Seattle still isn’t playing great. Ask Cristian Roldan, or Brian Schmetzer, or Brett Hightower. What they’re doing is making great plays when they absolutely must. When earlier games desperately yearned for a tiny bit of magic to tilt the game in their favor, Seattle failed to produce. This game was different. They pounded incessantly on Minnesota for 98 minutes, forcing the home team to weather 23 shots, countless waves of possession and good chances. Then — magic! This wasn’t a “lucky win.” The better team’s force of will overpowered the lesser team and emerged victorious with a 2-1 score line.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 7.6
Frei is putting up amazing numbers this year. I think a better offense would have him dominating MLS as the best keeper in the league. This was another game where he did everything just right for most of the match, organizing the defense in front of him and using nice footwork in support of possession play from the back.
One thing I liked: I honestly don’t know what happens if he doesn’t make that save in the 89th minute. I’d like to think that VAR works right, but Frei standing on his head to save a 3-man Minnesota break gave the referees time to do their job correctly, and saved the game.
One thing I didn’t like: Right after halftime Darwin Quintero got into the box behind the defense but had a terrible angle near post and Frei was beat, saved by the woodwork. He has to close this down better.
Going forward: Stef has been playing at such a high level for so long that we take him for granted. The stellar defense rarely asks him to do the amazing: he does it anyway.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.1 (off 46’ for Francis)
I don’t understand. Removed at halftime in a “tactical” substitution, Nouhou was playing excellent soccer. Defensively he was stellar, closing down his side. Offensively he was working fluidly with Harry Shipp, both getting into good positions and finding the right passes.
One thing I liked: In the 6th minute he dropped a perfect far-post cross to Roldan, in the 10th he made a fantastic forward run onto a through ball and pulled the ball back correctly into a dangerous area. In the 16th minute his cross was spot on. His offensive contributions were great.
One thing I didn’t like: He had a giveaway in the first minute when Osvaldo Alonso didn’t come to him at all and after that locked it down defensively, highlighted by raw speed in the 34th minute to recover on defense. What I didn’t like? Subbing him.
Going forward: I didn’t see anything to explain this sub, especially in light of Kim being forced out prior, hamstringing (or ankling?) the staff from being able to make later tactical subs. Nouhou was clearly the better left back in this match, even if Kasey Keller refuses to compliment him.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.0
Marshall was a two-way menace in this match and played excellently with two different center back partners. He plays so smart, and he adjusts almost perfectly to the differences in players around him. That meant a lot of helping the defensive midfielders and shading very left in the second half.
One thing I liked: Goalie Bobby Shuttleworth stopped him on a corner in the 41st and he missed an open header in the 68th but Marshall was a monster target all match on set pieces and created havoc every time Seattle pushed him forward.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 19th minute he was beat 1-v-1 by Quintero, which isn’t anything to be ashamed of. In the 31st minute, however, he lost Angelo Rodriguez who had a wide-open header that he should have done better with.
Going forward: It doesn’t seem to matter who plays to the left, right, or in front of him; as long as Marshall has Frei behind him they are going to lead this team to a low GAA and force teams to be great to beat them.
Kim Kee Hee – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 38’ for Torres)
Kim was having a very good match until a freak non-contact injury forced him off in the first half.
One thing I liked: Even before they were down a goal Seattle was looking to press high, and Kim is fantastic at this. When he gets over midfield he has both excellent instincts when attacking the opponents and the speed to recover if he is ever beat.
One thing I didn’t like: He is the starter, and any time you lose a starter it sucks. I hope his ankle is fine soon. While we have replacements, with his speed and play he shouldn’t be on the bench.
Going forward: Heal up, get back to starting, and help your team continue this fantastic run.
Kelvin Leerdam – 8 | Community – 6.6
I thought this was Leerdam’s best game of the year by far. Seattle’s offense was very right-side dominant, a rarity this year. He played very high up the pitch, pinching Roldan inside and offering crosses with consistency.
One thing I liked: Last week I called for more tangible offensive impact from Leerdam. Wow! A 57th minute PK shout on a great shot, an 89th minute cross to Roman Torres to earn a PK, and a 97th minute assist were all excellent plays. For me, though, his increased connection with Ruidiaz is most exciting. In the 32nd and 71st he put absolutely beautiful through balls into the run of the star striker and that is hugely thrilling.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 80th minute he had a wide-open shot in the box, and rushed it. He had time to touch and place a tying goal, giving Seattle some time for a less dramatic finish had he been calmer under pressure.
Going forward: This is a huge deal, getting concrete offensive production from Leerdam. His defense is very solid, but if he can start to impact the match with the ball at his feet (especially those passes to RR) Seattle has a much more dynamic attack.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.9
Goose was everywhere once again, and may almost singlehandedly be prolonging Alonso’s career. He ranged far from side to side, completely encompassing his partner’s positioning and providing a much more vertical passing attack. He was just fantastic, constantly covering space and lanes with tireless efficiency and had a huge five aerials won in the midfield.
One thing I liked: In the 49th minute Goose stepped up high to win the ball and immediately got the ball to Roldan who had a shot on goal. It’s such a nice contrast to see Svensson pushing the tempo from a deep position.
One thing I didn’t like: He lost possession a few times and once, in the 22nd minute, was toward his own net.
Going forward: Svensson gets little fanfare, but he deserves a ton of credit for the team’s play lately. He just continually does the right thing at the right time for this team to succeed.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.0
The stats loved Alonso in this match. He had the most touches on the team (114) and a sparkling 95% passing rate. Defensively he was credited with two interceptions, three clearances, and three tackles. He was good at defending in the center of the pitch and controlling possession with safe, horizontal passing.
One thing I liked: In the 37th minute he RRBH in a moment that sure looked like vintage Alonso, using his vision and agility to get loose, attacking the exact heart of the Minnesota defense, and putting immense pressure on their back line. Another great run in the 63rd ended with a terrible pass, but the run was great to see.
One thing I didn’t like: There are still some red flags about his play, especially his range being so limited to the center of the field. Svensson is forced to defend from sideline to sideline as well as provide vertical passing that Alonso can’t find.
Going forward: It really was a great statistical match, but I’m still not sold on Ozzie being the obvious starter. His mobility is clearly lacking, his passing is very safe and horizontally dominant, and he forces players around him to compensate, which potentially hurts their success. This was one of his best outings of the year though, and there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful that his return continues on this upward trajectory.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 76’ for Bruin)
After being a sparkplug for the last few matches, Shipp had a slower outing against Minnesota, with a single shot on goal. He played a role that required more intelligent movement without the ball than consistent direct play. The ShouHou left side was very strong early on, seeing them both get into great spots with the ball, which should have been rewarded with assisting passes. Harry played very inverted, and he frequently needed to get out of the way of halftime sub Francis’ tactically vertical positions.
One thing I liked: In the 41st minute Shipp made the kind of run I now consistently look for from him, a beautiful beeline vertical that asked for and received a magnificent Lodeiro through ball and created a great Seattle chance.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 21st minute Harry was in the right spot, and missed his shot. He makes many smart plays like this, but I want to see him convert them more often. #hellagreedy
Going forward: In the second half Harry was basically replaced by Waylon Francis on the left wing. From my vantage point, it didn’t make sense and didn’t work. Shipp does a good job at getting his left back involved, but this move neutralized the left side.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.4
This was an attacking exhibition by Lodeiro who was credited with a mere five recoveries defensively. On the offensive side, however, he was magical, with four shots, four key passes, and nearly every touch in the offensive half and toward goal. With his head up Nico was always looking to connect going forward. Oh, and he scored a huge penalty in the 91st minute.
One thing I liked: When Nico plays like this he makes everyone goal dangerous, from Nouhou or Shipp getting on the end of vertical through balls in the first half, to Ruidiaz a hair offsides on an inch-perfect pass in the 64th minute, to hitting assertively from distance in the 71st that Shuttleworth could only parry wildly.
One thing I didn’t like: He had a few missed balls forward and a terrible corner kick.
Going forward: This was an interesting way to deploy Nico as a defenseless 10 who tries to pinpoint balls from central areas. It wasn’t super pretty at times, but had Seattle finished some of its chances it might have looked much better.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.6
Roldan had a little more luck wide this week. Both he and Leerdam benefitted from the 3-5-2 formation that Minnesota played, offering up spaces to the width in the corners. Roldan likely deserved multiple goals, but settled for three shots, three key passes, 88% passing and one of his better performances from a strictly winger position.
One thing I liked: His first-time touch to Torres for a shot in the 88th showed tremendous offensive decision making and Roldan continually opened up others (especially Leerdam) into good spaces with movement.
One thing I didn’t like: He missed a far post run/ball from Nouhou in the 6th minute, a header a minute later, and a few other plays where a more natural winger would likely score.
Going forward: This wasn’t a “destroyer 10” or anything really near that. Right wing clearly isn’t Cristian’s best position but he is a smart enough player with a great engine who can make it work. I’d love to see him back where he belongs. [beats dead horse]
Raul Ruidiaz – 7 | Community – 7.2
Another “quiet” match from the sparkling fresh DP hid some very good numbers. Ruidiaz had four shots, two key passes, 84% passing amidst some very good holdup play. What’s more, his spacing and vertical movement opened up teammates for consistent looks at goal. He had the game-winning assist on an absolutely beautiful header that beat two defenders, and had zero quit in his performance.
One thing I liked: There is no wasted movement in his game. At times Seattle has been a slow thinking, slow acting team up front, and Ruidiaz is the opposite of that. The offside goal was a great example (even though off) as his first touch is directly at goal, giving him the best angle to shoot, and his second touch buried the ball in the net. His holdup play is equally as clean, a touch here to get the ball to a teammate then rush back to the point of the spear and get ready to score. Fantastic.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a couple of times where RR should have done better with passes he received or chances on goal, and I would like to see him be more automatic around the net.
Going forward: Looking at some of the passes he got from his starting outside backs, I think there are opportunities for him to be even more dominant with this team.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.7 (on 38’ for Kim)
Brought into the game cold, Torres did well, helping lock down a shutout while he was on the pitch and providing some excellent offensive plays as well. He didn’t touch the ball a ton but when he did, he managed two shots and his pressure forced the game-tying penalty.
One thing I liked: Yeah, his header forced the PK that saved Seattle’s trip, but it was Roman’s 67th minute 1-v-1 defense on Quintero that was worthy of a shout. That perfect defending shows Seattle has three elite center backs on the roster.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 83rd minute he stabbed badly on defense right on top of the 18 and gave a dangerous free kick to a team that had produced little offensively for the entire second half.
Going forward: He played very well, and any injury concerns with Kim are lessened by the knowledge that Torres is very capable of stepping in. How nice is it to have such a deep roster on the defense?
Waylon Francis – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 46’ for Nouhou)
Francis played really high in the second half and had zero defensive actions after his second recovery in the 65th minute.
One thing I liked: In the 51st minute Francis slipped Shipp into the box with a nice pass forward.
One thing I didn’t like: Even though he played almost no defense in this match, his defensive errors led to Minnesota’s two best chances of the half. The first was a completely unnecessary free kick in the 81st that needed a Marshall foot to block a point-blank shot and the second was an 89th minute stab as the last defender that was easily circumvented and turned into a 3-v-1 for Minnesota that required Frei to do some ninja shit to stop a goal.
Going forward: Again, I couldn’t see any tactical advantage gained by Francis entering the game. If they wanted to go to a 3-5-2, burning a halftime sub just to get him on the field then not subbing Bruin on ‘til the 76th doesn’t make sense. This was a chance for Francis to be Joevin Jones and that didn’t happen.
Will Bruin – 7 | Community – 7.7 (MOTM) (on 76’ for Shipp)
Originally, I thought Bruin had a quietish night but the rewatch showed a lot of good movement and optimal usage of his seven touches. His passing was still rough (67%) but this is a near-perfect role: he has looked great as a second half sub.
One thing I liked: All of his movement made more sense this week, and it nicely created for others. This guy never quits, and when given a chance to change the score, Bruin charged into the box in the 97th, chipped the keeper, and rode off into the sunset with a full three points for the Sounders.
One thing I didn’t like: He still struggles with headers for a big guy, which is surprising and sees him waste a few opportunities a match on set pieces. But THAT CHIP! WHO CARES?
Going forward: This was the epitome of Bruin. He isn’t the target forward his body and size seem to promise, he is a poacher and finisher when given good service in the box. All those backheels and trying to run over the top and other stuff he’s been doing aren’t good ideas. Get him around the ball in the box and he will kick it in the net, and have fun doing it.
Drew Fischer – 5 | Community – 5.9
Fischer ended a run of great referees, but I didn’t think he was terrible. There were a few calls missed and he could have been a tad more in control (and physically out of the way) but this was a decent job. Most of his calls made sense objectively.
One thing I liked: He went to VAR, and he made the right call. The earlier handball could have been a PK (he gained advantage by making himself big) but I understand the call. The called PK was the exact way this system should work, and he took the time to get it right.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 13th Rasmus Schuller made zero play on the ball to strike the head/neck area on Kim and three minutes later hung in a leg on Svensson well after the ball was away. Both of these deserved yellows, as did Torres with a blatant professional foul/obstruction in the 88th minute. Protect the players!
Going forward: He let a lot go, and just making a few more decisions penalizing reckless play would have gone a long way to curb some of the more egregious issues. Anytime VAR is used and doesn’t blatantly screw a team I am all for it.
Minnesota United MOTM
So ... I’d have to go back and check, but it looks like Darwin Quintero received the highest percentage of Man of the Match votes. Like, ever.
People will argue that beating the likes of San Jose, Colorado and Minnesota doesn’t mean Seattle is a good team, but incoming Dallas is another story. They’ve had their own struggles but still sit atop the West, so this home game should be a nice barometer of how the Sounders look for the rest of the season.