The Seattle Sounders are on a roll. Not only have they won all three matches this season, they’ve played some of the most exciting, lethal, attacking soccer in every game. While we’ve yet to relax and enjoy a stress-free game, a majority of the 270+ minutes has been completely under Sounders control. Against Chicago, the away team came out early and throttled the Fire, dominating the first 25 minutes with five incredible chances, scoring two of them. In the second half, Seattle again started quickly and scored again, effectively ending the match. A late clincher put any comeback out of reach and the 4-2 score line was appropriate.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 7.9
Even though Frei let in two goals, this was a masterful performance. He had a massive 10 saves, with a number of absolutely clutch highlight-reel stops. On a morning when the defense in front of him was a bit shaky, Stefan came up big enough times to support the offensive explosion in front of him.
One thing I liked: Getting the team to halftime. With Seattle giving up some possession and good chances, Frei came up huge in minutes 25 and 41. The first was diving low and corralling a shot that looked destined to either score or rebound conveniently for a tap-in, and the second was a patented burst to his left with incredible range to deny a shot headed for the upper 90. Frei just refuses to get beat by that shot, and his effort got Seattle into halftime with their two-goal lead intact, which was huge.
One thing I didn’t like: While Stefan isn’t really to blame for either goal, he has to do better organizing the back. There was some confusing movement and players didn’t look very comfortable, and I thought Frei compounded this with a few bad decisions. Kicking long to Raúl Ruidíaz alone versus Bastian Schweinsteiger or trying to play short with a pass that hit Torres and gave Chicago the ball on top of his 18 were just a few of the curious plays he can improve upon.
Going forward: There are enough questions about the defense for Seattle fans to be a little nervous. Sounders teams almost always are “defense first” and we might just have to accept this one is different. That doesn’t mean Frei should be asked to make 10 saves a match, though.
Brad Smith – 7 | Community – 7.6
If you guessed the left back would get the most touches for Seattle, give yourself a treat. Seattle’s offense came primarily from the left, and this led to Smith touching the ball 87 times. Interestingly, the person with the most touches in the match was Przemyslaw Frankowski, (97) who was matched up against Brad, further tilting the field to their side. This was a good matchup, and Smith did fairly well with three tackles, nine recoveries, and five clearances. His passing was not great, a team low 68 percent completion rate, but he did lead the team with three key passes.
One thing I liked: Smith is incredible going forward. In the 16th, 46th, and 66th minutes he had great attacks that put teammates in strong positions to score. In the 88th he outdid those moments with a brilliant run up the wing and exquisite cross to Ruidíaz to seal the win. This was an absolutely fantastic combination of effort and execution late in a match and his perfect full-speed delivery to Raúl was amazing.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively, Seattle’s left side struggled in this match and Brad was a part of that. While he wasn’t blatantly beaten many times, it’s telling that Cristian Roldan was consistently tasked to come over and help the left, which had a domino effect of putting huge pressure in the center areas Roldan wasn’t able to attend to. Constantly needing help on his side put Seattle in a bind marking vertical runs through the top of the 18.
Going forward: It was great to see Brad get on the scoresheet with a beautiful assist, as he has consistently been involved in Seattle chances this year. As long as he can keep churning out tangible results going forward, it’s likely the Sounders will brush aside the lingering defensive concerns.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 6.5
This was the worst defensive outing from a Seattle player this year and surprisingly it was Marshall. He just couldn’t seem to get on track, with a low (for him) completion rate of 79 percent while being forced into a massive nine clearances. Marshall seemed a step slow, and his usually impeccable decision making was suspect at times.
One thing I liked: Throughout this match Chad was trailing the play too often and getting lost, but in the last five minutes he followed his runner across the field on multiple occasions to clear. It was as if he decided not to stay in his zone but just do what was needed to win the match, which ultimately was a great decision.
One thing I didn’t like: When Marshall has a bad pass, it’s often hugely dangerous as he’s passing from deep areas to other deep or central positions. Losing the ball there is dangerous, and he had multiple passes that went directly to Chicago players and immediately past him into the attack.
Going forward: I get it; I’m a dad and I don’t like early weekend mornings either. Let’s give Chad a pass for this match as he’s definitely earned the benefit of the doubt going forward. I fully expect better team and personal performances from Marshall moving forward (Chad averages a paltry three “5” ratings per year from me).
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.5
While Marshall was struggling to his left, Kim was just … there. He had only three clearances and hardly any tracked defensive actions. He was good holding his position and consistently tracked runners through his zone while contributing to a decent right-sided defensive outing.
One thing I liked: Kim was very versatile in this match, from bodying up CJ Sapong, who consistently shaded to the middle to try to help transition long passes, to marking Nemanja Nikolic nearly out of the match. Nikolic had zero completed passes toward Seattle’s goal.
One thing I didn’t like: The defense struggled for long stretches, not marking and missing runners, especially after Román Torres subbed in. There were a few opportunities for Kim to play a simple pass and keep possession and instead he pumped it deep, ceding possession right back to the Fire.
Going forward: I think this defensive group will be fine, but there were enough solid attacks from Chicago to give pause. I’d like to see Kim pick up a struggling Marshall in a match like this and significantly raise his play when needed.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 7.0
Leerdam didn’t have a lot to do in this game, touching the ball 30+ fewer times than Smith, but his side held together better defensively. Much of this was positional, as Leerdam’s combination with Jordan Morris did so well that Chicago burned a first half sub to change the look down their side. A tidy 86 percent passing rate also saw Leerdam consistently support up his wing and create more dangerous scoring opportunities.
One thing I liked: Scoring in three straight games is good for anyone, amazing for a right back (it was a good finish, not offside). Leerdam was a good positional counterbalance to Smith’s attacks on the opposing wing and his ability to pop up in good spots is awesome.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam lost his mark a few times on the backside, and Chicago punished Seattle for it. As a proven goal scorer himself, he should recognize the need to get goal side of those runs.
Going forward: Leerdam looks healthy and happy, and is playing at a high level. His sneaky good attacking instincts are perfect for the opportunities that this offense is going to create.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.6
Svensson’s first half performance was his best of the season. Goose was everywhere, cutting off passes, kick starting offense, and playing at a very high level. He filled up the stat sheet with multiple tackles, interceptions, clearances, aerials won, and all-around important midfield play.
One thing I liked: Svensson was a huge part of the early success for Seattle. In the 2nd and 6th minutes he put Víctor Rodríguez into the corner in space with nice passes. In the 15th it was the Goose who stepped up to win a midfield ball that found the feet of Lodeiro for an assist to Morris. Two minutes later Svensson was across to stop a counter and lock in possession in the final third for Seattle. He was fantastic.
One thing I didn’t like: When Svensson misses, it’s bad. He dove in and missed on multiple occasions, and one (34th minute) immediately resulted in a shot on goal and another (82nd minute) gave a set piece to Chicago on the top of the Sounders box. His defensive anticipation is great, but these bad misses are potentially catastrophic.
Going forward: Goose stepped up in the first half and supported the offense with good passing while holding down the defense. It was a pleasant surprise to see him and Roldan able to switch off more than they had in the first two matches.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 7.2
Roldan was good in this match without doing anything overly remarkable. His 86 percent passing was good, and he had the second most touches (78) on the team. He didn’t do much to get into the offense beyond a disputed assist to Leerdam but he did again post a phenomenal 10 recoveries to lead the defense.
One thing I liked: Even with a quiet match, you know you are going to get full effort from Cristian. In the 93rd minute up 4-2, he rode about four tackles in a row, shrugging off challenges and showing his incredible balance and fitness, salting away the last moments of the game with an impressive dribbling display.
One thing I didn’t like: On multiple occasions Roldan missed vertical runs through the central midfield, one of which directly resulted in a goal by Raheem Edwards. In this match Cristian spent a ton of time helping the left side of the field, but completely missed some central runs he will want to fix.
Going forward: Roldan appears to be a huge midfield improvement. His tackling shows an aggressiveness and confidence that is awesome. His full-field coverage is so impressive; he recovers defensively and gives teammates a rest while winning the ball in the defensive third, transitioning up the field, and then personally supporting inside the area.
Víctor Rodríguez – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (off 90’ for Nouhou)
I originally thought Rodríguez was just okay in this match, but in the replay, there was a ton of very impressive work from the winger. Víctor was everywhere in the offense, creating chances and finishing them. He packed the notebook with three shots, a key pass, a goal, and a huge PK earned. Just as impressive were his defensive contributions, which included three tackles and a surprising nine recoveries on defense. This well-rounded game was enough to earn MOTM from me.
One thing I liked: Víctor nearly fed Morris in the 2nd minute for a goal. He worked to get open and finished clean moments later. He absolutely pantsed Schweinsteiger en route to earning the penalty. He is instant offense and unstoppable.
One thing I didn’t like: After getting up goals, V-Rod’s defensive work rate seemed to fade later in each half, which could be fatigue. It’s a small critique, but one he needs to be aware of as the left side was kind of a mess at times.
Going forward: Víctor may be the best offensive player in the league, and he’s playing in a system that he thrives in. That’s a scary, scary thing for opponents to try to game-plan for, and I look forward to seeing how he adjusts to the inevitable hacking he’ll endure.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 8.1 (off 72’ for Torres)
Lodeiro may have subbed for the second (?) time ever, but before leaving the field he was again truly special. He was goal dangerous whether it was dropping back and feeding through balls or finding the ball in the box and nearly chipping the keeper. Nico was credited with two key passes but was consistently putting the ball into dangerous areas. He capped it off with a cheeky Panenka penalty.
One thing I liked: Continually dropping deep to find the ball he then fed it into dangerous positions and none was better than his pass to Morris in the 15th minute. This absolutely insane pass beat three defenders while dropping the ball on Jordan’s foot and completely flummoxing the keeper into indecision. This pass was so delicately stroked but even more impressive is that Lodeiro not only saw the chance but reacted quickly enough to execute the pass perfectly.
One thing I didn’t like: If you want to know how important Nico is to the team, just look at how much harder it was for Seattle to possess the ball after he subbed out. Prior to that Seattle had 55 percent possession. After, they had 33 percent. Some of the change was tactical, but losing 22 percent possession the minute he left the field was a huge problem for Seattle.
Going forward: Seeing how much we struggled without Nico makes me quite nervous about his hamstring tightness. I hope he returns from the break healthy and ready to continue what has been a fantastic run of form to start the season.
Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 8.5 (MOTM) (off 86’ for Shipp)
Morris continued to play at a high level against Chicago and contributed with two shots (both on target), 91 percent passing, and some great defensive play in addition to creating a tap-in and scoring a phenomenal goal himself.
One thing I liked: There has been talk of how much Jordan has “matured his game” since being injured and while he is making good decisions, I actually saw a lot of this level of play last year before he was injured. He showed great control and smart runs, and it is awesome to see that he has continued to improve from that point. What I love seeing is the absolute confidence when attacking goal. Crisp, forward touches created space for his cross assist. A direct, assertive run saw phenomenal touch and confident finish for his goal. There was some of this ability prior to the injury, but he truly is putting it all together right now and it’s beautiful.
One thing I didn’t like: While his side of the field was fairly strong defensively, Morris didn’t have significant defensive actions to note. Both of his contributions (recoveries) came after the 70th minute when he was clearly tired.
Going forward: Morris is finding neat pockets of space against opponents to thrive, showing a multi-faceted attacking mind that is very exciting. Hopefully this strong play can continue to develop as I think he can be even better.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 8 | Community – 7.9
32 touches, two shots, a key pass, 89 percent completion rate, a goal, a secondary assist, and just more of the same from Ruidíaz. He comes to play every game and consistently does exactly what this team needs to win, almost effortlessly fitting in perfectly with his teammates.
One thing I liked: Every single goal was directly influenced by Raúl. He dropped into the middle to get the ball then fed Morris for a laughable 1-v-1. Dropping again allowed Jordan to attack the space he was in for goal number two. The penalty was earned on some great skill from V-Rod, but it was Ruidíaz ghosting away from the play that pulled the defenders askew, opening the lane for his teammate. The final goal was a magical little touch nutmeg of the keeper but this was created by a smart run to isolate Schweinsteiger diagonally and followed up with an impossibly quick finish before anyone else could react.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 46th minute Smith dialed up a perfect pass to Ruidíaz in the box and Raúl … hung up. While it happens to the best of us, seeing him whiff completely was a head scratcher.
Going forward: Strikers like Raúl who can do all the little things are really special, and he showed how he can do more than just score. But then he just scored, too.
Román Torres – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 72’ for Lodeiro)
Torres got a longer run in this match and was okay. The team struggled with him on the field, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame him specifically for most of the issues. Positioning and communication across the back saw Seattle with some nervy minutes late.
One thing I liked: An 83rd minute step up to win the ball and find a smart pass forward: this play was vintage Torres.
One thing I didn’t like: Román marked space a lot. In the 84th minute that meant Fabian Herbers was able to get his own rebound and finish, while Torres stood unreactive on his own goal line.
Going forward: The five at the back is something the coaches clearly want to work on, and giving Nico rest with a bit of a bum leg is important. This time, however, it didn’t work very well and they will need to tweak it if they want to keep running this formation/personnel out there.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 86’ for Morris)
Shipp came on and touched the ball two whole times.
One thing I liked: Shipp had two chances to pass the ball, and both found a teammate. In the 92nd his first-timer forward found Ruidíaz’s feet in a great spot.
One thing I didn’t like: We should have seen more of Shipp on the ball; he is strong in possession. Rather than putting him in late to kill the clock, it might have been a missed opportunity to get fresh legs on earlier.
Going forward: It was nice to see Harry brought on to play against his former team. This is the kind of time he will likely get as the players in front of him are playing incredibly well.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 90’ for Rodríguez)
Like Shipp, Nouhou came on and had two touches.
One thing I liked: Nouhou completed his only pass.
One thing I didn’t like: The left side got beat up a little in this match and I wonder if there wasn’t an opportunity to push Smith forward and insert Nouhou earlier and see if he could match up physically.
Going forward: Seattle’s subs were kind of a mess in this match. Seems like we could have made some tactical adjustments of our own after Chicago had made two by halftime and their third in the 71st minute.
Joseph Dickerson – 8 | Community – 5.9
This was a clean, well refereed match. While 26 combined fouls were called, the game was well controlled by new referee Dickerson who I thought did an excellent job.
One thing I liked: I wasn’t sure about an instant yellow to Roldan for what seemed an innocuous tackle in the 77th minute which also was his only recorded foul committed all morning. Otherwise his calls were consistent and fair.
One thing I didn’t like: I was surprised Kevin Stott didn’t at least ask the center to check the offsides call. All angles I could find looked fairly conclusively onside. While I appreciate keeping games moving quickly, I want to believe the referees are most interested in making the right call. The easy fix could have consisted of going to the monitor and agreeing with Stott, but at least have a look.
Going forward: If this is how Dickerson always refs, I look forward to him having a long and profitable career in MLS. He was excellent and a good example of a strong outing.
Chicago Fire MOTM
Chicago adjusted early, shuffling personnel around and bringing on Raheem Edwards in minute 35. Twenty minutes later, he ghosted through the box to put away a clean header.
Now there is a nice international break before returning to a Cascadia matchup. Here’s fingers crossed for strong outings and no injuries for our boys.