Seattle welcomed the Houston Dynamo and their league-leading PPG on Saturday and while they didn’t win four-nil like my pregame prediction, the Sounders did fairly comfortably win 1-0. This home win moved Seattle above Houston in the standings and was their first win in five matches. Houston had a number of good chances throughout, but after the first 20 minutes the home team exerted their will on the match, dominating possession and creating plenty of great opportunities of their own which also went wanting.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.3
Frei didn’t have to do much against Houston, but he stepped up massively when needed. His work was vital to the team shutout, and it was against a Dynamo team that had averaged two goals per game. Stefan was only tasked with making a single save, but his movement in the box and positioning were important to force Houston into doubtful chances.
One thing I liked: In the 79th minute Alberth Elis got in behind the left side of Seattle’s defense and looked to be in on goal when Frei expertly came out and stuffed him. The timing on this play was beautiful, waiting just long enough to force Elis into a touch that Frei gobbled up, accepting the contact and stopping the run.
One thing I didn’t like: There wasn’t much to dislike about this performance from Frei, who benefitted from Houston miscues more than anything else.
Going forward: This defense and keeper are capable of shutting out any team in the league, and the Houston game was a great example of how well they can play.
Brad Smith – 8 | Community – 7.7
Huge improvement from Smith this match over the last, and it was his defensive work rate that was most impressive. Brad was a constant pest to Elis, limiting the dangerous winger in a defense-first performance that was excellent. Smith also had 85 percent passing while presenting an ever-dangerous option to attack up the left wing, leading Seattle with four key passes from wide areas.
One thing I liked: His attention to defensive duties was the best we’ve seen from Smith in 1-v-1 action. He stuffed Elis so many times his new nickname should be changed from La Pantera to El Raton. Brad clearly frustrated the Houston player, and it was fun to see just how effective he could be against a strong opponent.
One thing I didn’t like: A player as good as Elis is going to get his chances, and in the 24th Smith was beat and fouled Elis — on the ensuing free kick Elis missed a wide-open header. In the 80th minute Elis got in behind Smith on a play that required Frei to unleash his superman routine.
Going forward: Brad struggled somewhat against Minnesota and their strong outside back play, but against Houston he was awesome, showing the ability to dominate at both ends of the field.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 7.1
This was a quietly fantastic match from Kim, who did a similar job to Smith but on the dangerous and in-form Mauro Manotas centrally. Kim had a wonderful 87 percent passing success rate from the back, including 5/7 on long balls as well as two tackles, four interceptions, and two clearances.
One thing I liked: Kim limited Manotas to two shots while defending him, neither of which were on frame, but even more impressive was his defensive range. Late in the match (76’, 89’) there were multiple times Elis tried to come across the defense and Kim dutifully following him and stuffed him on the right side of the Sounders’ defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim is generally intelligent in choosing his spots to get forward, but there were a couple of nervy minutes transitioning out of corner kick offense in which Kim was well out of position and chose to hang around upfield instead of tracking back.
Going forward: I’d been worried about Kim playing on the left after the pre-season and the first LAFC match, but since then he’s played multiple times with Torres and slotted in cleanly in the left center back position.
Román Torres – 6 | Community – 6.7
Torres again looked very good, aside from a few defensive blips. His control wasn’t great with only 68 percent passing (6/16 long balls) but that is a function of his “clear it out” playstyle. Román chipped in some good offensive numbers including one shot and one key pass while being a consistent threat on set pieces.
One thing I liked: Torres was beat by Manotas in the 6th minute but recovered with an absolute textbook slide tackle to prevent a scoring opportunity. This was an amazing bit of agility and showed excellent defensive instincts.
One thing I didn’t like: I think he was supposed to mark Elis on the 25th minute set piece, and he had another misplay of an over the top ball that allowed Manotas in behind. Either of these could have been goals against and Torres needs to limit those big chances he allows.
Going forward: Torres is a great backup option and seems to be splitting time with Marshall, which is great for both. It’s great to see him playing this well when Seattle needs him, and he’s soon to get more pressure with Xavier Arreaga arriving.
Kelvin Leerdam – 8 | Community – 6.8
Leerdam returned and played nearly flawless defense. He was quietly sensational and eliminated Memo Rodríguez from the match, eventually forcing a sub after limiting Rodríguez to 65 percent passing while turning in 82 percent himself. Kelvin had two tackles, five clearances, nine recoveries defensively, and even added two key passes offensively.
One thing I liked: His defense was excellent but even more important was Leerdam’s creation. First, he found Jordan Morris up the line in the 62nd that created a 2-v-1, and then minutes later Kelvin dialed up Raúl Ruidíaz for a cross that saw Ruidíaz’s header unfortunately go wide.
One thing I didn’t like: This is the second game in a row that Leerdam has given up a stoppage-time free kick in a bad spot. This time it was in the 94th minute and he needs to clean those small errors up.
Going forward: Leerdam can play well when healthy, and the red card gave him a short rest. It showed in his gameplay, as he put in a very strong shift.
Jordy Delem – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.0
Delem just keeps getting better and it’s time he gets his due for just how great he has been playing under the radar. His passing map rivals anything we have had from a defensive midfielder in years. Jordy had five recoveries, 86 percent passing, two tackles, an interception, three clearances, and was a constant force centrally. Nothing made it past him through the middle, and he showed great range supporting wide areas as well.
One thing I liked: Delem dropped deep in between the center backs and facilitated out of the back. He was awesome spraying the ball around, but he grew into the match offensively as well, highlighted by his 33rd minute jaunt upfield where he went by five defenders on a 40-yard run culminating in a chance in the box. Finding the defensive pressure lacking, Jordy just kept dribbling at goal, and had Nico worked a better give-and-go pass, Delem may have scored.
One thing I didn’t like: Seconds after that great run forward, Delem got overconfident and had a bad giveaway in the midfield, which almost created a Houston counter.
Going forward: Jordy Delem has played very well lately and is doing things that are much better than most backups can offer in this league. It’s a testament to his hard work that he gets playing time and produces such great effort.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 8.1 (MOTM)
Roldan did some of everything against the Dynamo. He had two tackles, two clearances, and five recoveries defensively. Offensively he was again very active supporting the attack with Delem dropping in behind him. Cristian completed 89 percent of his passes and had two shots, including a massive early volleyed goal.
One thing I liked: Seattle needs to have more offensive production from areas other than the left side or cleanups off the left. Enter Roldan, who shows that Seattle has a dangerous attacker who can slide into central areas and hit direct on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: I would love to see Roldan find Ruidíaz more. Cristian finds wide runs extremely well, but there were a few times he had vertical through balls to Raúl that he didn’t see.
Going forward: Roldan is still bossing the pitch and his 54th minute tackle was vintage midfield defense. In addition to all his stellar defensive work, Cristian is turning into a dependable offensive creator as well, which is just fantastic.
Víctor Rodríguez – 5 | Community – 5.4 (off 15’ for Shipp)
Rodríguez looked poised to have a huge game. Everything he did was working early, and his movement combining with Smith and Lodeiro created so much space for Ruidíaz and Morris to work. Then he got hurt.
One thing I liked: V-Rod was excellent prior to leaving the match. He touched the ball only four times but completed 100 percent of his passes and had a key pass in limited time.
One thing I didn’t like: I haven’t wanted to call Rodríguez out for his injuries as it looked like he had one injury that didn’t get diagnosed well and bugged him, and he didn’t have a history of problems. If this is a hamstring, he might be entering “injury prone” status.
Going forward: This offense is so much better when V-Rod is linking up, but he has to be on the field to do so.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.9
Lodeiro was once again the metronomic engine of the Sounders, and the Dynamo struggled with his movement. He led the match with 107 touches and completed 78 percent of his passes, many forward and into great spots.
One thing I liked: Nico’s movement constantly creates offense, and he is also creating for himself as well. He had three shots to go with his two key passes, and one rocked the crossbar, nearly scoring.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico missed a few passes and it took a while for him to adjust after Víctor left. There were a number of times when Seattle’s break outs were disjointed and Lodeiro was forcing the ball.
Going forward: Lodeiro is going to consistently find others in good spots, and it’s time Seattle started turning those into goals. Ruidíaz’s return helped spacing-wise, but the Sounders need to capitalize on their chances.
Jordan Morris –7 | Community – 6.2 (off 85’ for Nouhou)
Morris did some strong work wide against Houston. He co-led the team with four shots and with a bit cleaner play, could have scored multiple times. He was also excellent defensively, linking up with Leerdam on the right, forcing Houston into poor shots all night.
One thing I liked: Morris is open a lot, and he’s so close to being amazing. A better-timed jump sees him score a header off a Smith cross; a better touch sees him play in Raíl on a breakaway. Morris did put Ruidíaz in alone on goal and deserved an assist in minute 37.
One thing I didn’t like: The runs made by Morris and Ruidíaz were too similar on many occasions, and they need to work on who is going where in the box so they offer more options to people crossing into them.
Going forward: Jordan looks goal-dangerous every match and has scored a few goals. I think with a little cleaner play he could have plenty more, and I hope the game slows down enough for him to capitalize on all the great positions he gets into. Defensively he is working hard, showing his best wide defense all season.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 73’ for Bruin)
It was great to see Ruidíaz back, and he immediately did all the things we remembered up front. His movement opened up chances for everyone else. Raúl only had 16 touches but converted a quarter of them into shots, showing his unique ability to create offense from movement and off-ball angles.
One thing I liked: Raúl’s movement creates a ton of chances for himself and others, as his gravity field pulls defenders all over the place. Seattle had no problem creating consistently great chances, many due to his work up front.
One thing I didn’t like: Ruidíaz looked like a guy who had missed a few matches to injury. He had a perfect Morris give-and-go that put him into the box and a poor touch prevented a certain goal. A Leerdam cross was shanked on a second half chance.
Going forward: Raúl is a great player and I don’t think his missing a few good chances means he’s lost his scoring touch.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.3 (on 15’ for Rodríguez)
Shipp came into the match early for the injured Víctor Rodríguez, and I thought he was strong but safe. He played a clean match, only touching the ball 48 times but displaying an outstanding 95 percent passing completion rate. When he wasn’t finding teammates, he was taking a great shot, performing three dribbles, and chipping in six recoveries on defense.
One thing I liked: Seeing a substitute come into the match and play well. Shipp facilitated what the team wanted to do. In the 47th he had a beautiful move to beat a man in the box, and only the full stretch save from Joe Willis prevented Shipp’s curling far post shot from doubling Seattle’s lead.
One thing I didn’t like: Shipp was strong supporting Smith on the left defense but he lost Tommy McNamara for a wide open 81st minute shot.
Going forward: Harry doesn’t do much fancy stuff on the soccer field, but he does just about everything right. He played nearly 80 minutes and had only two incompletions in that time, helping bolster strong possession.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 5.8 (on 73’ for Ruidíaz)
This was a mess of an outing from Bruin, who came in and struggled immensely. In his brief stint Will had seven touches and was two of four passing.
One thing I liked: The effort is always there with Bruin, who ran around trying hard to defend from the front and get in behind when he could.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle constantly tried to use Will as a hold up forward, but his holdup was rough in the 75th and 76th minutes before Bruin committed a foul in the 76th. Seconds later he was given a yellow on his second foul, although replay showed that wasn’t a great call.
Going forward: Bruin is much better than he showed against Houston, and with three games this week he will likely get a chance to show it soon.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 85’ for Morris)
Nouhou came in to play behind Smith who was a little winded, and the young Cameroonian did exactly what he needed to do defensively to see out the shutout. He sat on the inside hip of Elis and didn’t allow Houston any entry down his side.
One thing I liked: If you didn’t enjoy Nouhou rumbling up the field in the 88th minute with the ball on a breakaway, you hate fun.
One thing I didn’t like: I’m all for crazy Nouhou but his bicycle kick at midfield was a poor decision. He also missed a cross that accentuated his lack of polish offensively.
Going forward: Welcome to the Nouhou experience.
Alex Chilowicz – 7 | Community – 6.2
This was a strong referee outing, and one that didn’t have a ton of bad marks. The entire official team seemed to work well together, with calls clear and consistent.
One thing I liked: It didn’t always work, but this referee attempted to play advantage whenever it was an option. He also ignored a few dives from both teams and I thought had a good grasp of what was and wasn’t a foul.
One thing I didn’t like: Too many professional fouls were allowed after the play was gone, and cards weren’t given for these late tackles. I realize advantage was played, but the referee is completely within his purview to go back and give the necessary card after the play, and instead we saw Nico and Cristian get seven fouls called for about 12 fouls actually received, resulting in a single persistent infringement card. There were too many fouls after the play for me.
Going forward: This referee was a lot better than we have seen lately, and the game was reffed fairly between the teams.
Houston Dynamo MOTM
The Sounders knew Elis was the danger man coming into the match and responded accordingly. That didn’t stop him from having several opportunities to level the match — the set-piece header into the turf and the late 1-v-1 with Frei among them.
Orlando has ridiculous travel. They play Sunday in Atlanta, then have to go back to Florida, then fly here for a Wednesday match. Let’s punish them and show off some of this depth.