Minnesota came into a playoff atmosphere, end-of-season match and played fairly well, but Seattle dominated the first half and did enough in the second to come away with a hard fought, 1-0 win at home. The Sounders got a scramble set piece goal from the newly-returned Román Torres and leveraged excellent team defense to stymie Minnesota’s chances for much of the match. As Seattle tired, subs for the opponent started to make a difference and the Sounders’ reply was to try to park the bus late, which somehow worked.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.1
Frei was very good in this match, earning his third shutout in four matches. Although he was only credited with one save, it was his positioning and support of the back line that was integral to Seattle keeping the clean sheet.
One thing I liked: Stefan’s positioning was excellent all match; he came off his line quickly to support the back and was willing to use his feet to keep Seattle in possession. Each potential Minnesota chance had to be perfect to beat him, and none of them were.
One thing I didn’t like: With only one man back, and the opposing keeper next to him, Frei caught a weak 94th minute corner kick. Instead of picking out the speedy Kim Kee-hee or even speedier Jordan Morris who were both 10 yards clear of any defenders, Frei chose the safe option to hold the ball and kill the clock. It was the right choice, but man, it would have been fun.
Going forward: Stefan Frei is heating up going into the playoffs. Where have we heard this before?
Brad Smith – 6 | Community – 6.6
Smith had an up and down defensive evening. For much of the match he and Morris did an excellent job limiting the dangerous Romain Metanire from punishing Seattle on his side, but much of this was some desperate defending. Brad ended with but a single clearance other than recoveries, but had an outstanding 14 of those. Offensively, Brad combined well with a very inverted Morris to get out on overlaps, but failed to create much offensively from his left side.
One thing I liked: Smith was much improved over earlier in the season against Minnesota, and it was nice to see a balanced offensive and defensive output from Brad, who teams have been able to pick on at times.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 40th minute Smith made a horrible defensive gaffe, attempting to control a ball with his head while facing his own goal. Not only did he lose the ball, he fell down sprawling and could only watch as Ethan Finlay easily dribbled into the box for a 1-v-1 attempt against Frei.
Going forward: Smith looks to have locked down the left back position for the start of the playoffs, and when he gets this much positional support from teammates he looks okay defensively and devastating going forward. Michael Barrios incoming will be a test.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 6.8
Kim shuffled over to the other side of the defensive middle and was solid as usual. He’s been consistently good but it’s been hard to tell how much effect he has on the match, as his play is understated and he rarely blows up the stat sheet, instead allowing solid positioning and smart play to define his outings. This match was more of the same, with three clearances, eight recoveries, and an 85 percent passing clip.
One thing I liked: One of the hidden assets in the first half Seattle dominance was Kim stepping up high, anticipating long balls from Minnesota, and quickly converting these attempts back into Seattle possession. Kee-hee consistently beat his man and kept the Loons pinned in their own half.
One thing I didn’t like: There was one terrible square ball that was almost stolen by Minnesota in the 31st minute, and Kim’s angle on Angelo Rodríguez was confusing a number of times. This was particularly concerning as Rodríguez repeatedly attempted to dive into the box to elicit a call.
Going forward: Kim hasn’t been flashy, but in the last seven Sounders matches he has been very consistent and solid defensively. He has started almost every match when he’s been healthy, so it’s a decent bet that we will see him in the playoffs.
Román Torres – 8 | Community – 7.7
Torres returned from his suspension with a chip on his shoulder and it was awesome to see. For a player who has had issues with fitness in the off-season, Román looked strong, able, and very active defensively in his best outing of the season. Not only did he score, he defended well all match, showing calm, consistent play and exhibiting a ton of leadership in the back, organizing the defense around him. He ended with a won tackle, two interceptions, four recoveries, and a massive seven clearances.
One thing I liked: This was the first time in a longgggg time someone other than Chad Marshall scored from the center back position (non-PK, non-own goal). That is just huge, giving Seattle yet another weapon. The Sounders earned a massive 14 corners, and Román makes them dangerous as a direct option.
One thing I didn’t like: Torres started out the game in the 2nd minute rifling a waist high pass back at Frei that put the Sounders keeper under pressure. He settled down, but I was also concerned in the 70th when, amidst a bunch of Minnesota chances, Román nearly gave up a penalty.
Going forward: With Nico Lodeiro again being the most fouled player in the league, having the ability to punish teams on free kicks is huge. Román’s experience and the obvious trust the team has in him should mean we’ll see him attack some set pieces in the playoffs.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.7
This was a sneaky good match for Leerdam, who combined surprisingly well with Joevin Jones on the right side. Their improvement there was massive, and much of the credit goes to Kelvin for making intelligent decisions on when to attack and how to fill the spaces that Jones created in front of him. This led to a very effective right side that Seattle attacked through over 50 percent of the time. Kelvin’s 86 percent passing included a key pass, and he had the second most (88) touches in the match.
One thing I liked: While combining better with Jones, Leerdam was still excellent defensively. He repeatedly shut down Darwin Quintero outside and had multiple tackles, interceptions, clearances, and a handful of recoveries. His pairing with Torres on the right was rock solid for much of the match as well.
One thing I didn’t like: Although the Leerdam/Jones pairing was improved, there were a number of awkward plays where Kelvin got into advanced areas and got lost in the attack. With both of those players so high, it took a huge effort from the defensive mids to cover behind in the gaps they left.
Going forward: Kelvin looked excellent supporting two-way play and that is exactly what Seattle needs going into the playoffs.
Gustav Svensson – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7 (MOTM)
Svensson was absolutely awesome for Seattle on Sunday, popping up all over the field to defend, control possession, switch the point of attack, and continually be the engine of the entire team. This was a masterful job and he absolutely dominated the center of the field — he was the best defensive midfielder in a game that had a bunch of excellent ones. Gustav’s defensive work rate allowed Cristian Roldan to get into the attack and help overload zone 14.
One thing I liked: The Goose was everywhere. Seven tackles. Three clearances. Eight recoveries. Two shots. Two key passes. Two won aerials. Nearly every pass was forward and probing offensively. He touched the ball 77 times and every one seemed massive, as he continually recovered possession in transition and immediately turned it back into Seattle offense. Svensson absolutely terrorized Hassani Dotson.
One thing I didn’t like: Svensson slowed down a little in the second half, as the entire Seattle team tired and started to give up some possession. When he (rarely) lost possession in the midfield (like in the 54th minute), Quintero immediately got a shot.
Going forward: This game matched a couple of very strong midfields, and Svensson was the best of the bunch. If he can keep this form in the upcoming weeks, Seattle will go very far in the playoffs.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.1
The central pairing of Roldan and Svensson is a huge reason for the Sounders’ success lately. They combine very well with each other, and against Minnesota that meant Goose supported defensively while Roldan picked up the attacking slack. Roldan was a true two-way player in this match, showing up all over the field and exhibiting massive range from sideline to sideline. He had three tackles and eight recoveries, but maybe more importantly, 41 of his 49 passes were forward, driving Seattle into attacking positions.
One thing I liked: Cristian has an innate sense to know when Jordan has an inch on his defender and he doesn’t hesitate to look for him over the top. In the 5th minute he received a pass, turned, and immediately hit a ball into Jordan’s stride into the attack. He looked for him again in the 15th, and over the top in the 23rd. This ability to pick out the line-breaking pass to Morris’ devastating speed is fantastic.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris had a chance to volley in a shot from close range in the 65th minute that I wanted so badly to go in. Not just because of the goal, but because the play started with Roldan absolutely owning Ozzie Alonso with an incredible anticipation play to force a turnover. As the ex-Sounder was sprawling on the ground, Roldan slid a nifty pass to Lodeiro into the area.
Going forward: This combination is so strong in the middle; it seems crazy not to start them next to each other in the next four matches.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.9
Morris’ positioning has changed as he’s moved back to the left and been more willing to come deep inside instead of drifting to the corner. This opens up space for Smith to overlap but has also limited some of the breakaway runs that we grew accustomed to this year. Morris still showed a very strong two-way effort against the Loons, combining to shut down Metanire while still being a direct threat.
One thing I liked: In minute four his defensive work resulted in a steal and breakneck counter attack for Seattle to set the tone for the whole first half. His runs and pace consistently forced Metanire from joining the attack and also stopped Ike Opara from stepping up into the channel defensively as much as he clearly wanted to.
One thing I didn’t like: Jordan only had two shots, and his 66 percent passing was okay. He still makes some runs that teammates aren’t seeing, but I would love to get Morris comfortable with demanding the ball and space to work, as he can fade out of the match sometimes.
Going forward: Jordan Morris doesn’t need anyone else to create offense for him, and that helps everyone on the entire team play their role. He is not done getting on the score sheet.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.1 (off 88’ for Abdul-Salaam)
In a game dominated by bigger storylines, the work Lodeiro put in was possibly overlooked. Tasked with getting through the 3rd and 4th best defensive midfielders in the game along with very smart, aggressive center backs, Nico responded by “quietly” filling up the stat sheet. He led Seattle with 100 touches, had 72 percent passing on the way to four key passes, added three shots of his own (both stats to lead the team) along with seven defensive recoveries in central areas.
One thing I liked: Nothing came of it, but in the 33rd minute Nico had a pass that had me astounded in the stands. Lodeiro put this ball through two lines of defense to pick out a diagonal Morris run that was absolutely world class vision and execution from both players. This pass cut out five Minnesota defenders and only a tremendous effort from keeper Vito Mannone stopped Jordan from getting a chip goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle took 14 corner kicks and there wasn’t much cohesion on them. The Sounders didn’t seem to have a great plan on these set pieces, and the service from Lodeiro fluctuated wildly.
Going forward: Nico is one of the best players in the league and should be treated as such as this team will go as far as he takes them.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 79’ for Delem)
Jones the right winger showed in the lineup again this week, and this time was completely different than his previous matches. He looked much more comfortable on the wing, slicing inverted into the attack with Leerdam overlapping. Jones found himself more comfortably linking up with teammates and was an energetic member of the team for the first time in months. Many of his completed passes were still safe square and drop passes, but it was exciting to see him attempt plenty of service into the box and hustle to get himself into good attacking areas.
One thing I liked: This was by far the most active and engaged Joevin has looked at the winger position this year, and he showed that with 70 touches and 84 percent passing with nearly all of his action coming in the attacking third. Jones was goal-direct, with two shots, two key passes and with his head up looking at the goal continually, instead of turning back to drop the ball. It was this alertness that saw him pick out a beautiful assist to Torres in the 29th minute. He didn’t quit there, continuing to be involved, and even had a slick juggling run down the field in the 78th minute prior to being subbed, clearly still invested and energetic late in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Jones got support from Leerdam, Svensson, and Torres, as he rarely joined his own half of the field to do anything defensive. With Seattle on the front foot that’s fine, but if the Sounders have to defend for any lengthy spells, he’ll need to do a better job of helping out his teammates. Some of his runs from right wing are clearly the runs of a left back, and he got in the way of other Sounders a few times.
Going forward: Schmetzer was able to “I told you so” after the game about Jones, and that’s fine as long as he plays at least this well going forward. Joevin has raised expectations for his play, should he continue to get starts due to others’ injuries or coach’s decision.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 90’ for Silva)
Minnesota had impressively mobile center backs and a defensive mid who spent a ton of time supporting the back four, which made for a long afternoon for Raúl. He had 32 touches but rarely got the ball going toward goal, instead being forced to come back and hold up the ball to support the midfield. When he did get into the box he was swarmed by defenders, limiting him to two shots and a single key pass.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz still demands so much attention from defenders that it creates gaps that players like Jones are utilizing. With both center backs collapsing on Raúl constantly, Seattle had tons of room up the wings to possess the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: Still only two shots on goal this week and other than a great Alonso defensive play stopping a good shot, Raúl didn’t see the ball in spots to score. A number of times this was due to Jones running right into his space in transition, but Raúl still should be expected to do more.
Going forward: Ruidíaz contributes to wins in other ways, but I remember how incredible he was last year come playoff time and hope to see that magic again.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 79’ for Jones)
No subs until 78 minutes was once again confusing to me. While the Loons brought on fresh legs and started to turn the match around in the last 20 minutes, Seattle again waited after 75 minutes to make their first sub and much later for the last two. This sub was Delem for Jones, and Jordy came in as the first of an “add defenders and hold on for dear life” strategy.
One thing I liked: Delem helped support the team and earned a shutout. His range was good from sideline to sideline. He had a tackle and an interception.
One thing I didn’t like: Delem had two turnovers in his own half and a 67 percent passing rate, both of which could be improved on in a one-goal game.
Going forward: Delem is a good option as a defensive stopper when holding a lead, so let’s hope we see a lot of him in the playoffs.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 6.1 (on 88’ for Lodeiro)
Saad came on to waste the clock with three minutes left.
One thing I liked: SAS led the attack in the 92nd minute, winning a foul deep in Minnesota’s end which helped kill time.
One thing I didn’t like: I didn’t know the formation they were playing and I suspect Saad didn’t either.
Going forward: Abdul-Salaam is a good tall option on defense when holding a lead, so let’s hope we see a lot of him in the playoffs.
Luis Silva – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 90’ for Ruidíaz)
I don’t know if we have ever subbed off Nico and Raúl in the same match, but that was the call late to kill some time, and the beneficiary was one Luis Silva.
One thing I liked: Silva completed his only pass attempt on his only touch for a sparkling 100 percent passing rate.
One thing I didn’t like: Maybe it was the two-week break so the staff had no desire to rest players, but tactically I hope we can trust the bench to give more than these bit entries late in matches to kill time.
Going forward: Silva is a good attacking option when holding a lead, so let’s hope we see a lot of him in the playoffs.
Kevin Stott – 7 | Community – 5.4
Stott was good.
One thing I liked: No VAR debacles, no stupid cards or crazy dangerous play; this was a match that ran smoothly for the most part.
One thing I didn’t like: There could (and likely should) have been some cards given. Multiple “professional” fouls were not carded as is the norm in MLS, with a number of Minnesota players guilty of stopping promising attacks with deliberate fouls. A Brad Smith completely random cynical foul behind the play wasn’t penalized. A number of dangerous fouls should have been booked, including a nasty studs-up foul on Roldan by Alonso, who deserved a yellow about three times.
Going forward: Stott was quietly a decent referee for Seattle this season.
Minnesota United MOTM
This feels like an “Always a Sounder” vote. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but didn’t we just mention that Alonso could have been booked upwards of three times, and that he was part of the lesser of the two holding midfields?
After watching the Sounders this year, I feel they are a very good team that has not been able to put it together consistently, whether through injury and callups, or poor tactical decisions, play, form or whatever. As a result, I kept thinking that we could be so good if we just put it together, but we never did with regularity. While that perfect combination never coalesced outside of the first few games, enough talent and determination emerged that we got results (mostly close, nerve-wracking ones) when other, lesser teams did not. That was enough to get us the second seed, and now it’s time to see if that learned resilience can combine with a mostly healthy lineup to go on a run for four more games.