Depending on how good you think Toronto is, this 3-2 Sounders win was either the best game of the year or a predictable home win. Seattle welcomed a previously unbeaten team into CenturyLink and gutted out a close match. The Sounders were more dominant on re-watch than live, only conceding four shots on goal, but they missed multiple opportunities to put the game away. Early last year, the Sounders would have dropped points in this kind of game; instead they took all three in a well-played home match and continued their undefeated and best ever start.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.5
A Jozy Altidore goal in the 11th minute ended Frei’s impressive shutout streak, and Altidore would put another ball past Stef late in the match to keep Toronto close. This led to a very stressful last 20 minutes where Seattle ceded possession but held on to their slim lead. Other than those shots there were few attacks from Toronto that challenged Frei to do much in the match.
One thing I liked: Frei didn’t know that Roldan would likely have headed out the Alejandro Pozuelo shot in the 92nd minute so he did what Frei does best — he made a great save to ensure a Seattle win.
One thing I didn’t like: Stefan’s distribution was messy, and his long clearances seemed to continually put Seattle under pressure.
Going forward: It wasn’t a shutout but Seattle is only conceding against brilliant individual plays, and that bodes well for the future. Frei continues to make perfect shots necessary to beat him, which is a great thing.
Brad Smith – 8 | Community – 8.0
Against Toronto, Brad found a ton of space on the left wing and completely terrorized the away side with his runs and delivery. He had only 76 percent passing and credit for one assist, but Smith was an offensive force up the left who on multiple occasions put the ball into the 6-yard box with near-perfect precision. Defensively it was rather quiet on his wing, as Toronto tended to drift toward the other sideline.
One thing I liked: When Nicolás Lodeiro, Brad, and Víctor Rodríguez team up, it is truly something to behold. In the 66th minute, after an entry pass to Rodríguez, it was Smith who was already trucking up the sideline, believing that not only would Víctor find Nico (he did, a beautiful first time nick that saw him upended for his efforts) but also that Nico would find him (he did, another first time pass perfectly into the space for Smith to run onto). Not to be outdone by his teammates’ one touches, Brad needed only a single touch of his own, a curving left-footed ball in behind the defense and onto the waiting feet of both Will Bruin and Jordan Morris, either of whom could have touched it home. This assist was an amazing illustration of the off-ball movement and communication that has Brad starting at left back and producing.
One thing I didn’t like: I’d still like to see better 1-v-1 defense, and Smith was lucky that halftime sub Jay Chapman didn’t get in behind him on a number of occasions.
Going forward: Smith’s crossing is very intelligent and almost always the right height/pace for the people receiving it. This is part of why he’s so good, he consistently puts the ball in spots for others to connect with, and his creation helps drive this offense.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 5.9
This was another tough outing for Marshall, who has now had a couple of rough matches on the season. Defensively he only managed three clearances and a single recovery, struggling to make his impact on the match. His usual strong passing was evident (89 percent) as was his aerial dominance, as he easily led the match with six recorded aerials won.
One thing I liked: Seattle creates many set pieces due to their intricate linking playstyle, and I think Marshall will be a huge part of the offense on these plays. This includes corner kicks (Seattle had seven) as well as free kicks and long throw-ins. In the 56th minute Chad outjumped three defenders to head back across and only the smart defense of Chris Mavinga stopped a Sounder tap-in. Continued pressure on these set pieces is huge.
One thing I didn’t like: The combination of size and speed from Altidore was too much for Marshall on two occasions, and Toronto scored both times. In the 11th minute Chad’s footwork betrayed him and a ball we all thought he would casually head clear instead turned into a goal. Similarly, Marshall was near enough to make the play on Jozy in the 70th minute, but again slow feet and smart play from Toronto equaled a goal.
Going forward: We are so used to Chad making these plays that it is hard to know if it’s our expectations, or he’s slowing down, or maybe flying to Colorado and back for no reason midweek had an impact. Whatever, this was a rough one for Marshall and we should keep an eye on him with fixture congestion upcoming.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 6.7
While Chad was quiet, Kim was all over the field, wrestling with Altidore and covering large amounts of space. He had two tackles, four interceptions, seven clearances and nine recoveries. Kim consistently got to the right places on defense and thwarted Toronto time and again as they tried to penetrate Seattle’s defense. His 88 percent passing included a key pass.
One thing I liked: Kim covered a ton of field in this match, consistently coming over behind Marshall to clear or pushing high to prevent entry to Altidore. Kim was incredibly active, and he was the driving force on the defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Late in the match Kim desperately needed to clear a ball off sustained Toronto pressure and failed to do so, instead losing it on a sequence that saw the away team nearly equalize. A better tactical awareness in those situations is necessary.
Going forward: Kim played at a very high level, which was needed when matched up with two creative attackers in Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo. His pace and anticipation remain top notch, and other than a few communication issues between him and Chad, Seattle’s defense is among the best in the league.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.8
Although not scoring goals at his early pace, Leerdam continually finds ways to add to the offensive side of the ball, and against Toronto he led the team with three key passes. Defensively he was okay, dealing with a team that attacked down his side often.
One thing I liked: Kelvin was very active on both sides of the ball, but what was most exciting was a 48th minute full-field switch to Víctor from the near sideline. This was a “frozen rope” ball that completely changed the point of attack and put V-Rod into a 1-v-1 with overlap potential at the corner of the 18. The fact that this play originated from the opposite sideline at midfield was incredible. If Leerdam can make this sort of play consistently, Seattle will score often as it completely unbalances the defense.
One thing I didn’t like: A majority of the Toronto attack came down his side and Leerdam did a generally good job defending, however there were a few times with Altidore occupying the center backs when Kelvin lost his mark wide. Luckily, Jozy missed those passes, instead forcing the ball to Pozuelo, but Leerdam will want to improve this defense.
Going forward: His decision-making and service from the wing have been very smart so far this year, and his assist was no different, when he picked out the more dangerous teammate in Cristian Roldan for a through ball. Kelvin doesn’t get as much hype as some of the players around him, but he looks immensely improved from his play last season.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.1
Svensson did a little bit of everything defensively in this match, but seemed to disappear in the middle of the game before showing up big late. He ended with three tackles, multiple interceptions, a clearance, a blocked shot, and nine recoveries. Goose was a diligent defensive presence who fit nicely underneath Seattle’s press and often played quick switching passes to width.
One thing I liked: Svensson consistently steps up on defenses and prevents them from counter attacking, and also often wins the ball back to a teammate to keep up the pressure. This happened time and again as his anticipation led to Seattle creating offense through defense.
One thing I didn’t like: He had a bad whiff defensively in the 89th minute that forced V-Rod into a yellow card foul in transition.
Going forward: Svensson just goes where he is needed, and with Roldan pushing higher as an offensive tool, Gustav seamlessly slid over behind and roamed from sideline to sideline in support of the movements of his midfield partner.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.8
Man, Cristian was immense in this match. He was everywhere, connecting short passes in support of the defense, finding teammates on offense with precise crosses and through balls, and running into spaces to attack the defense himself before assisting or scoring. As a defensive midfielder he had three shots, a key pass, an 89 percent completion rate, two tackles, and a very important game-winning goal.
One thing I liked: When Roldan pushes forward it simply overwhelms defenses with numbers. In the 29th minute he noted space up the right wing and made a gorgeous diagonal run and found the ball, before dropping a perfect cross onto Bruin’s head. Cristian’s movement and awareness were fantastic on this play, something he repeated more centrally in the 68th minute before smashing a shot through the goalie.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 11th minute Pozuelo got the ball in space and was allowed to pick his head up and cross. The scouting report should have explicitly said to prevent this, and with Roldan watching, the Toronto DP was allowed to dial up an early assist.
Going forward: Cristian is so good that when he’s not in the middle Seattle can struggle with numbers. Roldan’s work rate is immense, which usually prevents this from being an issue, but in those few times when teams have success in the middle it’s often because they have lured him out.
Víctor Rodríguez – 7 | Community – 7.2 (off 91’ for Nouhou)
If you weren’t watching closely, you might have thought that Rodríguez had a quiet game. The rewatch showed this to be another episode of the V-Rod show. He is always creating offense and just constantly makes great soccer decisions. Although he only had a single shot, he had two key passes and three or four more looks that frankly deserved a bit more from his teammates. Defensively he led the Sounders with four tackles and added six recoveries as well.
One thing I liked: Víctor continually creates offense. His movement created multiple corner kicks. His 15th minute pass to Bruin in the box should have resulted in at least a shot on goal. His 66th minute touch (and received foul) was integral in the go-ahead goal sequence. Ten minutes later he found an ingenious chip to put Lodeiro through on goal. This guy just makes chances happen out of nothing.
One thing I didn’t like: For the first 10 minutes or so Seattle’s spacing was terrible. Bruin was over on the left side trying to be involved and did nothing more than just gum up the well-oiled machine of Víctor, Brad, and Nico. As soon as the Sounders figured out their spacing issues (mostly just getting Bruin to stay central) they once again dominated up the left side.
Going forward: Eventually Rodríguez will likely start piling up the goals and assists, but for now he’s been the pass before the pass, and that’s okay, too. His defensive work rate is a big reason that teams aren’t exposing the left side.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.4
Lodeiro was again held below 100 touches against Toronto, but as usual, he was everywhere. This was a very balanced affair from the Sounder DP, who nearly scored, had two key passes, and continually threatened to assist on goals while also being very active defensively with three interceptions and a massive nine recoveries in the midfield.
One thing I liked: Lodeiro makes so much happen with his passes, but it was his movement in the 76th minute that I absolutely loved. Nico came across the middle and when he saw V-Rod on the ball, he just turned and ran to goal. Even though this forced an absurd, magically lifted chip pass, his faith in a teammate got him into the box unmarked, where he put a perfect pass across the 6 that should have been finished to put the match away.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico got a weird yellow card for kicking the ball away and normally that wouldn’t be a huge deal but he had been warned for delay already and that’s his second card for this sort of thing. The time saved is not worth potentially losing him for accumulation at some point.
Going forward: I loved seeing Nico have a cheeky try at a chip early and I hope he remains willing to go direct when the opportunity presents itself.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 86’ for Shipp)
Morris didn’t get into the game a ton, as Toronto’s formation prevented him from getting in behind with any regularity. He likely would have had a goal had Bruin not beat him to Smith’s perfect cross in the 66th minute, and Morris did a lot of work up and down his wing. His three tackles helped a strong defensive outing from the right side, but Jordan’s sub-70 percent passing wasn’t ideal.
One thing I liked: Morris creates so much space for others to work in that it’s creating gaps for his teammates to exploit, as well as holding defenses from shifting sides — but it’s Morris’ defensive mind that I love seeing. After a 48th minute corner kick, Jordan used his top-notch speed to race down field and prevent a Toronto counter, one of the few times the away team pushed forward. This was a stellar bit of hustle and fantastic defensive work.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris is getting some really good chances and not finishing them. In the 76th minute Lodeiro dropped a cross onto his foot that somehow Jordan missed. This is the kind of goal Seattle depends on him to finish, and the kind of play that makes the last 15 minutes of the match much more enjoyable for the home team.
Going forward: Morris ran out of gas up front, but I’d still like to see how his speed and playstyle would fit as a like-for-like swap in the Ruidíaz spot. When we see him up there it looks like he’s in good spots, but since it’s often the end of the match, the legs aren’t there to make the plays.
Will Bruin – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (MOTM) (off 79’ for Torres)
Bruin got his second consecutive start and played much better. Instead of floating wide and drifting into areas where wings and overlapping fullbacks want the ball, Will (after 10 minutes) planted himself in the middle of the field and Seattle reaped the benefits. He led the game with four shots, put three on frame and two in the back of the net. His 70 percent passing was just okay, mostly away from goal but often as part of some necessary linking play.
One thing I liked: As soon as Will figured out where to go, the ball just kept finding him and he kept putting it toward goal. That’s what goal scorers do and it seems like Bruin found the faith in his teammates to put the ball where he could best work with it, i.e. near the 6-yard box. The Bear set up camp there and feasted on great service from teammates.
One thing I didn’t like: Bruin’s positioning in this game was so much better than the last, high and forcing the center backs deep, which created space for teammates to do their thing. Unfortunately, “their thing” was interrupted by an offsides Bruin on at least three occasions when nice attacks were in motion.
Going forward: It would be awesome if Bruin could get out of his (and teammates) way sometimes, as he over-exerts himself in weird spots and can get in the path of others. Guys like Morris had their runs poached by Bruin and they will need to work that out if Will keeps playing. He is such a hard worker that usually his hustle is enough, and in this match you saw exactly how much skill he can add to that hustle, and how valuable Bruin is to the team. Hope he’s okay!
Román Torres – 6 | Community – 6.2 (on 79’ for Bruin)
Torres has played well every time he’s come into a match. Dropping into the center of the defense in between Chad and Kim, Román immediately added energy and physicality. He ended 1/1 passing, with a recovery, an interception, and a tackle.
One thing I liked: Román brings that little bit of attitude, and it was apparent in the 83rd minute when the first time he was matched up with Jozy he nudged the Toronto forward into the sideline. It was a gentle yet firm “hi” and sent the message that Torres was not going to be pushed around.
One thing I didn’t like: After a nice step forward in the 90th to win the ball, Román had his shirt tugged and he quit on the play. With the referee ignoring his foul claims, instead of playing to the whistle Torres stood there complaining as Toronto took the ball the other way.
Going forward: Román looks solid in his minimal time so far this year. His energy and physicality are a huge improvement over anything we saw pre-summer from him in the last few years, which is great, as he will likely get some time with fixture congestion on the horizon.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 86’ for Morris)
Another few minutes up a goal for Shipp to come on and solidify the midfield, and he did that. He had a surprising five touches in a short shift, and completed 100 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: Shipp is very active when he comes into the match but also can adapt to whatever shape the team is using, allowing him to join the game seamlessly. He even got a shot.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 92nd minute Shipp took a longish touch and instead of clearing the ball up field, he tried to control it, ultimately losing possession and adding to a shaky last few minutes for Seattle.
Going forward: Harry Shipp was very valuable last season as Seattle started to turn it around, and one of the reasons is his ability to combine with those already on the team. This has translated well to his bench role, and he is a strong option for more time with the upcoming multiple-game week.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 91’ for Rodríguez)
Nouhou charging onto the field is the kind of thing that should instill confidence in fans, as he brings such excitement to the match. Bringing him on does multiple things: it puts a better defender in at left back and pushes Smith up to be a consistent counter attack threat.
One thing I liked: Nouhou only played a few minutes but I was impressed with what he did. He charged up field in support of his teammates, but raced back on defense to basically sit in Altidore’s lap. With Smith still lurking wide, Nouhou was going to make sure that Jozy didn’t touch the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s a shame we haven’t seen him and Smith both bombing up the left at the same time this year.
Going forward: I think Nouhou would have started last Wednesday against Colorado, and it’s likely he will play the next midweek match. I look forward to seeing if his improvement is indeed real in a longer outing, because in short stints he looks stronger and faster. It’s unclear whether his decision-making has improved.
Allen Chapman – 6 | Community – 5.2
I mentioned after the match that usually after a re-watch the referees weren’t as bad as I thought — and this is exactly what happened. Chapman was very good, missing a few calls but otherwise calling a clean match and refereeing so well that at times I forgot he was there.
One thing I liked: The cards he gave out were all justified; after seeing the high elbow from Kim and the plays from Víctor and Nico, I couldn’t complain about the yellows. More than that, I thought Chapman did a good job of using the card only when necessary, as there were a few fouls that were borderline and he chose to keep the book closed.
One thing I didn’t like: While I appreciate the ref using advantage (our 66th minute goal was a play-on from V-Rod getting creamed) it was a poor choice in the 39th minute. With Kim and Altidore completely tangled up, Chapman chose to allow the game to play on (and subsequent break for Toronto) by calling advantage. I thought Jozy actually fouled Kim on this play — but more importantly Altidore completely kicked out and threw Kim to the ground. If you think Kim fouled Jozy, okay, call the foul, but the Toronto player doesn’t then get to obstruct/hold/foul Kim as his teammate is running down the field. If Altidore hadn’t fouled Kim, Kim would have been able to chase him down, so this was essentially a double whammy call, even if you think the first foul was on Kim (which I don’t!).
Going forward: Chapman wasn’t terrible, wasn’t great, and didn’t have to make many tough decisions. That seems like a good recipe for a referee.
Toronto FC MOTM
Not sure how to score his 90-minute wrestling match with Kim, but the two goals certainly helped Altidore’s MOTM case.
The upcoming game against LAFC is a chance to make a statement against a team that many people think is the class of the league. It’s a full six-pointer and Seattle needs to play well there to define who they are in 2019.