plays and some not so great. His connection with Roldan wasn’t the best and the right side struggled some on defense. Offensively Leerdam looked strong getting forward but just missed on a few chances to change the game.
One thing I liked: He has the vision and touch to drop passes in behind for Ruidiaz to run onto. He just missed in the 25th minute, but I love seeing Leerdam looking for that run.
One thing I didn’t like: Multiple times I thought he struggled defensively, none more so than when he was megged and forced to foul in the 21st minute. He was caught completely flat footed and luckily Maximiliano Moralez put the ensuing free kick off the woodwork.
Going forward: Leerdam is a solid two-way right back. He has yet to show us much more than potential offensive impact, although his ability creates options for others. I’d love to see him realize some of that potential instead of “almost” scoring or “almost” assisting.
Gustav Svensson – 8 | Community – 7.6 (MOTM)
Goose was everywhere. With Alonso lacking range, it was Svensson who was found shuttling from sideline to sideline, cutting out passes and shielding the backline. When the Sounders needed a defensive stop he was there, putting out fires all over the field and limiting the dangerous Maxi Moralez to few opportunities to spray passes into the box. Oh, he scored a banger too.
One thing I liked: If you sleep on the Goose offensively, he will sneak up field and kick a ball through your goalie into the net. Nothing fancy, just kick the absolute friggin’ stuffing out of the ball first time on frame and then go eat tacos.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he had 91 percent passing, there were a few times I would have liked to see a bit more of a creative and vertical chance taken.
Going forward: Svensson keeps starting games and Seattle keeps winning them. His ability to tactically adjust to the players around him is excellent. He needs to be on the field.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.8 (off 76’ for Bruin)
After a few okay matches the re-watch exposed a lot of glaring issues with Alonso’s play. No matter how much his ex-teammates want to say he is back, I just didn’t see it this game. He was rooted to the middle of the field, showing a lack of range in stark contrast to Svensson, and showed poor marking and effort on multiple plays that are quite concerning. His awful decision making led directly to multiple good NYC chances, including their only goal. Very few of his completed passes were in the offensive half of the field, and other than game management possession, I was massively underwhelmed.
One thing I liked: In the 61st minute Ozzie dribbled out of pressure in the back and brought the ball forward before finding Lodeiro, reminding us of what he has been capable of in the past.
One thing I didn’t like: The first 20 minutes were bad, with errant passes giving NYCFC the ball directly on multiple occasions, but the play I hated was in the 10th minute when Alonso, under no pressure, passed the ball uncontested out for a free corner for NYC. He then yelled at Nouhou, who had no fault in this play. You are the captain, man. Take responsibility instead of blaming the young guy.
Going forward: Alonso seemed to “warm up” a little and played better in the middle of the match before again struggling mightily and tiring late. There is just enough under all that to see where he could still be an asset to this team, but in the near future Roldan and Svensson need to be the defensive midfielders.
Harry Shipp – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.6
Shipp has been one of the top players for Seattle for a month or two now, and he continues to do exactly what is needed for this team to succeed. His 94 percent passing accuracy was great, with many touches in attacking areas, but he truly excelled in off-ball movement and creating for teammates. Defensively the left side was rock solid. This was his best match as a Sounder and a worthy MOTM performance from someone not even guaranteed a starting spot right now.
One thing I liked: Two shots, two key passes, a goal, and an assist showed Harry’s fingerprints over almost every scoring opportunity. His movement in space helped goal one. His buildup, run, and decision to drop the ball opened up huge space for goal number two. And he was opportunistic and clinical to slam home the game-clinching third goal late.
One thing I didn’t like: A 13th minute pass went awry in a rough spot and he still hasn’t connected great with Ruidiaz, although they seem to orbit around each other well.
Going forward: Shipp played with a swagger and it was glorious.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.3
Nico was a force of nature against NYCFC, popping up everywhere on the field and matching their star Moralez in every facet of the game. Offensively he had three shots, a whopping five key passes, an assist, and 84 percent passing with nearly all passes going forward, driving Seattle into the attack. Defensively he was just as good, adding a stellar four tackles and three interceptions, tirelessly destroying the middle of the field for the opponents.
One thing I liked: In the 61st minute Nico got the ball in the middle and put Alonso down the left sideline to attack the goal. Somehow, he then managed to beat everyone down the field to get on the end of what ended up being one of the longest give and go’s ever, receiving a pass on the goal line and crossing it into a dangerous area. That is a 50-yard combination run. Wow.
One thing I didn’t like: When Seattle clears the ball, it often ends up at his foot. I would love to see him stand on the ball a little, and give the defense a moment to get out of their shell if it’s just him forward. Multiple times in this one Nico tried to dribble forward into three players and lost both possession and a chance to alleviate some pressure.
Going forward: Nico showed that he can play some of the destroyer role in the middle but even lined up there, most of his touches come from roaming. If Seattle indeed signs a central attacker, Lodeiro overloading around him has the potential to be unstoppable.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.4
Playing wide midfielder was a bit of a rough night for Cristian, who at times struggled to find the right position and connect with Leerdam. He was decent, but other than a few times in transition where he got space, struggled to be a meaningful danger on the right side. Even having an uneven game, he still scored a huge goal and had a very strong game defensively on his wing.
One thing I liked: It wasn’t technically beautiful, but after a water break Roldan took it upon himself to switch sides, and when Shipp opened space for Leerdam to get forward, Seattle suddenly had a new look and immediately got dangerous service into the box. Roldan, opportunistic as ever, pounced on a loose ball and slammed it home to open the scoring for a vital first half lead. This was tireless, smart movement.
One thing I didn’t like: He wasn’t too effective on the wing, and struggled again to work with Leerdam in creating tangible chances. His only shot in the entire game was his goal.
Going forward: Cristian is a skilled and very intelligent player who can play just about anywhere, but he has looked less effective in strict attacking positions as of late. I strongly believe his best position is defensive midfielder which utilizes his tackling, range, and game reading ability, allowing him to burst into the attack only when useful.
Raul Ruidiaz – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 86’ for Torres)
It seemed like a quiet game for Ruidiaz until the re-watch showed incredibly smart movement and positioning that was essential to Seattle’s success. He only had two shots and one key pass on 26 touches, but his movement was gorgeous to watch. His consistent positioning opened up huge spaces for others and the Sounders’ goals were all aided by his gravitational pull moving defenders out of position.
One thing I liked: His intelligent movement and ability to make minimal touches have maximum effect is awesome. His first touch always gets him in position to score on the second touch, and he follows up plays well. He was very close to scoring on multiple occasions, and on each one set himself up for a shot without wasted effort or closing angles via extra touches.
One thing I didn’t like: After badly beating his man in the 47th, another recovered to block his shot, he mis-hit a 59th minute shot, and he looked a little rusty/unfamiliar with the turf. While I fully expect these to be shots on frame soon, it’s clear Ruidiaz needs time to get up to speed with teammates.
Going forward: I love how dangerous he is on the ball, with zero wasted effort. His movement opens up others. He follows up shots faster than anyone else and will likely earn rebound goals. These are all things Seattle desperately needs, and if he can get his timing with a few players down, he should be a goal scoring machine for the rest of the year.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 76’ for Alonso)
Bruin came in to a two-forward set and immediately looked awful. He was clearly overzealous and I think just got excited upon insertion into the game. He settled down after a while and found his spacing and looked good for the last eight minutes or so.
One thing I liked: Bruin isn’t a typical “hold up” forward but in the 85th minute he showed he certainly can do it, and do it well. Holding off a defender deep in the box on a throw in, he calmly found a cutting Shipp for the clinching goal, showing excellent composure to earn an assist.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 79th minute he had a great pass to referee Jair Marrufo, and followed that up minutes later with another crummy pass that killed a promising counter.
Going forward: This was a nice outing from Bruin, who should continue to feast on the space and tired defenders that Ruidiaz creates for him when he subs on. All he does is help the team win, and that’s a huge advantage on what is suddenly a deep bench.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 83’ for Leerdam)
Alex played. He had a couple tackles and an 80 percent completion rate in a short shift.
One thing I liked: His defense seemed better than the last outing and Alex made good decisions against NYCFC, which included getting out of the way so Shipp could score late.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 89th minute Seattle needed to keep possession, and instead the younger Roldan passed the ball behind Nico and badly stretched his defense. If you are brought on to seal a game, those kinds of passes are unacceptable.
Going forward: At the time of his sub he was chosen over Dempsey, Delem, Francis, and Torres. That is a lot of confidence from the coach in this young player, and hopefully that helps him in his development for the upcoming years as a pro.
Roman Torres – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 86’ for Ruidiaz)
Torres was brought on late to be a third center back and ostensibly help in the air. He did record a clearance and a blocked shot, but this was kind of a nervy switch with Seattle looking disorganized after his insertion.
One thing I liked: He completed his only pass, a long wide clear to end the match.
One thing I didn’t like: The Seattle defense didn’t appear to have much more of a plan than “insert another big guy in back,” and while it worked, I would prefer to look more organized.
Going forward: Torres is going to have to impress if he expects to take time away from Kim or Marshall, and nothing in this short cameo did that. He has looked good as CB after his injuries and World Cup call up, though, and is a hugely valuable rotational option.
Jair Marrufo – 7 | Community – 6.3
Seattle tends to play better with better refereeing and it’s no surprise that with quality results, the general referee rating has risen. This game had a mere 19 total fouls called and zero yellows. I thought Marrufo did well, controlling the game with his whistle while making consistent, correct calls as necessary.
One thing I liked: Multiple times he played advantage perfectly, allowing a team (one for each side) with the ball to continue play. When NYCFC continued upfield he ignored the Svensson foul in the 14th, but after Seattle failed to gain advantage he rightly returned the ball to them for a free kick in the 58th. Each of these plays was a perfect interpretation of the advantage rule.
One thing I didn’t like: On the replay, it looked like Ronald Matarrita moved his hand out from his body (it had been tucked) to block Shipp’s shot in the 80th minute. This was hand to ball, and he both made himself bigger and gained an advantage from this handball — I think it’s a PK and should have been looked at on VAR at the very least.
Going forward: A few guys could have had more fouls called (somehow Alexander Callens didn’t commit a foul all game?) but this was a very nicely called game and I would be happy to receive this type of performance every match.
New York City FC MOTM
Maxi Moralez ran away with the MOTM award for hitting the bar from a free kick and otherwise doing an admirable Nico Lodeiro impression.
So, there you go. A terrific nine point “week” and suddenly Seattle is turning heads again. It’s all for nothing if they don’t get a positive result against a very strong home team in Minnesota. A repeat of what we did there last year would be great, thanks.