Seattle took a tired, inexperienced lineup into East-leading Philadelphia and drew 0-0. After playing three days prior, the long flight, and injury woes, coach Schmetzer went with a very defensive lineup that sheltered some inexperienced bench players turned starters. The team responded well, going toe to toe with the home team in the first half before resolutely defending in the second as fatigue set in. While it was no offensive masterpiece, Seattle did a good job of following a strict defensive game plan and stayed connected and compact in the back to earn a hard-fought point on the road.
Stefan Frei – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (MOTM)
Stef has been awesome this year and is again one of the best goalies in the league. The match versus Philadelphia was his fifth shutout, and he is averaging only about one goal against per game. This weekend he faced six shots on goal and repelled them all, and he did a masterful job organizing his makeshift backline into an impenetrable wall.
One thing I liked: A wonderful save in the 19th off a tricky long shot was nice, but even better was his 58th minute save on a Kacper Przybylko header. Textbook foot movement created perfect positioning and turned a huge chance for Philly into a shot that went directly at the well-placed Sounders keeper.
One thing I didn’t like: Working with the new players saw Frei miss a few short passes, and he had a fumbled save in the 54th that he was quick to recover.
Going forward: Goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra somehow keeps pushing Stefan to get better, and he has responded by improving every single time he steps on the field. Credit to them both for their hard work, culminating in the most dominant goalkeeper Seattle has had.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 71’ for Leerdam)
The young Cameroonian left back played very well for most of the match, eventually tiring before being subbed out just after the 70th minute mark. For most of the first half he absolutely shut down Raymon Gaddis and Brenden Aaronson, showing off strong individual defense including multiple recoveries, interceptions, and clearances. Nouhou also had a tremendous 91 percent completion rate from the back, and was one of the few defenders who kept possession well.
One thing I liked: For most of the match Nouhou played as expected. His 1-v-1 defense was excellent, and he stopped nearly everything down his side while being connected to two guys who started their first matches for Seattle this year.
One thing I didn’t like: Some likely rated Nouhou down for a few harsh tackles, which could have seen him sent off. He must play more cautiously when carrying a yellow, as he was lucky not to have been penalized late.
Going forward: Nouhou is fasting for Ramadan, which may have contributed to his noticeable drop in energy as the match wore on. He missed on tackles he usually makes, with slow stabs that the Union took full advantage of.
Jonathan Campbell – 6 | Community – 5.8
Starting his first match as a Sounder, Campbell was pretty good. He didn’t have the best stats but did manage three interceptions and multiple blocks and clearances. He stayed deep and compact for a majority of the match and was a vital part of the clean sheet. Unfortunately, his passing was dismal, only completing 58 percent of his attempts.
One thing I liked: I was pleasantly surprised to see excellent instincts from Campbell, as he stepped forward with authority numerous times, the best a 68th minute push that resulted in a stolen pass and 3-v-3 break for Seattle into the final third.
One thing I didn’t like: Campbell struggled with the formation, often allowing runners inside him without support. A particularly egregious example occurred in the 69th where Jonathan double teamed Alejandro Bedoya and left Aaronson wide open for a shot.
Going forward: Not expecting much after seeing him play for the Defiance, Campbell was a pleasant surprise and vastly outplayed any previous match I had watched. He is a tremendous sixth center back option who will likely get some more time to show he deserves a higher spot on the depth chart.
Román Torres – 7 | Community – 7.2
After only a few days rest Román was again fantastic, putting forth perhaps his best match of the season. Stat-wise Torres was a beast: seven recoveries, four interceptions, five clearances, and an impressive 95 percent completion rate on his passes. He threw in two aerials won as well.
One thing I liked: Completely putting the LAFC away debacle behind him, Román was aggressive and assertive all night. In the 33rd minute he charged out to the top of the box to clear a ball and showed remarkable quickness both physically and in his decision making.
One thing I didn’t like: Torres did make one head-scratching decision in the 68th minute, with Philly on a break. Instead of closing down the wide attacker with the ball, Román retreated inside his own six-yard box and allowed the Philly wing to walk the ball in and look for a pass.
Going forward: Torres is impressing lately, with well above average play from the back. This helps his value for more playing time amidst retirements and new signings.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.9
Kim played well against Philadelphia, doing a little bit of everything. Defensively he was active, with four recoveries and three clearances while keeping very tight shape next to the other central defenders. He also helped a tired midfield by occasionally pushing forward to support offensively, but he only completed 72 percent of his passes from the back.
One thing I liked: Kim has great timing on his runs forward and joins just at the right times to create space and options for teammates. Although not always successful, this range is fantastic and is a skill that the defense has lacked from central areas.
One thing I didn’t like: Kee-hee made a desperate tackle attempt up field in the 68th minute that, when missed, created a huge gap in the defense and Philadelphia got out on a dangerous counterattack.
Going forward: While not his best effort, Kim is showing that his okay days are still quite good, and his ability to adapt no matter who is around him bodes well for the future with Xavier Arreaga joining the center back crew.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 6 | Community – 6.2
Abdul-Salaam once again showed himself to be a quality back-up and a clear MLS level player. Never looking overwhelmed, he calmly repelled all attacks down his wing and managed to get forward on occasion to help the offense. While not lighting up the stat book, his consistent positioning was some of the best of the defensive back line and he limited any Union success down the left. He also had a shot and a key pass.
One thing I liked: SAS showed off tremendous positioning all night and made it look easy. In the 41st minute his inside defensive location made a dangerous through ball turn into a simple steal, which he recycled into a rare Seattle offensive push, eventually resulting in one of multiple corners earned by Saad.
One thing I didn’t like: While he played strong defense, his passing was abysmal. He had a team low 57 percent passing rate and was lucky none of his turnovers resulted in a Philly goal.
Going forward: SAS has been a great surprise, showing that Seattle is deep in every position on the field. Moving forward it will be interesting to see what kind of time he gets (and whether he is forced into center back) with multiple teammates out for various reasons.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.2
Another player getting his first start this season, the younger Roldan showed well in wide areas but struggled with the congested midfield. Although not offering much going forward, Alex brought his usual brand of hustle to his defensive duties and had a ton of actions: six interceptions, four tackles, two recoveries, and 81 percent passing.
One thing I liked: With the other midfielders playing their third match in a week, Alex Roldan did well to infuse consistent effort into the action areas. It wasn’t always pretty, but Roldan never stopped moving.
One thing I didn’t like: At times Alex struggled immensely. Many of Philly’s best chances were due to poor plays and bad passes from Roldan in the inside left channel, often turning a turnover into a quick shot. All of his missed passes were in this area in his own half.
Going forward: To earn playing time, Roldan the younger needs to add more than just effort to his game. Work rate is great, but he doesn’t showcase much more of a skillset. With huge congestion upcoming, it would be great to see him present more creativity.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 76’ for Bwana)
Delem once again played great as the defensive mid, locking down centrally and defending in front of a five-man back line. With strong positioning, Delem found the ball in the middle and distributed near-perfectly. His 85 percent passing included a stellar 14/15 in his own half, which enabled Seattle to keep possession consistently and bring the ball out of the back.
One thing I liked: Right before half Jordy ranged all the way to the sideline to defend, covering perfectly for his outside back and showing awesome range going into the break.
One thing I didn’t like: Delem was clearly tired by the time he subbed off, and he wasn’t credited with a single defensive action in the second half.
Going forward: Jordy keeps getting time and shows he is perhaps the best backup central defensive mid in the league. He is a starter for the foreseeable future, and he’s played like one.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.7
Playing his 319th game this week, the elder Roldan was a bit quiet. His passing completion rate (73 percent) was just okay and although he managed one of the six Sounders shots, Cristian rarely got into the attacking third and was a non-factor on the offensive side.
One thing I liked: Cristian had an absolutely massive ten recoveries, blowing up the midfield time and time again as Philadelphia thought they were creating a chance. Even tired, he was a force.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan’s fatigue showed late. After a strong half, Cristian’s influence on the match slowly faded as the week caught up to him.
Going forward: His effort for the third time in a week was terrific. Roldan was deservedly named to the preliminary Gold Cup roster so it’s unlikely that he will get rest any time soon.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.0
Similar to Cristian and Kim, Lodeiro was playing his 724th match without a sub this season and he still managed to play at a very high level. As usual he led Seattle in touches (77, 28 more than any teammate) and dropped into a false 9/sweeper 10 behind Bruin. He had a respectable 80 percent completion even though he was surrounded every time he touched the ball.
One thing I liked: This formation, opponent, and lineup limited Seattle to few chances to score, but when the Sounders got close, it was almost always due to Nico. He had four of the five key passes on the team and was one of the only players to create offensively.
One thing I didn’t like: At times Lodeiro was on an island, with little support from Bruin and his midfield pushed back on top of the defensive line.
Going forward: Even the mighty engine of Nico Lodeiro got tired by the end of this one, and I hope he gets some much-deserved rest before more road matches and a likely international call-up.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.9 (off 79’ for Ruidíaz)
Bruin played poorly against Philly and seemed to lack some of his usual energy. Perhaps he was conserving energy for a 90-minute shift, but when he subbed out there had never been the expected energy burst. Usually Will is very active, pressing and creating angles to defend and forcing teams to go a certain direction to polarize defensive jobs. This rarely showed against Philly, and instead he seemed to casually hold central position and limit his movements to useless wide runs that often resulted in turnovers or offsides calls.
One thing I liked: In the 40th minute Bruin worked his way open on a free kick and had an uncontested header. (It went harmlessly to Andre Blake.)
One thing I didn’t like: In the 33rd with a rare break offensively, Cristian found Bruin open in the box, even with the last defender. With visions of his goal in Toronto last year I expected him to first-time a shot on frame that would score or force a parry across the face of goal. Instead of shooting, however, Will cut the ball back through the box to Nico, who was outside of the area. This unnecessary pass allowed four defenders to recover and get into the box on defense.
Going forward: Not sure what was going on with Bruin as he is usually more polished. He did complete 87 percent of his passes and will be nice and fresh to help with any needs coach Schmetzer has in the near future.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.2 (on 71’ for Nouhou)
Leerdam was preparing to sub into the match prior to this point, and after Nouhou flirted with being sent off, Leerdam was quickly moved into the left of defense. He played well there, showing smart defensive positioning and calm play wide, and he completed all of his passing attempts.
One thing I liked: Ilsinho had been giving the left of the Sounders defense fits when Leerdam stepped in and did a great job neutralizing him. A 77th minute block highlighted a veteran defensive effort from Leerdam.
One thing I didn’t like: Ilsinho still managed a key pass in the 86th and the Philly player was a handful. A number of times the communication with A-Rold in front of him was lacking.
Going forward: Leerdam looks hungry to earn the starting left back role over the current three incumbents.
Handwalla Bwana – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 76’ for Delem)
Added to the match replacing a tired Delem, Bwana was okay. He only touched the ball three times but failed to connect with any teammates’ passing, and his defensive notes were a single recovery and single clearance.
One thing I liked: Bwana got forward a bit, attempting to add some support for Ruidíaz by someone other than Lodeiro.
One thing I didn’t like: With a bad pass turnover bouncing right to Handwalla in the box in the 87th minute, he had a chance to be a hero two matches in a row. A trap and simple pass to a wide open Ruidíaz at the six would likely have been the game-winning assist if Bwana hadn’t fumbled his trap and lost the ball.
Going forward: Bwana gets himself into good spots, which should pay off as he develops. He is a candidate for more playing time with others being out soon, and if so, I would like to see the game slow down for him.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 6.2 (on 79’ for Bruin)
Ruidíaz entered the game late and failed to put his mark on the match. Completely isolated from the rest of his team for most of his time on the field, he had a single touch.
One thing I liked: Even failing to get the ball much, RR was still wide open with a 1-v-1 he likely buries had Bwana been able to feed him in the 87th. Ruidíaz continues to always create.
One thing I didn’t like: I would have liked to see him get the ball more.
Going forward: Ruidíaz is potentially leaving to play with Peru, but until then, let’s hope he continues to get 90 minutes fit and continues to put himself in positions to score goals.
Marcos De Oliveira – 6 | Community – 6.0
De Oliveira is another new referee for Seattle and it took both teams a while to figure out his refereeing style. He definitely allowed a lot of physical play, and this was the rare occasion when Seattle benefitted from hard fouls failing to be carded. Although controversial, the ref was consistent in how he applied his fouls and cards; he was going to be very reluctant to book anyone or send people off. A 29th minute foul by Kim was likely a yellow for many referees but De Oliveira set the precedent that this wouldn’t be carded. He didn’t book Nouhou in the 70th or red-card Fabrice-Jean Picault in the 83rd, when many referees would have sent them off.
One thing I liked: It was nice to see an immediate yellow for Przybylko blocking a Stefan Frei punt in the 72nd; I’m still mad that Yura Movsisyan got away with that crap on Frei a few years ago.
One thing I didn’t like: Bench players should never be allowed to join in on a fracas, and this is the kind of thing the league can and should crack down on. Allowing the subs to warm up mere feet from the end line is a problem.
Going forward: I thought Kim and Nouhou, Monteiro and Wagner each should have gotten cautions and I wanted the VAR to look at the foul out of bounds from Picault. Otherwise, this was a well-refereed match with a clear definition of fouls and allowable play that players could adapt to. The consistency was refreshing.
Philadelphia Union MOTM
Ilsinho subbed into this one and was immediately dangerous. He initially ran at Nouhou, using a series of shifty moves to create space before sending dangerous cutback crosses through the box. Later, with Leerdam tasked with dealing with him, he cut inside before playing through balls to his fellow attackers.
Seattle picked up seven of nine points last week and head off on a few winnable road matches. Sporting Kansas City is battered and lost their leading goal scorer to a red card last weekend. I would love to go there, crush those guys, and annoy their coach.