Sporting Kansas City — a very good team — came into the Clink last weekend and left just like everyone else lately: handily beat 3-1. Seattle took control of the middle of the game and earned the full three points from a team higher in the standings. At times it wasn’t pretty, and SKC had the better of the early game, but after Seattle took control early in the second half they leveraged a positive game state into a fairly smooth match, only forced into some nervy late moments due to some questionable refereeing.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.5
Giving up a single goal to a team as talented as SKC is an accomplishment, and Frei held them scoreless for the final 95 minutes of the match. He made four saves, but just as important were the numerous times he forced SKC into making bad decisions in good spots.
One thing I liked: In the 40th minute Seattle was just hoping to get into half time tied, but Ike Opara had other ideas. An impressive run from Opara (aided by an equally unimpressive wave defensively from Osvaldo Alonso in combination with bad positioning from Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson) saw the center back in alone on goal but Frei said “Nay, sir.”
One thing I didn’t like: Non-save situations were a mess. (To be fair, just watching a goal go by him was a mess too, but … details.) Coming out of his box with a free ball and doing some karate kick out of bounds instead of trapping and passing to feet (or stepping back two yards and using his hands) was a ridiculous choice. Distribution was an adventure all day, and not the good kind of adventure that has rainbows and excitement.
Going forward: It’s hard for me to understand why this team forces it consistently into teams that press high, but as long as Frei makes good decisions, it doesn’t change the score line. He must keep making good decisions.
Brad Smith – 7 | Community – 7.4
This was Smith’s best offensive game and worst defensive game. The parallels to Joevin Jones continue. Going forward Brad looks polished, smooth, and makes generally good decisions. Defensively he consistently forces those around him into difficult situations and struggles in 1-v-1 matchups. It was a little surprising to see that he had the second-most touches on the team.
One thing I liked: Yes, his pass in the 12th minute was perfect, but the rest of the play was more impressive to me. First, with Shipp checking inside it creates an enormous space that Smith instinctively enters. After a great pass, he touches the ball forward with his head up. He is so patient on this play; it’s tremendous watching him take his time and pick out the perfect pass.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively Smith was a mess. Being out of position in the 2nd minute forced Marshall to defend wide, and when the ball needed clearing, it was a failed attempt from Smith (not the Chad Marshall of the year award winner) who misplayed to allow an uncontested shot and early deficit.
Going forward: This team has consistently been willing to trade wide defense for wide offense, so it seems this is the status quo for Smith, and he clearly has a tremendous offensive skillset. He had an assist, his pressure forced a PK, and he was great at providing some offense to a team still looking for a forward identity.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 7.2 (off Red Card 81’)
Even before the red this was one of Marshall’s worst games this season. He struggled early and often, being pulled all over the place trying to cover for teammates (mostly left) and making uncharacteristic errors.
One thing I liked: He did have a key pass, and was one of the few who realized that Roldan was making tremendous runs in behind from a wide area. Marshall tried to find this run a number of times.
One thing I didn’t like: He was only credited with four defensive actions in the entire match, with two of them as part of the first goal debacle. That means he had two measurable defensive actions in essentially 80 minutes of soccer. That’s not very good for a defender, and for one of his quality? Yuck.
Going forward: This was merely an off night for Marshall, and while I’d rather he misses the middle of the three games upcoming instead of the first, a day off isn’t a big deal right now should the necessary appeal somehow fail. (Update: His red card was rescinded.)
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 7.5
While Chad was struggling, Kim picked up the slack well, with a huge six clearances to go with a number of other defensive actions — 15 in total.
One thing I liked: With others on the team unable to handle SKC’s press, Kim wasn’t taking any chances, clearing the ball with impunity. This let Seattle stay in the match long enough to come back and win.
One thing I didn’t like: Some of his defensive recoveries were a direct result of his own diving in or making bad decisions upfield, and I’d like to see him better recognize the game state and not take so many chances with positioning.
Going forward: Kim is a fantastic player who continues to improve for this team, learning the players around him and taking an increasing leadership role defensively. I love it.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.5
Leerdam was again solid, but just OK in this one. He completed 70% of his passes and had a few very good defensive plays but has yet to really click offensively with Roldan in front of him. Against SKC he was unable to release Ruidiaz.
One thing I liked: Leerdam had a couple of smart decisions defensively to pinch inside and help out a central defensive pair that was overrun multiple times.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s frustrating to see him get into the attacking third and just pass the ball backwards, and it’s telling that most of Seattle’s offense came from quick passing not slow, deliberate possession. When SKC switched the ball, Leerdam was often caught way upfield, putting pressure on Kim to cover too much ground.
Going forward: With the dynamic offense/defense pairing on the left side, the right is more mundane and predictable, and I think that’s okay.
Gustav Svensson –7 | Community – 7.0
85% passing, defensive actions all over the field, and a key pass. This is getting to be the consistent stat line for the Goose, who continually does all the dirty work in the middle.
One thing I liked: With as small as Seattle is at times in the midfield, a strong aerial ball winner in the middle of the field is huge, and Svensson continually either won headers or challenged SKC into possession lost on a lot of 50/50 balls. In a game with low possession and Seattle getting out-dueled, these plays were huge.
One thing I didn’t like: When Alonso whiffs on defense, Svensson has a bad habit of diving in as well, quickly compounding a bad error into a central midfield crisis.
Going forward: Sign this guy to a multi-year contract asap!!!!!
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.9 (MOTM)
Alonso wasn’t nearly as effective this week as last, but still played solidly in the middle. His four tackles led the team as did his 89% passing. Unfortunately, he also had some terrible defensive miscues, and his decision-making must improve.
One thing I liked: The pass to open up Smith for Seattle’s goal was great, but I was especially happy to see many of his typically square passes go like this one, decidedly more vertical, attacking the defense a bit more than usual and offering Seattle the chance to push forward quicker.
One thing I didn’t like: Ozzie has to stop trying to dribble out of trouble. There is just not enough reward to this play and it’s extremely risky. On multiple occasions he put Seattle in awful spots by farting around with the ball with little cover from teammates.
Going forward: Alonso’s upward trajectory was halted against SKC, but he’s still showing consistency that was severely lacking earlier in the year. The upcoming fixture congestion might be a good time to let him rest.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 7.0 (off 85’ for Torres)
Man, Shipp just makes stuff happen, doesn’t he? It’s hard to quantify at times, but he seems to be involved in every good chance Seattle creates. His passing was a dismal 57% but almost every single one was attacking the goal. Defensively he supported Smith well, and his movement continually opened the left back into wide areas.
One thing I liked: He didn’t get credit for Graham Zusi’s own-goal, but Shipp made that happen. He creates width, offering a switching option and pulling the defense wide. He finds Nico and then not only has the intelligence to see the outside back cheating in but the faith in Lodeiro to find him. Shipp doesn’t look back, just sprints to where he knows there is weakness, with the expectation that Nico will find him. When that happened, Harry gets his head up, patiently finds the right pass, and is rewarded for a great play. Own-goal or assist to wide open Ruidiaz, that was all Shipp’s hard work.
One thing I didn’t like: I mentioned his passing being aggressive and that’s good (and OK that he missed some, heck the own-goal was rather humorously counted as a missed pass) but I’d like to see him complete a few more of the easier looks that went awry against SKC.
Going forward: Shipp knows how to create the spaces for Smith that he needs, and also is strong at coming back to help. Harry just keeps making “Shipp” happen.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7 (off 96’ for Nouhou)
Nico was a lot of the offense in this match, and he continually drove Seattle into good spots. He was only credited with two key passes and two shots but he was instrumental in many of Seattle’s best attacks, looking forward and setting up others. He tossed in seven defensive actions as well.
One thing I liked: If people know to make the runs, Nico will find them. He may not have connected with Raul a ton, but Nico was consistently drifting around and attacking the center from wide areas.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico hasn’t quite figured out Smith, and when he went to the left to overload the side as he likes to do, these two weren’t on the same page.
Going forward: Seattle got just enough creatively to help Nico out, but it’s important for the Sounders to find ways to support more than just his offensive drive.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.1
This was a strong match from Roldan, who was pretty good at most everything without having standout moments. His 65% passing was crummy, but he put his one shot on target and pitched in with defensive actions. He also cleaned up much of the positional problems caused by the SKC press.
One thing I liked: Often forced to kick long, Seattle found a willing target in Roldan, who not only challenged for headers, but consistently won them. He had five aerials won and countless others that he somehow got some of, even matched up against players much bigger.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan had five clearances and was forced to continually support defensively. When our attacking midfielder is required to play that much defense, it’s impossible for him to be effective as an offensive player, and we need that.
Going forward: Roldan is probably the best defensive winger in MLS. Not sure that’s what Seattle needs, but OK.
Raul Ruidiaz – 7 | Community – 7.5 (off 89’ for Bruin)
He only touched the ball 20 times. He only put a single shot on goal (of four). He only completed 83% of his passes. He had three recoveries and only one tackle won. All of these stats are meh, but he was a complete menace to SKC all night, tying center backs Opara and Matt Besler in knots time and time again, creating pockets of space and when given service, he finished clean.
One thing I liked: I could write an entire article about Ruidiaz’s movement in the box. It’s so smart and simple, yet hugely effective. On his goal, he perfectly holds his run onside so delicately that Besler just completely loses him. On the Zusi own-goal Raul holds his movement near the 6, again creating a yard and a half in the box. His ability to create space (combined with his ability to get off quick, accurate shots) is incredible. This dude is a ghost.
One thing I didn’t like: No one other than Nico (and sometimes Harry) seem to be able to find this guy consistently, and at some point we need to utilize his great runs. I hope the Smith pass was more indicative of his service going forward, but Raul needs to have more than six passes in a game, meaning he needs better entries to him in attacking areas.
Going forward: With Dempsey retiring, Seattle lost another guy who can unlock players like Ruidiaz. I hope he can get more than the scraps we are currently offering, as his movement in the box is impressive.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.6 (on 85’ for Shipp)
Coach Schmetzer held his subs long this match, but Torres was a big one as he came in to solidify the back after Marshall was carded off. Roman did exactly that. He completed both his passes clear, had three defensive plays, and did his job well on short notice.
One thing I liked: I doubt Roman thought he was getting into the game with five minutes left, but he was warm, ready, and came in to lock down a win against a team that was throwing everything forward. Credit to the professionalism of this guy to lose his starting spot and still offer consistent, high level play.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle got shelled in the last few minutes down a player, and while that’s not Roman’s fault, I did not enjoy that.
Going forward: Damn it’s nice to know that Torres can slot in at CB and Seattle shouldn’t have a large drop off, especially with multiple games in a week.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 89’ for Ruidiaz)
The Bruin and Ruidiaz combination failed to score any goals this match, perhaps because they subbed for each other. Asked to come in late and save the ankles of the Sounders DP while offering more size for set pieces, Bruin helped see out a win.
One thing I liked: Bruin won a header, which is no doubt why he was brought in, as he is about 42 (Ed. Note: seven) inches taller than Ruidiaz. He also was wide open late when Smith tried to ice the game and was stuffed.
One thing I didn’t like: He had one chance to complete a pass on two total touches, and he missed it.
Going forward: Bruin could have been added sooner. Playing Saturday/Wednesday/Sunday likely means we see more of Will, and I think that can be a good thing.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 96’ for Lodeiro)
This may have been the first time Nico ever subbed off.
One thing I liked: Nouhou made absolutely no mistakes.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou did absolutely nothing.
Going forward: We finally saw the long-awaited Smith/Nouhou left wing for about a minute. It looked fine.
Baldomero Toledo – 3 | Community – 2.4
Just because we know it’s going to happen doesn’t mean it’s okay. Toledo missed fouls, gave silly fouls, instantly yellow carded Kim on a kick away but refused to do anything for hard fouls, etc. This is how he refs and it’s ridiculous.
One thing I liked: Seeing two cards for dissent, which is a completely under-represented category from MLS refs.
One thing I didn’t like: First off, there was a bogus stoppage of play, which then prompted the review in the first place. Then the review took six minutes. Then he called the foul and as an afterthought gave the red. I would have a huge issue with this play with all of that, but on top of that it’s not a red card. There was no serious foul and I won’t waste your time writing more than that.
Going forward: I’m so sick of Toledo. He’s averaging 3.67 this year from these ratings (3 games) and he’s terrible.
Sporting Kansas City MOTM
Diego Rubio wins this MOTM for his match-opening goal. He took full advantage of multiple Sounder miscues to give SKC the perfect start to the game.
A nice break for Seattle hopefully doesn’t slow any momentum, and three winnable games in the next week can potentially put Seattle only behind Atlanta and NYRB for MLS Cup-hosting rank. Let’s do that.