The Sounders were bound to lose again this year, but I expected a midweek game against Philadelphia to produce points. The stoppage time winner from the away team saw a 0-1 result that not only ended Seattle’s nine-game winning streak but also raised some questions about a team that had a fragile ego as recently as a few months ago. I was really generous with ratings on a few players, based on a team that played much better than the scoreline, yet somehow cannot seem to remove that last bit of doubt about it’s play.
Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 5.7
Stef will (and should) be remembered for the 93rd minute mistake, but he was also fairly strong prior to this, and did well to integrate a changing backline. Frei works hard on distribution, but his off foot is a known weakness and his determination to play through pressure backfired.
One thing I liked: Three times the Seattle defense fell asleep and of those Stefan: 1. made a great save in the 31st; 2. spilled a tough shot in the 56th but made a tremendous secondary save; and 3. was beat near post by an offsides player for a goal that didn’t count. When the defense let down, Stefan was there to pick his team up.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei was cruising towards his 7th shutout and having a strong match when he made the huge mistake. Passing behind an exhausted Gustav Svensson in the 93rd minute, Frei made a massive blunder that Fabrice-Jean Picault capitalized on to create a win for the visitors.
Going forward: You can remember Frei’s big blunders because they are so rare. It’s much harder to remember his big saves (of which there have been plenty this season) because the memories are watered down with frequency. That’s a good thing.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.5
Smith is a bit of an enigma, with an up-and-down player personality. Seattle appears to be playing him similarly to Joevin Jones, allowing him almost unlimited liberty to charge forward and asking him to create width and scoring chances.
One thing I liked: I was impressed with Smith’s hustle late in the match, showing great fitness and being one of the players whose speed let Seattle throw numbers forward.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith’s defense was again a tough road, as he struggled to support on his side. That is an okay tradeoff when he contributes offense. Against Philly, he didn’t, going 0/5 on crosses and repeatedly struggling with the turf and connecting to teammates making good runs in the box.
Going forward: I thought this match might be a nice time for some squad rotation, and if Nouhou had played like this, people would have been gathering pitchforks. Smith needs to show dynamic attacking results to offset his defensive deficiency.
Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off injured HT for Torres)
Marshall may have been due a day off, but instead was asked to bang around with the incredibly physical Cory Burke and got a head injury for his efforts. Prior to the injury it was an okay match for Chad, who completed his usual 90% passing and supported a struggling Smith as needed on the left.
One thing I liked: In the 38th minute Burke got in behind Seattle but Marshall excellently forced the Philly striker wide, allowing Frei to easily save a tough angled near post attempt.
One thing I didn’t like: Head injuries. Burke did get in behind him in the 31st minute and put a shot on frame.
Going forward: I thought Marshall might get a rest midweek, and he did, getting pulled after a half. I hope he is fine, but it’s nice to have the defensive flexibility to give him rest should he need it. Chad stuffing Zlatan would be fun, though.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.7
Once again Kim picked up the defensive slack in a match where he also was very clean passing. Kim continually offered support across field, whether it was sliding behind Marshall to make a tackle on his wing or doing the same behind Kelvin Leerdam, allowing the right back to play very high forward.
One thing I liked: In the 5th and 9th minutes Kim put absolutely fantastic line-splitting passes through to Raul Ruidiaz, the first curling behind the defense and the second finding Raul’s feet in a great offensive position. This was excellent distribution that immediately put the away team under pressure.
One thing I didn’t like: Sometimes Kim takes bad angles, and can be victimized when he isn’t able to rely on his great speed to compensate. Oh, and shoot the ball (90+5’).
Going forward: Kim has been the better defender for the last few games and looked fine working with Roman Torres (should that continue).
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.2
This was one of the best outings of the season for Leerdam, who played much more advanced as a wide attacker and was continually in the offensive third supporting the Seattle attack. His 73% passing and poor crossing numbers failed to show just how effective he was offensively, constantly dribbling into the Philly defense as well as being an outlet on the width to create space in the middle.
One thing I liked: Leerdam charging forward with aplomb did a fantastic job evening out the Seattle attack, and having a balance on each side helped a truly dominant first 20 minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: The trade off from Leerdam staying home versus bombing forward is you are asking a wide back to create in ways that a winger should be.
Going forward: I like the idea of having Leerdam be a much more attacking player, as long as Cristian Roldan is being played up there. I think Kelvin is carrying an injury though, so I am not sure this is a great choice until he’s fully fit.
Gustav Svensson –7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.4
This was another monstrous game from the Goose. He had six tackles, two clearances, a shot on target, a key pass, a scoreless cameo at center back, ran more than anyone on the field not named Nicolas Lodeiro, and just played incredibly well for long stretches in the middle. The score from Philly partially came because Svensson was so exhausted from running his ass off for 100 minutes that he was unable to get to a poor Frei clearance.
One thing I liked: Similarly to Kim, Svensson did a great job of pushing the team into the offense from deep-lying defensive positions. In the first 20 minutes he first found Leerdam streaking up the wing for a good attack and then put a fantastic curling ball onto the foot of Ruidiaz in behind. This offensive play from Gustav was excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: Twice in the first 10 minutes he made poor/risky passes. When dominating, I would like to not give the team getting shelled any extra chances.
Going forward: I think Kasey Keller has a rule that if Svensson does something good or Osvaldo Alonso does something bad it’s “team” play but is quick to point out both of these players specifically when Gustav does poorly or Ozzie well. Ignore that and sign this guy to a multi-year contract asap!!!!!
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 6.0
Yikes. For a guy who played 100 minutes of soccer at defensive mid Alonso earned a single “defensive” stat: a clearance in the 38th minute. Ozzie was dreadful with some decision making and his lack of range really showed. He didn’t even get credited for a successful dribble. Hindsight shows this might have been a good time to rotate Alonso for some rest.
One thing I liked: He did have a number of recoveries and 90% passing completion if that sorta stat makes you happy.
One thing I didn’t like: Dribbling into trouble, poor giveaways, not covering central runners, not covering for Smith upfield, etc. — to me it was telling that late game Ozzie looked tired and instead of pushing the ball forward was happy to drop it off short to teammates.
Going forward: Coach rode Alonso in the middle for a lot of this winning streak and he responded with some good play. This was a chance to give Alonso a break, but maybe that will come on Sunday.
Victor Rodriguez – 7 | Community – 6.5 (off 74’ for Shipp)
Victor showed once again that when healthy, he can be the player to unlock this team’s offensive potential. The first 25 minutes of the match Seattle dominated completely, and could have had multiple goals, nearly everything coming through V-Rod. He ended with multiple shots, key passes, hit the post, made great runs, set up teammates and looked like the dynamic, TAM-level talent he is.
One thing I liked: One day he is going to get that curling shot, but even more important was just how seamlessly he combined with Smith on the wing, Lodeiro in the middle, and Ruidiaz up front. Victor’s movement created chance after chance for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: Rodriguez should have scored early, especially the whiff from a few yards out. After dominating, Victor really struggled to get anything going with Bruin, and the drop off from the dynamic combination of V-RoDiaz to Bruin was stark.
Going forward: Instant offensive chemistry from V-Rod was great to see. This is the offensive catalyst that this team needs to utilize in order to light the offense on fire.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)
Lodeiro had 114 touches, which was 25 more than anyone else on the field (Smith). He had four key passes, defensive and offensive actions all over the pitch, constantly held possession and drove the team through the middle, yet somehow it all seemed a little muted from the Seattle star.
One thing I liked: Inserting V-Rod made Nico better. Their connection and quick passing on the left channel continually opened up teammates diving into goal, and Lodeiro himself found more space on the backside when Seattle pushed forward.
One thing I didn’t like: There are times when Nico trusts his own abilities too much, and instead of a safe play late he tried to dribble out of trouble, losing the ball.
Going forward: V-Rod clearly adds the offensive touch Seattle needs to accentuate the other attacking parts, but this team relies most on Lodeiro buzzing around midfield with superhuman endurance.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.1
This was a super quiet game for Roldan who was likely tired from playing full field soccer every four days. He had a shot and a key pass, but few defensive actions and not much going forward. With Leerdam playing so advanced, Seattle asked Cristian to drop and fill space, which was a peculiar usage of his skills.
One thing I liked: His cross in the 88th minute was nice and he got stronger as the players around him tired.
One thing I didn’t like: The offense coming from V-Rod made Roldan play more defensively on his side, but Seattle keeps asking Cristian to play all these roles that he is good at, when there are a few he is great at.
Going forward: Roldan isn’t a pure winger and I understand asking someone else to support some of the more direct attacking needs on the wing. But then why not put Cristian where he’s phenomenal? With injuries and fixture congestion we may see Roldan play a different position this weekend, but who knows?
Raul Ruidiaz – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off injured 34’ for Bruin)
In 30 minutes, Raul had 14 touches. He converted those into three shots, a key pass, 90% completion rate on his passes and hit the post. He was magical floating off defenders and doing his voodoo all over the field to find spaces and set up others. RR’s instant connection with V-Rod has been fun to watch, and when these two worked off each other with Nico, Seattle looked deadly.
One thing I liked: Ruidiaz expertly floats away from the play to open up space, and it’s beautiful. Pulling the defense back, he then bursts into the open areas, and Kim and Gustav especially were able to find him in on goal with beautiful over the top passes. Raul’s touch in controlling the 16th minute pass off the back shoulder of the center back was sublime, and forced Andre Blake into a big save.
One thing I didn’t like: He got stepped on in the 22nd minute and only made it another 12 minutes before pulling himself. The drop-off in intensity for Seattle was notable.
Going forward: I hope he’s okay, because in addition to his nice stat line (five goals and one assist in eight games) he does an enormous amount to improve the Sounders’ shape and playstyle.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 34’ for Ruidiaz)
I forgot how much this offense struggles with Bruin up there. To his credit he worked pretty hard, but it’s telling that Will didn’t have a single completed pass that I would consider attacking the goal. He did get credited for dropping a ball for a teammate shot, but he only completed 67% of his passes. Bruin’s touch was awful, resulting in loss of possession or at best him chasing down poor traps.
One thing I liked: In the 61st minute when Bruin lost the ball he hustled and somehow managed to win a free kick in a nice spot after awkwardly falling down yet suckering Ismael Elfath into a lousy call.
One thing I didn’t like: Last week Leerdam overlapped Roldan and pulled the ball back into the box and Ruidiaz, even though the only one in the box, was perfectly dropping near post to where Leerdam had to put the ball for a shot. He nearly scored. Bruin had the exact same opportunity with Roldan overlapping Leerdam this time, and where was Will when the same cross came in? He was at the penalty spot floating far post and a full five yards from any potential shot. The cross went to no one and was wasted. Bleh.
Going forward: Bruin is usually pretty reliable at scoring those gimme goals (I doubt Ruidiaz misses that chance Will did late and Bruin needs to use his off foot there to ensure he scores. Man, I miss Deuce) but Will Bruin desperately has to learn that he is not an over the top speed thread/one-touch/backheel type player. Stop it.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.4 (on HT for Marshall)
Torres had a strong game, showing his time on the bench hasn’t hurt his ability. I was pleasantly surprised with how well he played, with strong defense and aerial ability that came in handy on set pieces as well.
One thing I liked: In the 71st and 80th minutes Torres got in footraces with Picault and by golly he won both. Fantastic hustle from the big guy who showed speed I frankly didn’t know he had.
One thing I didn’t like: Personally, I liked the Harry Shipp for Marshall sub (move Goose back) but both of the subs in the first half were “like for like” and they were just okay for me.
Going forward: I assumed Torres would get some time this week but I didn’t think it would be in this fashion. Credit to him being ready to come in and play well. He remains a great option. (Has he ever played against Zlatan?)
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.1 (on 74’ for Rodriguez)
The Shipp factor is real. As soon as he entered Seattle looked better on offense and defense. In the second half the Sounders still had a possession advantage but failed to turn that into shots. In fact, Seattle had four shots between the 15th and 74th minutes. After Harry entered? Seven shots, including three from Shipp himself. He added a key pass, 86% completion and an ability to create around Bruin.
One thing I liked: As soon as he entered Seattle improved, and his aggressive play allowed everyone around him to play better.
One thing I didn’t like: He forced at least one shot, and could have taken an extra touch on occasion.
Going forward: Shipp and V-Rod both played fantastic at times. Could they do this together?
Ismael Elfath – 5 | Community – 4.2
I had high hopes for Elfath in this match, but this was dashed in the 6th minute when Auston Trusty wasn’t given yellow for a professional foul. The ref followed this up with a rather ridiculous precedent that allowed Burke and Derrick Jones to consistently foul without repercussion in the first half. Philly had five players with multiple fouls in this match and Lodeiro received six called fouls suffered (and plenty more that went uncalled).
One thing I liked: VAR used correctly once again. What is this world? Did Dempsey’s career end so we could be treated fairly?
One thing I didn’t like: If you miss the ball late and kick someone it’s an automatic foul, likely yellow card. If your studs are showing it’s a very easy red card. Somehow, we treat headers differently, and it’s WRONG. If Burke had come in as late as he did on Marshall with his leg and stuck it in the back of his calf he would have been sent off, but because he used his head to bash into the back of Marshall’s it’s okay??!?!?!?!?!?!!? Seriously guys, the ball was well away, Marshall was in a completely vulnerable position, and we are letting a guy just take a swing at him. We regulated slide tackling from behind because of the injuries, yet this kind of garbage is allowed? Absolutely ridiculous.
Going forward: Elfath gave multiple “last warning” warnings and allowed so much time wasting and rolling around and “here comes the stretcher” that it was absurd. His failure to regulate this was really rough.
Philadelphia Union MOTM
Andre Blake made some saves and kept a clean sheet midweek on the road. Picault pounced on a mistake. Philly walked away with three points.
You know what’s cool about streaking? You can do it again. Let’s do it again.