Last weekend’s game had a little of everything, and it was exciting when the Sounders scored an unlikely 94th minute goal to win 1-0 away in San Jose. The game was very disjointed and neither team seemed interested in winning for long stretches of time. Seattle did make some smart tactical changes based on their previous match against San Jose’s man-to-man style. They pushed Jordan Morris high and central in the left channel to help force the Earthquakes to pull back, and the entire team defended well from the midfield forward. There seemed to be few upgrades at half, though, and even more perplexing was a failure to change things up after the Earthquakes went down a man. Yet again the Sounders looked completely lost tactically, unable to take control of this numbers advantage. A silly call evened out the teams late in the match, and Seattle grabbed the winner in stoppage time.
Stefan Frei – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM)
Not only was this another shutout for Frei, it was due to Frei. He was the reason Seattle remained in this match, with 10 saves on the night. Without Stefan, Seattle would have been down multiple goals like in their last few away games, and we’d be limping into the final week of the season.
One thing I liked: Frei made all the simple saves, but he was also the reason the team didn’t concede in the 15th and 61st, with two huge plays to keep the score nil-nil. On each he had to leap to the side and parry away a sure goal, and both saves were spectacular.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei wasn’t perfect, with a bad 51st minute clearance going straight up in the air and the post being helpful in the 73rd after he was beaten on a free kick.
Going forward: The defense was okay, but Stef had to be near-perfect here to keep the clean sheet. Next week, yet another new backline will step in. How exciting.
Brad Smith – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 88’ for Torres)
Smith was mostly a non-factor against the Earthquakes, and was subbed late. He had five clearances from a similar deep left area and added another eight defensive actions, but still was prone to being beaten defensively. On attack, Smith was credited with a key pass, but it was his wasted opportunities that will be remembered.
One thing I liked: Smith was good as usual at linking with Víctor Rodríguez on the left, and on a number of occasions got into good attacking spots. He still doesn’t connect well with Morris, but he is consistently dangerous when combining with Víctor.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 86th minute Raúl Ruidíaz put him in free on goal with only the keeper to beat. Brad appeared to run out of gas, slowing up and being saved, in what could have been a defining moment for him.
Going forward: With Nouhou out and Joevin Jones now apparently a starting right midfielder, Smith is very likely to start the final match of the year.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 71’ Red Card)
Arreaga was fantastic defensively in this match, showing great positional defense, decision making, and powerful control of his area. He finished second on the team with 61 touches, kept a shiny 86 percent passing rate, and turned in 14 defensive actions.
One thing I liked: Xavier is starting to get comfortable with his teammates and his range covered is increasing every match. His ability to defend behind the areas where Seattle likes to attack (left channel) helps the team go forward with confidence.
One thing I didn’t like: For the second match in a row, Arreaga didn’t finish the game. Although both cards were very soft, he has to adjust to the crappy MLS referees; he is too good of a player to miss every other game.
Going forward: It’s a shame he was penalized, as he was having a very strong match and has made a case lately as Seattle’s best central defender.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.5
Kee-hee had a ton of defensive actions and eight of them came inside his own box. This shows how deep Kim played in this match, being forced back time and time again into his own area to defend the diagonal runs of the Earthquakes.
One thing I liked: Kim traded off between the direct quick diagonal runs of Danny Hoesen and the ghosting movement of Chris Wondolowski very well. His ability to cover these diverse forwards was impressive. It was his long clearance in the 94th that created the opportunity for Morris to steal the ball and score.
One thing I didn’t like: He was constantly pushed so deep into his own area, often making last ditch defensive saves. This led to his team-high six clearances.
Going forward: Getting a clean sheet is a great step in the right direction, and Kim looks to continue this with a new partner in the back yet again against Minnesota.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.3
Leerdam was much improved from his last outing, but still seemed a bit off at times. His 72 percent passing was okay, and his positioning was very attack-minded, but he just never seemed to get his solid movement to pay off.
One thing I liked: In the 10th and 32nd minutes Leerdam popped up in attacking positions that nearly scored. His ability to hustle into the attacking third as an outside back is special, and he showed a ton of hustle to add another option in the box.
One thing I didn’t like: The pairing of Leerdam and Jones hasn’t done much. They never combined up the right wing.
Going forward: Leerdam started the season great, but as it has progressed, he’s looked worse and worse. That is not a good sign moving towards the playoffs.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.9
Goose was steady in the middle, mostly doing work defensively and not being too involved with the buildup or possession game. He had five clearances from inside the box, including some huge punts out of trouble late. Pretty quiet in this match, he seemed content to sit deep and cover the back line.
One thing I liked: Svensson was in control of the defense and his shielding of the center was huge in preventing San Jose many quality looks from the run of play. On the few occasions he got the ball in space, he found the right pass, including a 50-yard attacking switch in the 68th minute that was glorious.
One thing I didn’t like: He only touched the ball 30 times. That was half of what his partner Cristian Roldan had, and this shows how defensive he had to play. Seattle plays better when Gustav is a bit more involved.
Going forward: Either Svensson or Torres is likely to start next to Kim against Minnesota. Goose will be on the field in some capacity, as he has continually shown his worth for Seattle.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.8
This wasn’t a beautiful game for Roldan, but he did so many little things that were huge for the team. Defensively he was a monster, with 17 recorded actions. In possession he had the most touches (65) on the team, and 76 percent passing. Offensively he chipped in three key passes.
One thing I liked: Roldan was good at most everything but I really enjoy the two to three times a game when he takes over physically, bodying off players to keep control (39’) or makes a ridiculous lung-busting 70 yard defensive recovery (48’) or runs at their entire team and nearly combines for a goal with Raúl on offense with everyone else lagging behind (77’).
One thing I didn’t like: While Cristian was very good for most of the game, he was uncharacteristically ineffective combining in big moments. Passes were a little off, defense a little slow; there were signs he wasn’t having a great outing. He only had two defensive actions within the offensive half of the field, signifying how rarely he joined the attack.
Going forward: Roldan showed well at his customary defensive midfield position, and will likely be setting up shop there for the upcoming playoff run.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 7.7
This wasn’t a beautiful soccer match for Morris, but he showed once again that this is a game of moments, and he was involved in some of the biggest ones for the Sounders. Playing tucked underneath Ruidíaz for much of the game, Morris had little of the ball in the first half and less in the second but still managed to leave his mark on the scoresheet with a physically commanding 94th minute goal to earn all three points.
One thing I liked: It takes just a second for Jordan to get in behind and unlike previous years, he is finishing (most) of these chances. He got in behind twice, and while the first only forced a save, the second won the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris played almost as a second forward for much of the first half, but then with a man advantage he disappeared from the game, getting but a few touches in the center of the field and being largely a nonfactor prior to his goal.
Going forward: Jordan now has 10 goals on the season and has scored in an impressive variety of ways. Look for Morris to continue to attack over the top if Seattle’s defense provides cover and allows him to stay higher up the pitch.
Víctor Rodríguez – 7 | Community – 6.7 (off 79’ for Nouhou)
Rodríguez was excellent for Seattle, showing that he can fill in admirably for Nico in the 10 position. His movement and combinations with Ruidíaz and Morris created holes in the San Jose defense that Seattle nearly exposed on multiple occasions. Drifting to the left channel, he continually released people into space looking at goal, and chipped in six defensive recoveries too.
One thing I liked: Rodríguez is hugely skilled and it shows whenever he gets on the ball. He combines well with Ruidíaz, and in the 10th minute these two almost Clinfemi’d their way through San Jose. V-Rod created chance after chance for teammates, the best of which may have been his 52nd minute perfectly weighted ball that put Morris in on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: V-Rod tries to make offense happen so much, he can end up forcing it. His 60 percent passing rate is low, but indicative of constantly trying to hit the home run ball, something Seattle has been missing. He had only two passes the entire game that were toward his own goal.
Going forward: When teammates don’t move off the ball, he ends up stagnant.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 74’ for Delem)
Jones the right winger showed up on the lineup card this week. He played very inverted on the left, but didn’t use his overlap at all. He had 79 percent passing, two shots on goal, and wasn’t much of a factor other than being fairly mundane and solid both ways for much of the game.
One thing I liked: Jones looked better than in recent matches, and had a few standout plays. An early spin in between defenders and switching pass opened up the field nicely in the 16th minute, and in the 59th he made a nice move to cut into his strong left foot. Unfortunately, all he could muster was a weak shot that didn’t trouble Daniel Vega.
One thing I didn’t like: Jones didn’t have a single defensive play in the second half, and not a single pass towards goal. He was rightfully subbed, but not until the 74th minute.
Going forward: At this point, there must be a tactical reason to continually play Jones. I don’t know that reason.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 6.9
Still in a scoring slump, Ruidíaz was instead the creator in this match and played excellently. He had 38 touches, many coming from holdup play and checking runs, but was quick to turn and play in teammates, linking up especially well with V-Rod. Somehow, he wasn’t credited with any key passes, when he set up multiple Sounders with breakaways.
One thing I liked: After a 10th minute two-man break with V-Rod that nearly scored, Ruidíaz put Morris in over the top 1-v-1 versus the keeper for a chance that went wanting. In the 86th minute Smith was similarly assisted into perfect position to score, but failed to capitalize. In between, Raúl was everywhere, linking up and setting up plays.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he should have had multiple assists, Ruidíaz only had two shots of his own. This isn’t enough for our star striker, and Seattle has to get him into areas where he can put shots on goal.
Going forward: Raúl got sucked away from the goal trying to get touches and help out, and Seattle needs to improve in ways to get him into dangerous areas.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 74’ for Jones)
No subs until 74 minutes was confusing. Without tactical adjustment or personnel changes, Seattle gave away their man advantage and then started subbing in defenders after it went to 10-v-10. I am not sure what Delem came in to do, but I will assume he did it.
One thing I liked: Delem helped support the team and earned a shutout.
One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t complete a pass going forward. Some of his poor passes nearly ended in San Jose scoring.
Going forward: Delem was an odd choice here. The good news for him is apparently the staff rates him higher than those other guys who didn’t get in.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 79’ for Rodríguez)
The Nouhou experience played, and it was, as usual, very entertaining. In his short time on the field he touched the ball 15 times, had nine defensive actions and a 60 percent pass completion rate.
One thing I liked: Nouhou doesn’t give up goals, and his defense was strong, as expected. A 92nd minute clearance was excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: A soft yellow card means he is out for the regular season finale.
Going forward: I don’t think he was in line to get a start next week, but it would have been nice to have that option.
Román Torres – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 88’ for Smith)
PED suspension aside, it was fun to see a freshly shorn Román Torres back in a Sounders game. He looked strong and in relatively good shape, which is good news for a team that can’t seem to keep a center back pairing on the field together.
One thing I liked: In a very short shift Torres had three defensive actions, went 2/2 passing, and won two aerials. All very nice stats.
One thing I didn’t like: It sure would have been nice to have him rotating through for those short weeks prior.
Going forward: I’m not sure what the best defensive pairing at center back is for Seattle, and that’s disturbing going into the playoffs.
Ismail Elfath – 4 | Community – 3.7
For a while it looked like Elfath was going to have a decent game refereeing, and then he reminded everyone why he has been the worst referee for the Sounders this season. Out of nine fouls called on Seattle all match, three resulted in yellow cards that will keep two players out of next week’s match.
One thing I liked: VAR stepped in to correct Elfath who overzealously pointed to the spot as he was excitedly sending Arreaga off. VAR also got the Tommy Thompson red correct as well, with the San Jose player definitely stepping back on purpose to get contact. Good job, Edvin Jurisevic.
One thing I didn’t like: Instead of using cards as cautions to prevent dangerous play, Elfath decided to make cards a tool to insinuate himself into the match. For half the match, anything went, including Ruidíaz being kicked in the chest (no card) in the 15th minute. After a red card had sent off Tommy Thompson, Elfath immediately handed out a very soft yellow card to Arreaga who was tugging an opponent’s shirt at the same time as having his own shirt tugged. That might have made sense if he had called out a hard foul from Nick Lima on Jones in the 37th or other similar plays. Referees always seem much more willing to give a red for an opponent when you have already gotten one, and there was Elfath proudly sending off Arreaga for another touch foul in the 71st. A similar play from Svensson moments after the Arreaga red didn’t so much as warrant a foul call, because?? Sigh.
Going forward: Expecting Elfath to do a good job is a mistake. Don’t make it.
San Jose Earthquakes MOTM
Danny Hoesen, in a nail biter! He had dynamic movement throughout the match, and drew both yellows on Arreaga, and put that free kick off the post. (I hope those Eriksson votes weren’t for his assist to Morris. Dude was everywhere in this match.)
That win was huge for Seattle. Now “all” they have to do is beat a rested Ozzie Alonso, who makes his triumphant return to CenturyLink next Sunday, and the Sounders will be the second seed in the West.