Twice in four days Seattle welcomed opponents into CenturyLink Field, and both times the defense was stellar and the offense provided just enough to earn a victory. The 2-1 win over a revamped Orlando squad should have been easier, but the finishing was a bit underwhelming. While the Sounders controlled much of the match, a late defensive miscue allowed the visitors some hope at stealing a point on a brutal road trip. The defense held, however, and Seattle heads on the road having picked up six of a possible six points this week.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
The defense in front of Frei was again very strong, limiting his action. Orlando managed a single shot on goal (which went in) and Stefan wasn’t forced to make a save all night. He organized the defenders and did well with his feet to add support to the backline when necessary.
One thing I liked: Frei didn’t have a lot to do against Orlando, but I loved seeing him strongly control an aerial ball in the 96th minute in a crowd. With the ever-violent Dom Dwyer crashing needlessly into him, Stef held on well.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei was among a number of players culpable on the single goal against, as he was caught flat-footed and unable to even attempt a save. With the shot being through multiple players, it’s hard to blame him much for this.
Going forward: Other than one moment, this match could have been another shutout. Credit to the defensive unit for limiting Orlando to few viable chances. Frei looks very strong this season.
Brad Smith – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (MOTM) (off 86’ for A. Roldan)
After a great showing against Houston last weekend, Brad followed up with another strong all-around match from the left back position. His defense was fairly good, limiting a spirited effort from Benji Michel via a number of tackles and clearances. Offensively Smith was excellent, with a shot, a team-leading three key passes including an assist, and 85 percent completion rate.
One thing I liked: Smith got forward less frequently than we are used to, but he was incredibly efficient when he did. He completed all four of his passes entering the 18, and all of his key passes entered the six-yard box for great chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith had a few hiccups on defense against Michel, and in the 26th and 47th minutes was beat, yet managed to recovery slide out for a corner. Giving set pieces to a team you are much better than is a risky proposition and he will want to limit this.
Going forward: Smith continues to play great two-way soccer and receives his first MOTM for the season. I’m not sure if he can start three games in a week, but he has turned into a clear starter when healthy.
Kim Kee-hee – 7 | Community – 6.9
Kim was again quietly very effective. He was credited with four interceptions and three tackles, and had seven recoveries defensively while spraying passes forward to the tune of 88 percent success. His positioning and communication with Román Torres and Smith were excellent.
One thing I liked: I love how aggressive Kim is when he has space in front of him, effectively taking up space on the dribble and often breaking apart the defense with his destructive forward runs. His confidence in possession is excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: On the Orlando goal, Kee-hee put Jordy Delem in a tough position with a pass, and he needs to be more aware of the danger of forcing passes to midfielders in traffic.
Going forward: Kim has been the best center back on the team so far this year, and he’s adjusted well to playing on either side. No matter who is next to him, look for him to continue to lock down defensively.
Román Torres – 7 | Community – 6.9
This was an impressive outing from Román Torres, who looks as active and effective as he has looked in quite some time. His 77 percent passing wasn’t exceptional, but his decision making in the back was great and he led the team with four clearances.
One thing I liked: On multiple occasions Román showed excellent range, venturing in front of Kim to cut out passes and intercept Orlando attempts. This ability to find smart tackles all the way across to the left is excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: One of the reasons his passing numbers aren’t great is Román tends to look aggressively forward. In this match, he forced the ball towards Raúl Ruidíaz on numerous occasions, ignoring safer options that were much less likely to be turned over and shoved right down the field.
Going forward: Román has embraced his new starting position and done everything you could ask of him. As long as Marshall’s future is in the air, Torres has shown that the defense is in good hands.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.4
Playing on short rest Leerdam wasn’t lights out this match, but he did his job quietly on defense and showed some excellent attacking instincts. He wasn’t involved a lot on either side of the ball, but did his job well and supported everyone around him.
One thing I liked: Leerdam is capable of spectacular vision going forward, and his 80th minute long curving through ball from his own half was outstanding. This ball curved around the defense and onto the onrushing Ruidíaz, and was the best pass of the evening.
One thing I didn’t like: Kelvin seemed to be checked out at times, including a nonchalant 38th minute dribble that was stolen from him and a 73rd minute runner that easily ran in behind. He needs to keep his concentration level high for the entire match.
Going forward: I don’t know if it’s age, but Leerdam has seen his output wane when he’s on lower rest. When he gets tired, he tends to recycle possession instead of attacking opponent’s weaknesses. This will be something worth monitoring, especially as Seattle have some depth to draw from.
Jordy Delem – 7 | Community – 7.1
Delem put in another impressive outing against Orlando, showing off his control in tight spaces. His direct play and defensive anticipation repeatedly stopped attacks and was converted into offense. He upped his pass completion percentage to 90 percent and won three midfield aerials. Jordy tied Kim with the team lead in interceptions (four).
One thing I liked: A few games ago we wouldn’t have seen Delem’s assertive, 56th minute run upfield. Recognizing the space was open, he dashed into the right channel and attacked the defense on the dribble before crossing into the box, a play that reminded me of his midfield partner, Cristian Roldan.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensive midfield is a physical position and Delem just got hammered repeatedly by Orlando. Whether it was Sacha Kljestan throwing elbows or Dwyer recklessly cutting him in half at the knees, Delem took a pummeling.
Going forward: Delem is a player any team in the league would love to have as an option, and many would start. His defensive range and play are excellent, and as he gets more confidence, he has shown an increased offensive ability.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 7.3
Roldan was good against Orlando, but his play was a little bit of a drop off from what we have come to expect. Credited with only two tackles and five recoveries, Cristian struggled more than normal to take control of the middle of the field. His 84 percent passing rate did include a team high three key passes, but at times Roldan struggled to connect through the middle.
One thing I liked: Even on a frustrating night, Roldan still made plenty of great plays. Whether it was dribbling through four players in the 15th minute to set up a shot or finding Ruidíaz with a perfectly weighted through ball over the top in the 60th, Cristian was creating. He also started the second goal by pressuring well in the middle and forcing a turnover.
One thing I didn’t like: The passing seemed somewhat off, and as a whole Roldan looked slow. It’s rare to see Cristian beat, let alone juked out of his shoes like he was in the 75th just prior to the goal for Orlando.
Going forward: Roldan runs a ton and it’s no surprise that he looked tired by the end of this match. Even tired, Cristian likely starts this weekend and continues a terrific season.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 67’ for Nouhou)
Shipp looked energized and showed his most aggressive outing of the year. He was tremendous pushing the ball forward and looked hungry for a goal. This led to him leading the team in shots with four as well as showing off a number of nifty passes and moves. His defense was also very strong, with Shipp racking up eight recoveries.
One thing I liked: Harry was an absolute force in the first 25 minutes, highlighted by a perfect one-touch return pass to put Smith in behind en route to goal number one. Shipp nearly created a second goal five minutes later, this time on a full volley pass off a long ball that was expertly dropped into the forward run of Smith.
One thing I didn’t like: Shipp may have gotten tired, as he was less effective in the second half before being subbed off.
Going forward: The answer to who picks up the dynamic offense creation with V-Rod out may just be Harry Shipp, who showed off a swagger going forward that was impressive. He is a strong candidate to play this weekend, pending fatigue.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.2
Lodeiro was, as usual, a blur of midfield activity against Orlando, creating two shots for himself as well as two key passes. His 89 percent passing through 80 passes was awesome, and he even contributed six recoveries to boot.
One thing I liked: Lodeiro is always looking to get the ball in dangerous areas, and his absolutely perfect cross to the middle found Bwana in the 68th minute with inside position. The pass was so great that even a fumbled touch went into the goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico forced a few passes and dribbled into trouble on a number of occasions, but I did not like seeing him lose inside position in the 52nd minute with Seattle playing down a man. The captain can’t make that kind of mistake.
Going forward: Nico will likely play his third game in a week on Saturday and at the rate of energy that he plays, this will be an amazing feat. Let’s hope he isn’t too tired to dominate another match in the middle.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 53’ for Bwana)
Morris played very well before leaving injured. His 78 percent passing included a key pass, and Jordan was consistently opening spaces wide to allow Ruidíaz to work centrally. Time and again Morris would dash wide and allow Raúl to split the center backs looking for direct service.
One thing I liked: A lot has been said about the misses from Morris, namely his 46th minute header that bounced over the net, but I am more impressed by his continual creation of big chances. Whether it’s a dummy run and turn in the 11th minute or wide run and cross to Raúl three minutes later or consistently opening wide spaces with smart runs like the one he injured himself on, Jordan has been creating great opportunities.
One thing I didn’t like: Hamstring injuries suck.
Going forward: Morris is leading the team in goals and also creates a ton of big chances for others. Let’s hope his injury doesn’t keep him out too long.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 7.2
Ruidíaz didn’t waste any time getting back to his scoring ways with a goal in minute 19. He was an absolute force all match in threatening the Orlando goal. Raúl had 33 touches and converted these into 80 percent passing, two shots, and two key passes.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz makes this offense so much more potent with his movement in the box and the way he creates spaces for himself and teammates. His goal was a great example of a tricky run that created an almost sure goal. He continued to press all match, nearly scoring multiple times.
One thing I didn’t like: I was sad to see Raúl’s shoulder trap instantly called a handball, as he’s the kind of striker who can quickly snowball into a ton of goals.
Going forward: Ruidíaz looks strong, active, and back to goal-dangerous with nearly every touch. This is a great sign for the Sounders offense.
Handwalla Bwana – 6 | Community – 6.7 (on 53’ for Morris)
Bwana at times looks ready for more MLS minutes and at others looks completely outmatched. This game had some of both, with the good outweighing the bad. On the positive side, he scored what became the game winning goal and added a key pass. On the flip side, he wasn’t great defensively with a single interception and single clearance, and had only 71 percent passes completed, a few of which helped an Orlando surge late.
One thing I liked: The goal wasn’t a clean touch, but Bwana’s awareness and backside run was perfect. He got inside the defense and when Nico found him, he used any body part available to shove the ball into the net. This was a great run.
One thing I didn’t like: Handwalla got pushed off the ball a number of times and has yet to show he can play through physicality well. His usual 1-v-1 offense was mostly missing.
Going forward: Bwana has shown he is a strong defensive or offensive player, when limited to one or the other, but has failed to show a complete match ability that would push him above a few others and into extensive playing time. He is a great option this weekend in a short rest week.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 67’ for Shipp)
With Smith playing so well and Joevin Jones signed, Nouhou has been kind of a forgotten player for Seattle. As he has done all year, Nouhou subbed into the match in the second half and shut down his side defensively. Even in limited time, he led the match with four tackles to go along with a clearance and multiple recoveries.
One thing I liked: He immediately shut down Michel, and Nouhou’s defensive positioning was excellent. He posted up inside goal side and worked hard to recover whenever he was upfield supporting the left.
One thing I didn’t like: No wild and exciting plays, just lockdown defense. Ho hum.
Going forward: Nouhou keeps playing well off the bench, and Smith is playing so well that that might be the plan for the foreseeable future.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 86’ for Smith)
Roldan entered the match late and managed a tackle and an interception in limited minutes to go with 83 percent passing and nine touches.
One thing I liked: Alex put forth great effort, and although he wasn’t on for long, he managed to slot in without being a detriment.
One thing I didn’t like: I was hoping that when Roldan subbed in he would be cleaner on the ball, but some passes went awry and defensive angles were lacking in front of Leerdam.
Going forward: Roldan is a hustle guy and he hustled. Clearly behind others on the bench, the younger Roldan may get a chance at more minutes with fixture congestion and international play looming.
David Gantar – 7 | Community – 5.7
I thought this referee crew was excellent for most of the match, and did a good job adjusting to the physicality that Orlando brought. Even though at one point Seattle trailed in fouls 3-11, the ref did well to regulate this discrepancy and only a deliberate Kljestan foul was an egregious foul missed.
One thing I liked: Gantar got two of my biggest issues dead-on in this one. With a potential head injury in minute 51 he immediately blew the whistle for a check. I loved seeing him call a foul for an undercut of a defenseless player in the air in the 58th, another call rarely seen by MLS referees.
One thing I didn’t like: The VAR took way too long for the second Sounders goal, and an instant whistle for handball on Ruidíaz stopped another goal from even being looked at. The first issue can likely be blamed on fan favorite Daniel Radford, but the second was fully on Gantar. I would have liked to see this go and then come back and review for clear and obvious error instead of immediately whistling dead an attack on a foul I’m still not sure was a handball.
Going forward: For most of this game, the referee did an outstanding job. Some VAR and other issues late changed this score, but Gantar and crew were some of the best referees we have had this season.
Orlando City SC MOTM
Substitute goalscorer Chris Mueller walks away with MOTM quite comfortably. After being gifted possession, a couple stepovers took him into shooting position. From there, screening from Sounders defenders made things difficult for Frei on Orlando’s only goal of the evening.
Now it’s Seattle’s turn to go on a long road trip, and the opponent is the surprising Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia. It’s time to see how good this depth is, with the Sounders almost assuredly needing some bench players to step into starting roles and help earn winnable points away.