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Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Player ratings

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Raul Ruidiáz wants to score every time he touches the ball, and it continues to pay off for the Sounders.

Seattle just keeps finding ways to win games. It wasn’t pretty, but the Sounders persevered in Vancouver and won 2-1 against a solid Whitecaps team. In a stark contrast to earlier in the year, Seattle is finding ways to win in every single fashion, and the resiliency of this team to continually churn out strong results with varying playstyles is tremendous.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.3

Although it seemed like Vancouver was putting up enormous pressure on the Sounders, Frei only had to make a few saves. This defensive unit continues to make opponents finish their shots perfectly, or fail to score.

One thing I liked: In the 86th minute Frei showed some sweeper-keeper action, coming well outside the box to support the right side. He doesn’t always look elegant roaming outside his box, but he made a great decision here to defend with his feet.

One thing I didn’t like: With Kendall Waston, Kei Kamara and crew, it’s hard for a keeper to command his box. Multiple times Frei was caught in traffic and failed to clear a ball that he should have punched away, such as the 45+4’ corner that Vancouver scored on.

Going forward: Vancouver had some very potent weapons at home and Frei and Co. kept them under control. I’d like to see Stefan more assertive, and Seattle should have gone into half time up 2-0, but Frei is a huge part of the league’s best defense.

Defense

Brad Smith – 6 | Community – 6.8

Smith was pretty good in this match, showing much improved defense and an increased understanding of his role on the team. Ever willing to offer width, he was more a two-way fullback and that might be a good thing.

One thing I liked: Defensively, Smith played better than last week. He and Harry Shipp did a great job of limiting the ever-dangerous Alphonso Davies, and on multiple occasions Brad was the better player when matched up 1-v-1. Being a consistent defender against a team as lethal on the counter as Vancouver was helpful.

One thing I didn’t like: Smith still struggled at times and gave up four corners on the night after being in 1-v-1 spots. A team like Vancouver excels on set pieces and while a corner is better than being beat, it was alarming how many dead ball plays occurred that invited Waston to the box.

Going forward: Even if he wasn’t a huge offensive force, Smith’s speed and ability on the left helped push Seattle onto the front foot on multiple occasions in the first half, one culminating in the opening goal. Can he play with V-Rod?

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.8

Chad Marshall did Chad Marshall things.

One thing I liked: Marshall had a massive eight clearances. When Vancouver threatened, Chad was usually there to kick the ball out. He was a no-nonsense defensive force.

One thing I didn’t like: Kamara was a beast in the box and while his speed is very hard to match, I think Marshall was supposed to mark Kamara as he scored.

Going forward: Tough matchup for Marshall but Vancouver only managed three or four quality chances. Seattle will keep winning if that is all they give up every match.

Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.6

Kim was up and down in this match, often being pulled well out of position as the center backs failed to stay compact.

One thing I liked: Kim had the straight speed to match up with Kamara and did a great job forcing him away from goal; as a result, Kei rarely got the ball with room to attack.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 24th minute Kim dove in and badly missed. Other times he lost his mark around the box. Kim is such a strong defender he was often able to get back, but I was surprised at how often the connection between he and Marshall seemed missing.

Going forward: We might see some rotation in the defense on a short week, but Kim should be on the field for any game you want to have the best chance to win.

Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 78’ for Bruin)

Kelvin seemed to have a tough game at times, struggling to retain cohesion with Kim next to him and often relying on Roldan to support him defensively.

One thing I liked: Leerdam charged forward in the 21st minute, picked up his head and found the right pass to Raul Ruidiaz to open the scoring. This was a very smart and well-executed play. If he starts to build a rapport with Raul, Seattle will get that much more dangerous offensively.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 57th Leerdam was badly beat wide, and this pulled Kim way out of his lane. This happened too much, and the domino effect through Seattle’s defense was rough.

Going forward: Love seeing the right side creating goals to counter the creativity on the left. Leerdam seems to be struggling more than usual lately, and will need to be judicious in deciding when to join the attack, since his defense has been spotty.

Defensive Midfield

Gustav Svensson –7 | Community – 6.9

I am more and more convinced that Svensson’s work rate and positioning in the middle is a huge part of the Sounders’ resurgence. Since he returned from the World Cup, Seattle is very strong up the middle and he does all the little dirty work there.

One thing I liked: It was an incisive vertical pass from Goose to the width in the 21st minute (not dissimilar to Osvaldo Alonso’s last week) that started the goal scoring sequence. Having defensive midfielders who can skip lines and cut out defenders is huge.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 55th minute Kei Kamara RRBH and it wasn’t that close. Svensson relies on positioning and angles, and he chose poorly on both, allowing the Vancouver striker a big chance.

Going forward: Sign this guy to a multi-year contract asap!!!!! (<— Do that.)

Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.0

Alonso had three tackles and four clearances in a strong defensive match that was marred by some poor decision making offensively. He started this game off with a physical foul and was a defensive menace in the middle all match.

One thing I liked: Alonso rotated over to support the wings when Davies got loose, and when the Vancouver phenom tried to cut inside, he ran into Alonso.

One thing I didn’t like: At 45+1’ Alonso completely missed a runner right down the middle of the field, and he continues to lose people in these hugely vulnerable areas.

Going forward: Alonso should stop trying to dribble out of trouble and should play within his current ability, which will cut down on the mistakes. He has shown for weeks now that he is still a solid defensive midfielder.

Attacking Midfield

Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 69’ for Rodriguez)

One thing I liked: Anyone surprised that Shipp made the right pass to open the field for Seattle to score? Or that every time Smith was matched up with Davies on the wing Shipp was there to support?

One thing I didn’t like: Harry was nonexistent in the second half and without many touches or impact, he faded into obscurity before being subbed.

Going forward: When Shipp is aggressive and active, he is an essential piece of the team shape, but he has to stay involved, especially in the second half.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.5

Nico was everywhere, showing defense and offense and set piece delivery and pressing from a central position.

One thing I liked: You’ve seen when he ate Brek Shea for lunch, but did you realize that was in the 76th minute? Nico consistently makes plays like that against fresh players when he has been running for over an hour. It’s amazing.

One thing I didn’t like: Multiple times Lodeiro was pushed off of possession, and his desire to make the amazing pass missed a few easier chances.

Going forward: Nico is the engine, and this team will go as far as he can take them. The good news is he’s awesome and we know exactly how far he can.

Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.5

I have been a critic of playing Roldan out of his best position. But this was one of his better matches in his “new” wide location. A key pass, a secondary assist, 86% completion on his passes, and multiple tackles, clearances, and hardworking defense was great. While having limited opportunity to affect the game, Roldan manages to be an important part of every match with his intelligent positioning and superior decision making.

One thing I liked: More impact from the right side was almost entirely due to Roldan’s massive work rate; he covered immense ground in this match. Defensively supporting Leerdam and still finding the right pull-back pass to Ruidiaz in the 32nd show the nuance of a player who is making the most of a position he’s been shoehorned into.

One thing I didn’t like: A majority of my notes were on Roldan defensively, which points to a struggling right side that prevented him from being offensively dynamic. His connection with Leerdam that created the first goal shows how effective he can be, but in this setup, Cristian has to play so much defense that his offensive chances are limited. And we could use more offense.

Going forward: Roldan can play everywhere the coach asks him to, and at a high level. That is great for the team but I would not take last year’s best player and turn him into a fix for whatever position is weak. When you have a cannon, you don’t replace it with a Swiss army knife.

Forward

Raul Ruidiaz – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.5 (MOTM) (off 90+1’ for Delem)

RR’s efficiency is fantastic. He had four shots, all on target, multiple defensive actions, two goals, nearly set up others, and was goal-dangerous nearly every time he was near the ball. Having 35 touches was plenty for Ruidiaz, who doesn’t need the ball a ton to impact a match because his off-ball work is so strong.

One thing I liked: Ruidiaz has one of the biggest shots in the league, but more and more impressive is how “quiet” his footwork is. On the first goal Waston had no idea where Raul was, before the Sounders striker darted in front of him and scored, which is remarkable because he was the only realistic target for that pass. He repeated this in the 32nd minute, drifting into the box and somehow finding a shot on goal while surrounded by four defenders. Raul’s second goal has been underappreciated: his hustle created the turnover but plenty of work still needed to be done and Ruidiaz made it look simple. His stepover created perfect space and completely flummoxed the keeper, and the calm finish obscured the fact that a majority of Sounders would not have scored there.

One thing I didn’t like: I don’t mind Ruidiaz dropping and getting the ball in the midfield, and normally he chooses well. In the 29th, however, he dropped a poor pass backwards and put his defense under a ton of pressure. Raul needs to keep possession there and allow his team to join him in attack.

Going forward: Ruidiaz is a bit of a magician so far, scoring or creating opportunities with very low numbers of chances, but this increasingly looks to be just part of his genius. This signing is not only exactly what Seattle needed this season (as someone who could elevate a struggling offense), but it’s also very exciting to imagine him surrounded by more firepower.

Substitutes

Victor Rodriguez – 7 | Community – 6.3 (on 69’ for Shipp)

Seattle was getting hammered in the second half and then Victor subbed on. He had a shot and some defensive actions and was clean with the ball, but it was his composure that made all the difference. In the 55th through 70th minutes Seattle had 33, 43, and 26 percent possession. As soon as V-Rod entered that changed to 64, 81, and 57 percent possession in the next 15 minutes. This was a fantastic tactical sub, and Rodriguez had a massive impact on Seattle holding onto its lead.

One thing I liked: Rodriguez demands the ball with his movement and control. In a short stint he touched the ball 22 times and completely flipped the game narrative, creating possession and allowing Seattle to regroup both defensively and offensively.

One thing I didn’t like: Anyone else cringe every time this guy gets hammered?

Going forward: It’s clear V-Rod is a difference maker. If he can get consistent minutes (even off the bench) this team is massively more prepared to go deep into the playoffs.

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 78’ for Leerdam)

Bruin came on and worked hard on both ends of the field but didn’t do a ton of tangible soccery stuff.

One thing I liked: Will seems to have adjusted well to a bench role and is willing and able to mix it up when he enters.

One thing I didn’t like: With a team holding onto a lead, subbing in a guy who only completes 50% of his passes is disappointing.

Going forward: As long as we keep putting Bruin in with a lead late in games, it’s hard to complain about anything. The good news is when you forget about Will, he tends to score.

Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 90+1’ for Ruidiaz)

Delem lives, and may have rightfully leapfrogged younger Roldan for minutes.

One thing I liked: Delem had a single touch, and on that touch he had a chance to clear the ball. And you know what Delem did? He cleared the damn ball.

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle giving up silly goals right before half so they don’t cruise to an easy win and we have to keep all our players on the field until late and Jordy Delem only gets a few minutes.

Going forward: I liked the subs in this match and they made lots of sense to me. Delem is a valuable piece to put in holding a lead late, and this team seems to find itself in that position a lot lately.

Referee

Robert Sibiga – 3 | Community – 4.1

I wrote in the comments of my last ratings how wary I was of Sibiga and his refereeing style. The concern was warranted, as this referee allowed a ton of awful physical play, made bizarre choices on cards, and escalated a game state that didn’t need to be more dangerous.

One thing I liked: It’s sad, but the thing I liked was not giving Alonso a red for his innocuous tackle. (Somewhere Clint Dempsey got a four game ban.) It’s silly that my expectation is so low, but in this case the ref made the right call.

One thing I didn’t like: Almost everything else was pretty bad. Brett Levis not getting carded on his early Roldan foul was absurd. Waston creaming Ruidiaz on a tackle worse than Ozzie’s yet getting nothing was similarly bad. How did this guy find 11 minutes of stoppage time in this match, especially a second half that had no injuries, goals, or major stoppages yet still had over five minutes?

Going forward: There’s no joy in “I told you so” about how crummy a ref is going to be.

Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM

Kei Kamara was powerful and dangerous, as he often is, and could have punished the Sounders on a couple of other occasions other than his goal.


Short week, but a chance to take nine points and that would be great, thanks.