The Sounders played a midweek match on short rest against a rejuvenated San Jose team and it was quite the rollercoaster. Changing tactics and personnel, Seattle at times looked amazing and at other times struggled with the Earthquakes’ man-marking scheme, creating a match quite unlike any we’ve seen this season. Early on, pushing Nico Lodeiro high gave Seattle a numbers advantage, and they looked poised to run the away team out of the building, but San Jose held on and adjusted, eventually turning the tide and building a two goal lead. Seattle stormed back in a five minute span to even the match and both teams traded a number of chances late before settling for a 2-2 draw.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.2 (MOTM)
It seems so long ago that Seattle was piling up shutouts, and yet Frei is playing at a high level. He’s given up goals, but it’s hard to blame him other than knowing he can make the amazing save. In this match Frei did well to distribute the ball with his feet, often keeping possession better than in previous matches.
One thing I liked: After the Sounders charged back to tie, they started pumping players forward, opening themselves up to counterattacks. One such counter happened in the 69th and after a blunder by Brad Smith, Frei found himself 1-v-1 with Cristian Espinoza. Frei stood tall, stuffing the shot and keeping Seattle in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: The first Shea Salinas goal was a well-taken shot, but it was a play that was against the run of the game up to that point. I think the best keepers in the league find ways to make that save.
Going forward: Frei is one of the best keepers in the league and is having a great season, even given the uncharacteristic defensive struggles of the team around him. It’s a lot to ask for him to stand on his head more often, but I think he can. I’d love to see him “will” the team into better results, especially when the game has as much adversity as this one did.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.6 (off injured 55’ for Smith)
Nouhou got his first start of the year and did well. Defensively he was strong, as you would expect. He didn’t join the attack frequently, but there was at least one time when he had a nice pullback cross. His skillset on the offensive side vastly trails his defensive acumen.
One thing I liked: Almost none of the Earthquakes’ success came from his defensive side, and his 1-v-1 defense was tremendous as usual. His recoveries to prevent counterattacks were crucial early, allowing Seattle to control the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou might be somewhat fragile. He seems to repeatedly get injured whenever he starts, often when he starts to fatigue. I don’t yet question his toughness, but this is about the third time he’s gotten hurt and subbed himself off almost before the staff had a look at him. Seattle also immediately conceded while he was off.
Going forward: Nouhou had a chance to push for more consistent playing time and didn’t shine. He was okay, but he needed to play a full, strong game to give his teammates a rest and improve his standing on the squad, and the injury prevented more than an “okay” grade.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.1
Marshall was back and as usual, quietly very strong. He led the team with a sparkling 94 percent passing completion rate while having multiple clearances and interceptions. His positioning was stellar and as usual he was consistently in great spots to assist teammates in limiting chances.
One thing I liked: With Marshall back Seattle looked much better organized on defense. Yes, San Jose had opportunities, but these were individual moments of brilliance, and the back line looked greatly improved with Chad’s positioning and leadership.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle was very strong on resets, and Marshall was a force. He ended with three shots and a key pass, although his best offensive play was an 83rd minute redirect on a free kick right into the middle that his teammates failed to take advantage of. The team has to be smarter on these plays and recognize that he is going to set them up.
Going forward: It was great to see Chad back out there, and I hope he can play a second game in a few days, because it’s clear this team isn’t ready to succeed without him.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.6
Kim moved back to the right side of the field and was much improved from the weekend match, looking comfortable throughout. He was given a free role against San Jose, and he adjusted well to being more active. His 78 touches were second most in the match, and he completed 75 percent of his passes. He also blocked a shot, had a number of clearances and interceptions, and played strong defense.
One thing I liked: Kim showed off a refined offensive skillset and created a lot for a center back. He ended with a sparking 100 percent success rate on his two crosses, had two key passes and a shot while stepping up high to support the offense in central and wide-right areas. His flicked header assist in the 65th minute started the comeback.
One thing I didn’t like: San Jose nearly scored a second in extra time of the first half and it was due to Kim losing a runner right down the middle. When retreating toward his own goal Kim has struggled, and especially at the end of a half, he must keep his concentration.
Going forward: It was good to see Kim play much better, even though Seattle conceded twice. There are still issues on the defense that need improvement, but the central defenders look solid as long as they can stay healthy.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 5.7
I don’t know what to make of Kelvin Leerdam this season. Up until San Jose got a multiple goal lead, he had the same poor form and looked fatigued, just as he had against LAFC. After his goal he found a reservoir of energy and played stellar for the last half hour of the match, ending a rollercoaster outing with some respectable offensive numbers while struggling defensively.
One thing I liked: Leerdam might be the best finisher not named Raúl Ruidíaz on the team; he keeps finding the ball in the box and putting it behind the opponent’s keeper. In minute 65 it was team-leading goal number three for Kelvin, who cleanly headed home a nice Kim flick and jump-started a comeback. He ended with two shots and a key pass as well, showcasing some offensive touch around the box that helped late.
One thing I didn’t like: Kelvin was completely spun in the 34th for a goal that was slightly against the run of play, and he failed to recognize the multitudes of defensive help inside. In the 53rd he was a casual bystander as San Jose scored from his position. Two major defensive mistakes, two goals against.
Going forward: With strikers hurt it helps to get offense from other players, but Leerdam needs to be a lockdown defensive player first. Maybe the goal will improve his demeanor, as he has been alarmingly checked out too often.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off injured 56’ for Shipp)
Svensson had a quiet match, dropping in and trying to help the defense but also carrying Magnus Eriksson around on his back the whole game. Goose had very few recorded defensive actions on the evening, instead busting his ass all over the field to defend via positioning while still getting off two shots and completing 90 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: Svensson slid in behind when Kim ventured forward, smoothly joining the right of the defense and allowing Seattle to push numbers higher. His ability to fit in a number of positions is crucial to the Sounders’ tactical flexibility.
One thing I didn’t like: Asked to play again on short rest, Svensson got hurt. He pulled his hamstring on a desperation slide tackle trying to support a short-handed Sounders defense with Nouhou on the sideline. San Jose scored while he limped around prior to subbing off.
Going forward: Not only has Svensson been very good at defensive midfielder, he looked better than Torres in the back and any long-term injury to him will put pressure on bench players to step up.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.0
Roldan struggled to deal with San Jose’s man marking. Like Svensson, his defensive numbers were limited, as the system he played against restricted his impact in the middle of the field. His 86 percent passing in the middle was strong, however, and Roldan led the match with four tackles.
One thing I liked: When Harry Shipp subbed on, Roldan played higher up the pitch and it immediately paid off, as his movement created huge issues for the Earthquakes. When Cristian got forward and connected with teammates or pressed higher, Seattle created a number of great chances.
One thing I didn’t like: When playing against man marking you need to move the ball quickly, and Roldan was caught holding possession too long on a number of occasions. With Nouhou on the sideline and playing a man down, Cristian had a chance in the 53rd minute to play safe and was dispossessed, leading to a second San Jose goal.
Going forward: At times Roldan looked tired in this match, and that isn’t a great sign for what’s likely his third 90 in a week on Sunday. With Svensson hurt, look for Roldan to be a pivotal player in the middle once again. I think he has the ability to dominate.
Handwalla Bwana – 6 | Community – 6.2
Many people are high on Bwana, and at times against San Jose you could see why. He repeatedly drove directly at the defense and attempted to create off the dribble (and led the team with five successful dribbles). During the frantic first 25 minutes he had a number of chances, finishing the match with six shots. Unfortunately, most of his shots were directly at keeper Daniel Vega. He had a late short range header saved, denying Seattle a go-ahead goal.
One thing I liked: Seattle sometimes needs to be more direct, and Bwana is that. He isn’t scared to face up a defender, make a move and get past him to set up a shot. On multiple occasions he accomplished that, most notably in the 10th with a left-footed hit and the 15th with a nice cut to his right. Both shots were fairly easily saved, but the talent is clearly there.
One thing I didn’t like: Bwana looked good 1-v-1, but as part of the team he often looked lost. His movement was rarely in support of others and he didn’t offer a lot toward the team’s offensive creation. Defensively Handwalla was a non-factor, often caught way too far up field and putting pressure on the fullbacks to pick up the slack. Other than getting the ball and going at a single defender, Bwana wasn’t great.
Going forward: If he can improve to use the runs and passes of Víctor Rodríguez and Lodeiro, and not just rely on trying to dribble through guys, Bwana will take a huge step forward. Until then, he has some nice tools in his skillset, but seems like “almost” a solid player and I’m waiting for him to add more.
Víctor Rodríguez – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off injured 63’ for Wingo)
I liked Rodríguez in the middle and thought he was a huge reason Seattle dominated the first 25 minutes of the match. His movement and spacing were excellent, complementing the wide players well and allowing for Nico to drop in. Víctor had a strong 87 percent passing rate, but only a single shot to go with two key passes as San Jose bodied him up all over the field, man-marking him with Judson in a very physical match that saw V-Rod eventually sub with injury.
One thing I liked: Víctor was strong setting up the offense, with Kim and the outside backs looking to filter into him before he spun into space to release teammates. At times he plays a bit smarter than his teammates and clearly misses the intelligent movement of Ruidíaz.
One thing I didn’t like: San Jose was physical with V-Rod all match, including the header that eventually took him out of the game. He’s someone whose quick passing and movement can carve up man-marking schemes, but not if the defense is allowed to grab, trip, foul, etc. every time he touches the ball.
Going forward: It’s terrific that Rodríguez can play centrally, but alarming that he is in concussion protocol. Much of the Sounders’ offense is generated through his intelligent play and it will be a huge blow if he misses any time.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.1
It was a weird match for Morris. He played very well in some aspects, but failed in a number of higher profile moments, and that likely soured many people’s opinion of his outing. Jordan did an incredible amount of the dirty work in this match, tirelessly running up and down the wing and interchanging into the middle. He was the only player that consistently held the ball up for Seattle, and he won a massive five aerials.
One thing I liked: In the 84th minute Lodeiro launched a long free kick that Morris controlled amidst multiple defenders. He brought his teammates into the play before releasing wide and re-obtaining the ball in the box. Jordan whipped a nearly perfect left footed cross into the six that just missed a teammate.
One thing I didn’t like: I want more from Jordan. He is a big, strong, athletic guy who can (and should) be able to impose his will on the game more than he does. The tentativeness and deferring to teammates are fine in doses, but he should be more direct like he was in the 78th minute, driving into the box and forcing a save.
Going forward: Morris has to do more when he’s on the field, and the Sounders have to figure out a way to get him the ball in dangerous places.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.5
Seattle dominated the start of the match with Lodeiro dragging Florian Jungwirth around the field. Nico was a monster creator in this match, often from his set pieces. He managed 108 touches from mostly a striker position by dropping deep to receive the ball and recycle it through the wings. His service was excellent and contributed to a massive seven key passes that included an assist. He continually put teammates in good spots to change the scoreline.
One thing I liked: In the 44th minute Nico dropped deep into the midfield to get the ball and hit a first-time, over the top through ball right up the gut. It didn’t create a shot but showed how creative and effective he can be from a deeper position.
One thing I didn’t like: The false 9 was an interesting idea, and likely genius if Seattle scores early from it, but after San Jose adjusted all it seemed to do was pull more defenders into a crowded midfield and remove any Sounder from stretching the field, condensing space. The Sounders failure to adjust at halftime was alarming.
Going forward: Nico looks more visibly emotional this year, and my guess is it’s because he was named captain. This can be a good thing (he forces teammates to get on his intensity level) but can also be a drawback when he gets unnecessary frustration cards.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 6.3 (on 55’ for Nouhou)
Smith came into a match that he probably didn’t expect to play in, and he wasn’t that great. A rough 67 percent passing rate coupled with some questionable defensive plays rounded out a fairly quiet outing from this dynamic player. He had only nine passes in 35 minutes and I expected him to be much more active.
One thing I liked: Seattle scored twice with him on the field, and none with him off. That doesn’t mean it’s all him by any means, but his positioning and threat to go forward helped Seattle. The second goal was aided by some strong work up the left by Smith.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 66th minute Smith had a chance to shoot and didn’t, after his first touch was away from goal, setting up a pass instead of a shot. Even though Seattle scored seconds later, I’d like to see him add more goal-dangerous play, especially when he’s that deep and unmarked.
Going forward: Smith had a few huge defensive mistakes and was almost a non-factor, which is disappointing for a guy who has looked often like a gamechanger this season.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.8 (on 56’ for Svensson)
All Harry Shipp does is score goals. His late run into the box mirrored Lodeiro’s run and Shipp expertly finished to tie the match and give Seattle a chance at all three points. I absolutely loved Shipp in this position, dropping deep similarly to Gustav and spraying release passes forward. Harry didn’t get into the offensive third often, but when he did, he put his single shot on frame and had a key pass as well, while solidifying the midfield pairing with Roldan. The added benefit of the way Harry played is it freed up Cristian to charge into and overload the offensive third, immediately helping Seattle pressure and score.
One thing I liked: Shipp played excellently as a deep playmaker. In the 80th his strong defense won the ball and he slipped a wonderful pass out to the left to start a break. He repeated this again in the 88th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few times communication didn’t work out from the subs, and Shipp missed a number of passes to Henry Wingo, and vice versa.
Going forward: Shipp may not be considered Best XI on this team, but his production from the bench should be winning some fans over. It’s not as fancy as others, but he made another impact in this match and as long as he produces, should earn the faith of coach and fans alike.
Henry Wingo – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 63’ for Rodríguez)
Wingo played again this week and looked a little stronger. He continually ran up the wing and offered an option, showing off great athleticism.
One thing I liked: There was a lot of energy added with the subs playing against tired man-marking, and Seattle immediately made a comeback.
One thing I didn’t like: Henry ran a lot, but nothing much came of it. At some point he has to be more than just a great athlete.
Going forward: Last I heard Seattle was turning Wingo into a right back, so of course he played right mid versus San Jose.
Fotis Bazakos – 4 | Community – 3.3
Bazakos has never been a good fit for the way Seattle plays, and this was no different. He missed a pk in the first 3 minutes and it went downhill from there. With San Jose allowed to foul repeatedly to stop any counterattacks and reset their man-marking, Seattle was completely thrown off their game. Since they aren’t in a zone, delaying restarts and stopping players who have beat you is a huge part of the game plan, and this referee showed no ability to regulate either, greatly benefiting the away side.
One thing I liked: Danny Hoesen finally got a yellow card in the 70th minute, after four warnings for delaying Frei’s punts.
One thing I didn’t like: It was so damn inconsistent. Bwana gets fouled at the top of the box, just a foul. But 15 seconds later he commits his second foul and instant yellow. This is maddening for me; I can only imagine what it’s like for the players. The application of advantage was a complete mess and the game degenerated into a choppy, physical mire.
Going forward: The ref didn’t cost Seattle this match, but his style was especially bad for the matchup, as man-marking depends on lenient referees or restarts to get back into position when people are beat. The way Bazakos chose to ref this game allowed San Jose to leverage the physicality to support their defense, and Seattle was unable to take advantage of the dead ball situations they earned.
San Jose Earthquakes MOTM
Shea Salinas put two on the Sounders and earned his team a tough away point. His first goal was a nice solo effort, first crossing up Leerdam, then freezing Stefan Frei as he finished far post. His second was a simple finish at the far post on a ball that snuck through traffic across the box.
After a tie that felt like both a win and a loss, Seattle gets to bring its wounded warriors back to Century Link on Sunday to play the best team in the league. I would be okay if we surprised everyone and showed just how strong we are at home by earning a positive result.