There was a lot to digest from the weekend rematch between LAFC and Seattle. The Sounders clearly came out to play, pouncing on an early mistake to score. Although they conceded almost immediately after, they looked eager to trade blows with a team that had destroyed them a week prior. Any semblance of a “normal” match was quickly abandoned after the 18th minute when a red card brought Seattle down to 10 men. Playing down a man may have actually helped the Sounders, forcing them to stay deep, compact, and defense-minded. This worked well for Seattle as they stymied the high octane LAFC attack and nearly scored themselves on infrequent counters. A second late red card was a bummer, but the 1-1 draw was a testament to the incredible dedication and effort from the 13 players who refused to concede.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.4
In a match where Seattle only had 26.5 percent possession and were outshot 4 to 21, you might think Frei had a ton of work to do, but it was the defense in front of him who did the heavy lifting. LAFC only managed to put five shots on target, and Frei himself only had to make four saves. Seattle did an excellent job on a majority of the opponent’s attacks, limiting quality chances and making much of Stef’s job predictable.
One thing I liked: Frei barely put a foot wrong all afternoon, continually forcing LAFC to be perfect to beat him. One time they were, but they were unable to replicate that precision. I especially liked Frei’s 80th minute journey well outside his penalty area to support a Sounders counterattack, showing a willingness to attack from the back and not just turtle.
One thing I didn’t like: The LAFC goal was well taken, but I have seen Frei make that save before, and he seemed a step slow to get down and parry a cross that he has the ability to deny from the far post.
Going forward: Stefan was part of an absolutely heroic 75 minutes playing a very good, healthy, in-form team to a standstill, while down a man. That has to build team confidence and cohesion after a rough week.
Brad Smith – 7 | Community – 7.8 (MOTM)
Smith was much improved at defending the massively talented Carlos Vela, who was (after the 5th minute) held in check. Seattle defended narrower against LAFC this time, and missing a man forced the Sounders to limit their forays forward, which closed gaps in transition that were evident last week. No one had great passing, and Brad’s 48 percent was rough, but he showed much more heart, endurance, and desire than expected. His eight tackles led the match.
One thing I liked: Smith repeatedly reached deep into his energy reserves and charged up the left side, igniting the attack almost single-handedly at times, creating chances via his pace on the wing. It was amazing to see his effort to outrace opponents in the 90th minute after playing down almost all match.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith still turned off a number of times on Vela, and the LAFC star made Seattle pay once. I have no idea why Smith wasn’t running to the middle of the goal and forcing the Diego Rossi pass to go through him to get to Vela on their goal. This kind of mistake will be punished by good players.
Going forward: He made a few blunders, but for the most part Smith was very good defensively, clearly improved from the previous LAFC outing. Even more impressive was his effort the entire match, tirelessly offering a counterattack option.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 6.9
At first, I was wary of moving Kim back to the left where he had just struggled, potentially weakening the better of the two center backs, but he was much improved. Three tackles and four clearances nicely accentuated his 78 percent passing from the back in a largely stay at home effort.
One thing I liked: The center backs were a team, moving in unison throughout most of the match, and Kim constantly moved vertically to prevent Vela from cutting in on his left foot and getting any look at the goal. This compact central defense consistently limited LAFC chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim lost runners in between he and Román Torres on a number of occasions. Christian Ramirez got to the back post in the 44th and 73rd with chances to score and Seattle was extremely lucky not to concede.
Going forward: We saw a huge bounce-back performance from the center pair who looked dominant for long stretches of the match after being completely inept a week prior. This bodes well for the future.
Román Torres – 7 | Community – 7.0
Torres was much better this week compared to the first LAFC match. This time he was part of a smart, cohesive central defensive unit that forced chances wide and limited successful attacks up the middle. He only completed 65 percent of his passes but many of his touches were no-nonsense clearances. Torres nearly found the winner on an 83rd minute header from a corner kick.
One thing I liked: This was night and day different mentally from Torres, who made much better choices. In the 71st minute he calmly shielded the ball out for a goal kick. In the 79th when beat he found a tremendous slide tackle recovery. These were shrewd soccer decisions that were completely absent against LAFC in California.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 48th minute Ramirez was wide open on the back post but he luckily missed a sitter, as Torres watched helplessly. It wasn’t often that Román lost his concentration, but when he did it was frightfully bad.
Going forward: Just like we shouldn’t write off Román from last week’s effort, we shouldn’t immediately pronounce him amazing after this one; this game greatly increased my confidence in Torres, and likely his own as well.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 95’ for Red Card)
Kelvin did an okay job this week against LAFC, especially after Roldan’s red card. He ended with a team high six clearances defensively and won multiple important aerials in support of a strong right-sided defense pairing with Harry Shipp (and later Alex Roldan) that shut down the opponent for a majority of the match. He did get an unfortunate, possibly avoidable red card, but he was part of a fantastic bend-but-don’t-break defense.
One thing I liked: Some of Leerdam’s defending was absolutely incredible, coming across in support of Torres and limiting backside runs time and time again. In the 85th minute he had his best play, denying LAFC a near certain goal by supporting centrally.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam was beat in the 4th minute and LAFC scored easily. Leerdam was beat 90 minutes later and was red-carded off the field. Two huge mental mistakes that LAFC pounced on. The foul at the end of the match might not have been necessary; it looked like the ball was going past and Frei would be able to make the save.
Going forward: Leerdam needed a break so that’s a small benefit to the red. Our right back depth is the weakest on the team, so buckle up for the SAS Show (or the Henry Wingo Experience, as the case may be).
Jordy Delem – 7 | Community – 6.5
Delem again came into a match and did nearly everything he was asked to do correctly. He stayed relatively rooted to the center of the pitch, denying any LAFC actions to his section of the field while winning four aerials, offering crunching tackles, and keeping near-perfect positioning.
One thing I liked: Delem was incredibly consistent in the middle, a steadying presence who was always in the right spot to deny the opponent. His 62nd minute scrambling block was fantastic anticipation, a lunging defense that kept the score tied.
One thing I didn’t like: It wasn’t often that Delem did more than defend, but after a nice 85th minute action he immediately gave away possession, throwing Seattle right back into the pressure LAFC was creating with the Sounders a bit stretched.
Going forward: Delem just comes into matches and does his job almost flawlessly. He isn’t a flashy player and doesn’t have the pedigree or skill of some of the others on the field, but it’s time to start giving him credit for being an above-average backup and someone we should be comfortable with starting while Goose is injured.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.2 (off 18’ for Red Card)
Two guys looked incredibly amped up for this match. One scored in 45 seconds and the other was done after 18 minutes. Roldan was the latter, and in his short time on the field had already amassed a tackle, an interception, and two clearances.
One thing I liked: Cristian was playing well before he got sent off. His defensive presence and two-way play already looked like it had potential to support the frenetic pace of the match early.
One thing I didn’t like: Say what you will about the card, it still happened, and playing not only most of this match without one of your most important players, but also the entire next one (sans appeal) completely sucks. I don’t think the red was correct, but he was pretty jacked up for this match and got baited into an avoidable altercation.
Going forward: I really wanted to see Roldan versus Alonso next week, as I think Roldan is a stronger player. If it doesn’t happen, I look forward to two weeks of desire being dumped onto Houston on the 11th.
Handwalla Bwana – 7 | Community – 6.2 (off 79’ for Wingo)
After an offensive display where Bwana showed strong attacking instincts last match, I was more impressed against LAFC where he was a complete revelation of defensive positioning and intensity. Bwana had seven tackles on the width, repeatedly pinching in to support centrally before hustling wide to offer an option up the wing, combining well with Smith.
One thing I liked: Handwalla is still a young player but the maturity in this game was awesome. In the 30th minute on a Sounders corner kick, Bwana recovered onto Rossi and marked him for over 40 yards horizontally, showing fantastic desire to deny the dangerous man.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he was one of only a few Sounders to earn a key pass, Bwana had options offensively at times and failed to attack, instead recycling possession. This makes sense with a full team, but down a man it would have been prudent to press his luck instead of conceding the small edge he had created offensively on a few occasions.
Going forward: Bwana was perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the red card, with the compact field and tactics making for a simple strategy that he looked comfortable with. If he can learn to combine his offensive and defensive skillsets, he has the potential to be very special.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 7.3
Wow. I have never seen anyone work as hard as Lodeiro did in this match. He was absolutely incredible. His impressive individual effort and endurance were the best I’ve ever seen in a soccer match. Nico ran his ass off the entire game, refusing to walk, constantly willing Seattle to a result.
One thing I liked: Nico was everywhere, creating a shot, getting a shot on goal, winning tackles and aerials and fouls. Nothing is a better example of his hustle than in the 77th minute. Nico, taking a corner from the Southwest corner of the field, chases down an LAFC counterattack, eventually defending Vela in the Northeast corner of the Sounders’ 18 and clearing the ball. That’s a full 110 vertical yards and 65 yards horizontal, so approximately 130 minimum yards (if my Pythagorean Theorem skills are up to date) he sprinted to defend. It was amazing effort for anyone fresh. In the 77th minute playing down a man after all the running he had already done, it was borderline impossible. He’s amazing.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico only completed 48 percent of his passes, which is obviously not great, but under the circumstances not a huge deal.
Going forward: Lodeiro wasn’t going to allow his effort to be the reason Seattle dropped points. When others get healthy, I hope they emulate their captain.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 70’ for Alex Roldan)
Shipp’s game doesn’t translate well to playing a man down, but he did a ton of work defensively and he and Leerdam shut down their side for long stretches. His 59 percent passing was okay, and he didn’t have a ton of measurable defensive actions, but Harry was one of the hardest working Sounders in closing down space and forcing LAFC to work for chances.
One thing I liked: Harry immediately understood the defensive needs of the 10-v-11 dynamic and adjusted. His heat map is nearly on top of Leerdam, but that is because he was constantly sucking central to support Delem before running wide to force LAFC to the outside. He never stopped moving defensively, constantly supporting and filling passing lanes, successfully shunting everything outside of him.
One thing I didn’t like: Other than a nice pass from traffic in the 24th minute that opened Leerdam on an overlap, Shipp didn’t add anything offensively after the red card, saving his energy for the tiresome work of shuttling the defensive channels.
Going forward: Shipp has now appeared in every match except the Vancouver one, including a number of starts. When people talk about Sounders depth, they should start with recognizing that Shipp is a great option and a great guy to have on the team.
Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 7.1 (off 97’ for Abdul-Salaam)
This was Morris’ best effort in a lone forward position this year. Even though Seattle was playing essentially a 4-4-1, Jordan did so many impressive things from his limited chances. He repeatedly found teammates (80 percent passing) and was instantly dangerous whenever he was near the ball, limiting LAFC from putting as many numbers forward as they wanted, while being an ever-present counter possibility.
One thing I liked: Morris was hyped for this match, immediately picking off an errant back pass and cleanly scoring left-footed 45 seconds into the game. Whatever Seattle needed, he did. Nelson Valdez hold-up impression? Done. Single-handedly lead dangerous counter attacks with sheer speed and power? Done. Come back 60 yards defensively and support? Done.
One thing I didn’t like: I wish he could have gotten more of a touch on that late chance. He was so close to a brace and to giving the team three points down a man, and it came off a herculean effort 92 minutes into a match where he led a break, got fouled, and still hustled to nearly score. Sigh.
Going forward: I wanted Morris to do more and he did. Opportunistic scoring is great, but more impressive was creation and cleanly adjusting tactically to the needs of the match, showing great maturity.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 70’ for Shipp)
Alex came in to work hard defensively and hold on to the 1-1 draw, and he did that. Interestingly enough, he was only credited with three recoveries as defensive actions. He immediately came into the match and had an important defensive intervention in the 74th minute.
One thing I liked: It wasn’t successful, but the younger Roldan had a nice try at a through ball in the 81st minute. Again, it was a wasted ball, but very impressive vision and awareness to see the pass.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 87th minute Roldan was beat way too easily, and Seattle was lucky that Leerdam was around to clean up.
Going forward: Alex is a hustle guy and this was a good game for a hustle guy. With injuries, we might see more of him, and as long as there are enough creative pieces around him, that might be okay.
Henry Wingo – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 79’ for Bwana)
Once again Wingo got some time and this was a good game to inject some Wingo. His combination of size and speed makes for a tremendous defensive asset and Henry did well against LAFC. An interception and a clearance defensively complemented a sparkling four of four passing.
One thing I liked: Not just defensively strong, Wingo showed some nice holdup on a long ball in the 82nd and it was his outside of the right foot through ball in the 91st that released Morris on Seattle’s near goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Wingo didn’t always have the best positioning, which forced Nico to come across and save the day on a number of occasions.
Going forward: Last I heard Seattle was turning Wingo into a right back, so of course he played left mid versus LAFC.
Saad Abdul Salaam – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 97’ for Morris)
This was our first look at SAS and he got a few garbage time minutes. This was important, because he may be the starting right back the next time Seattle takes the field.
One thing I liked: He’s very big for an outside back.
One thing I didn’t like: He hasn’t looked great for Tacoma Defiance.
Going forward: This guy made Jordan McCrary expendable, and we will likely see if that was a good decision in our next match.
Ted Unkel – 4 | Community – 2.0
I have no idea what happened. Unkel has consistently been one of the best referees in Sounders matches I’ve rated. This was a terrible outing, marked by rampant inconsistencies throughout and defined by a massive call that I think he got wrong. Not to go too deep into the red, what infuriates me most is that Unkel didn’t bother looking, instead just taking the word in his ear. VAR is a tool, and the center should be leveraging that to verify the calls of his assistants. Intent has to matter, and I don’t see intent from Roldan whatsoever. If you want to go letter of the law “hands to face or neck equal automatic red card” then in that same altercation Vela’s hands hit the neck/chin of Jordy Delem. If you are going to remove discretion, he should be gone too.
One thing I liked: The East side AR did a good job in a very busy second half of calling fouls and correctly assessing offsides.
One thing I didn’t like: The inconsistencies make me go crazy. Morris not earning the foul that Ramirez had earned versus Torres 20 seconds earlier is maddening. There was reason for Kim and Kaye to both be given their second yellow on cardable fouls, Bwana kicked a ball away with no card, etc. That was just terrible lack of consistency, and somehow LAFC ended the game committing only seven fouls yet actually earning around five yellows (two given).
Going forward: Unkel is usually much better than this, but Seattle tends to be badly refereed at home. It’s so frustrating to have to watch two great teams reduced to a bunker fest because early aggression wasn’t adjudicated well and a discretionary decision deemed the game be played down a man. This was not good.
This has to be one of the more evenly dispersed MOTM awards I’ve seen in a while, which speaks to the skill throughout this LAFC squad. But ultimately, it’s Vela and his point-earning goal who takes home the award. (Seriously, though, who voted for Ramirez? Cheeky.)
Considering the circumstances, Seattle is likely happy with that tie. But they will want all three points on the road versus Minnesota, a team that isn’t great but does have plenty of reason to be up for the match. Let’s hope we see some of the higher profile players back by the weekend.