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Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City: Player ratings

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A calm Shipp in a stormy port. Is that how the saying goes?

I’m still not sure what happened in that match. Between the awful radio coverage while driving back from the ocean and the even worse re-watch on TV, I don’t know whether Seattle was massively outplayed or just unlucky to not get a result. The 3-2 Sporting Kansas City win was not unusual given the home field advantage in MLS, but with SKC’s recent injuries and form, I expected a better result. Seattle had their chances, but ultimately an outstanding effort from a single player negated anything the Sounders could muster.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 6.1

This wasn’t a good game from Frei. He was credited with four saves but conceded a hat trick to his right side via the left foot of Johnathon Simpson Snedden Russell. The defense was consistently in crisis mode for most of the first half and there seemed to be a distinct lack of discipline throughout the back when attacked via the dribble.

One thing I liked: In the 54th minute with the back of the Seattle defense doing everything they could to complicate matters, Frei stepped out nicely and made a reaction save, likely preventing a goal.

One thing I didn’t like: Watching Russell slot the same left-footed far post shot past Frei 432 times.

Going forward: Stef is, in my opinion, the best goalie in the league, but he will want to perform much better, especially as Seattle will be decimated by call-ups and injuries for the near future.

Defense

Brad Smith – 4 | Community – 5.1

Smith’s performance was also not good. The Bwana/Smith combo was completely dominated by Russell and anyone else who went at the Seattle left side. Brad’s entire defensive stat line was three recoveries, sandwiching halftime. He completed 71 percent of his passes. When moved to an advanced midfield role he was inadequate.

One thing I liked: Smith helped create what little offense there was in the first half, with a few well-timed runs up the left nearly paying off, including a nice 9th minute play that missed Ruidíaz in the box.

One thing I didn’t like: As good as Smith was a few weeks back defending Alberth Elis, he was absolutely terrible matched up against Russell. After continually forcing Elis inside to his bad foot, Smith never adjusted to the concept of an “inverted winger,” constantly allowing Russell to get inside to his better foot and just dominate the Sounders. Bad defense is one thing, but failing to adjust time and again is a huge problem, especially after being torched. His defense in stoppage time of the first half was atrocious.

Going forward: Smith had started to shed his “poor defender” label prior to this match, but he took a huge step back here. He also didn’t do much going forward. Seattle’s offense depends on creation from deep lying areas, and on both occasions when Smith had poor matches, Seattle lost. This is not a coincidence.

Kim Kee-hee – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 38’ for Arreaga)

Kim wasn’t having an amazing match when he was forced to sub out in the first half, but he was showing off some decent desperation defense. He had a tackle and a number of recoveries well into the left channel in support of a struggling left side, although he was badly pushed off the ball on SKC’s first goal.

One thing I liked: Kim connected very well with his teammates, and his 86 percent passing helped try to rescue what little possession Seattle could find while under siege early.

One thing I didn’t like: Injuries suck, and this was a guy who had played (other than a 64th minute sub versus LAFC) every minute of the season so far, and played well. Hopefully this is a short-term thing as he has been a rock in the middle.

Going forward: Kim needed a rest but not like this. Get better, buddy.

Román Torres – 6 | Community – 5.2

Seattle had a rough defensive day, but for the most part their troubles weren’t due to mistakes from Torres. He had multiple tackles and interceptions and four recoveries.

One thing I liked: In the 92nd minute Román almost stole a point with a well-executed half volley that nearly squirted through Tim Melia’s legs and scored. Román was a consistent threat on the offensive end, winning four aerials and creating problems for SKC late.

One thing I didn’t like: Román once again made a poorly-timed slide and an opponent scored. This was in the 29th and it effectively took him out of the play. His decision making has generally been strong, but this was a desperation effort that didn’t pay off.

Going forward: Torres got some time with Arreaga in Kansas and they looked okay together. Román seems to need a mobile partner and these two could work well in the back. That’s good, because they might be the starting pair by default.

Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)

This was a hard match to rate Leerdam. Sure, he had his fourth goal of the year and second assist to lead the offense which ultimately earned him the above average rating. He had an impressive five tackles on the defensive end. That is all great, but Kelvin also lost four tackles, had a single recovery, only completed 63 percent of his passes, and played some of the worst defense he’s played all season, both from a positional and (at times) effort perspective. It was an absolute rollercoaster.

One thing I liked: Smith deservedly gets a lot of credit for his offense from the outside back position, but Leerdam has vastly outperformed him statistically. Kelvin just finds ways to overload the box with runs, diving into dangerous areas to score or assist — he doesn’t settle to sit outside and lump in crosses. He was fantastic in the box versus SKC, first displaying amazing dribbling to assist Raúl Ruidíaz before showing excellent concentration to score on a corner.

One thing I didn’t like: As good as he was offensively, Leerdam was dreck defensively for much of the match. His giveaways, whiffing on defense, and being beat over the top put immense pressure on Seattle. After 60 minutes he didn’t even attempt to get back on defense, instead staying high and walking back, leaving the defending to others.

Going forward: Leerdam was what the team needed in this match: an offensive catalyst. He looks much more comfortable in a midfield position than other outside backs pushed forward, but I’m not sure how long Seattle can play with Kelvin pushing ahead of the right midfielder.

Defensive Midfield

Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 78’ for Bruin)

Delem had played so well over the previous six matches (6.83 rating) that it was a shock to see him struggle in the middle. While his passing remained strong at 91 percent, Delem was not effective. He was credited with a single clearance and a single recovery as Seattle just couldn’t solve the KC 4-3-3.

One thing I liked: Delem gave it his all, constantly roaming from side to side to try to help the giant spaces that were created in the Seattle defense. In central areas Jordy was excellent in connecting with teammates and keeping possession.

One thing I didn’t like: After a long spell of possession in the 60th minute Delem made one of his few attempts forward with a pass and it was right to SKC. Missing in the entire match was any ability to put the ball toward the opponent’s half and Jordy was left shuffling square passes.

Going forward: I have no idea what he and others were doing in the 46th minute, but it was more than one terrible defensive play that cost the Sounders. Seattle has long had problems with coach/team/formation combinations and SKC has been one of them. Delem will need to adjust when playing a formation that overloads his central areas if he is going to remain a strong option for everyday selection.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.6

The worst thing I can say about Roldan was I barely realized he was playing. He had a lot of actions on both sides of the ball, his passing was vertical and aggressive when necessary, but he didn’t have a big impact on this game, getting swallowed up by the opponent’s midfield.

One thing I liked: On paper this was a good performance: he had a tackle, two interceptions, a clearance, and seven recoveries. He even produced two key passes, even if his stats rarely translated into immediate tangible advantages for Seattle.

One thing I didn’t like: Roldan is a USMNT player and he needs to be noticed. He has the talent to carry a game like this one and instead was solid but not a star.

Going forward: Cristian looked justifiably tired as part of an under-represented central midfield against the Sporks. It’s possible he’ll move into a more advanced role in the next match, which might be perfect to remind us just how dynamic a player he is.

Attacking Midfield

Handwalla Bwana – 4 | Community – 3.9 (off 60’ for Nouhou)

Zero shots or key passes, 81 percent passing on only 29 touches in his 60-minute shift. Defensively, he recorded a single tackle and two recoveries as part of a perpetually leaky left side.

One thing I liked: Jacob Landsberg assures me that Bwana had a couple of good dribble moves and beat a defender 1-v-1. I like that this sort of flair is so normal for me that I don’t bother writing it down anymore.

One thing I didn’t like: I’m still waiting for Bwana to be more than just potential. All the fancy dribbles in the world can’t make up for a lack of defensive positioning and support. Having a shinguard-touch go in the goal gets you *checks watch* one week of grace period before you have to actually do something constructive offensively.

Going forward: Bwana only looked truly good this year when Seattle played down a man and the game plan was super-simplified for him. At some point soon he needs to make good on the playing time he’s been given, especially with reinforcements on the way.

Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.7

Nico did a lot of good things but he also created some matchup issues for Seattle, and more than usual his wandering movement harmed the Sounders. Statistically he was okay, completing 80 percent of his passes and getting a shot on goal to go with his beautiful corner kick assist. He had two interceptions, five recoveries, and a tackle on the defensive end as he tried to support the midfield.

One thing I liked: This formation, opponent, and lineup limited him offensively, but Nico still trucked around the field and created offense, and two goals on the road against an MLS team should be enough for points.

One thing I didn’t like: Nico was hacked so much. He was credited with seven fouls suffered and it was clearly more. He grew frustrated and earned a completely unnecessary yellow that will keep him out of the Dallas match. If he had made it through SKC he would have gotten a “good behavior” bonus.

Going forward: Lodeiro adds so much to the team with his movement, but sometimes well-coached (ugh!) teams can take advantage by overwhelming the midfield and pouncing on any defensive failures. Look for an adjustment the next time we see Lodeiro, which might not be for a while.

Harry Shipp – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 5.5

Shipp earned a deserved MOTM, as for a majority of the game he was clearly the Sounders’ most effective player. He was one of the few players who did things right in the first half. His possession helped Seattle settle down after being blitzed early, while Shipp’s creation gave the Sounders their best chances. Harry had a sparkling 89 percent passing rate, chipped in a key pass, an assist, a shot on goal, and five recoveries. While others had rollercoaster outings, Shipp was consistently great amidst chaos and was rewarded for high level of production throughout.

One thing I liked: Harry was excellent at creating for Seattle. He made some perfect runs that just weren’t rewarded by teammates. In the ninth minute he was wide open back side but no one found him, and this was repeated a number of times as he moved to open spaces but teammates couldn’t get him the ball. Recognizing Leerdam in a good spot, Harry shipped the ball to him in the box for Seattle’s first goal.

One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam ended up with an average position map higher up the field than Shipp, and often we saw Harry instinctively drop in to cover the huge gaps in defense. This was fine in light of the Kelvin Leerdam offensive show, but in general you want your offensive midfielder to play offense more than your right back.

Going forward: Shipp just quietly does good stuff and seems to always be open and an option, if teammates could just find him. Ruidíaz and Lodeiro each missed Harry with chances likely to change the scoreline. He isn’t a guy who wows you with physical dominance, but he sees the game well and will need to step up as a creative force in the coming weeks.

Forward

Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 6.2

Raúl did everything he could, creating chance after chance, but was only able to score one. He nearly carried the team on his back to points, showing a complete performance of creation, defense, and scoring. His stat line was stellar: seven shots, three key passes, a goal, 80 percent completion, three recoveries, and even a defensive block.

One thing I liked: Ruidíaz wasn’t just firing shots, he also created for others, registering a team-high three key passes and threatening the goal throughout. When presented with a chance in the 63rd he was composed and finished violently, but cleanly.

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle needs more dynamic players to utilize the space and chances that Ruidíaz creates, and he needs to get the ball in dangerous positions more often. It was frustrating to see how many “almosts” Seattle had through his effort and I’d like to see Raúl put a few more of those opportunities on frame.

Going forward: Raúl is a monster attacker and if he can do this much with a bunch of half chances, I hope we have an opportunity to see what he does with a full healthy team around him.

Substitutes

Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.5 (on 38’ for Kim)

I didn’t expect Arreaga to play this weekend, and having been out of town, this was my first look at the new defender. He looked the part, strong and fast and quickly acclimated to the pace of MLS. I was impressed by his physical skillset, and he looks like a star in the making. Two tackles, a clearance, a blocked shot, and eight recoveries made for a tidy defensive outing.

One thing I liked: Stepping into a match midway through isn’t easy, but Arreaga made it look so. His 91 percent passing was wonderful to see, but more importantly it wasn’t only “safe” passing. Xavier only looked to Frei a handful of times, choosing instead to more quickly push the ball across the field and skipping the intermediary. Even more exciting was his desire and ability to push the ball vertically into dangerous attacking positions with either foot. This guy plays with tempo and looks forward, something Seattle can definitely utilize.

One thing I didn’t like: There was a disconnect at times between Arreaga and Smith, with Xavier often looking quite confused by the defensive choices his left back made.

Going forward: Arreaga looks “starter good” and maybe much more. I loved seeing him tackle hard and fearlessly, and we might get to see him feature a little earlier than anticipated.

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.4 (on 60’ for Bwana)

Added to the match replacing a tired and ineffective Bwana, Nouhou also pushed Smith out of the left back spot he was struggling at. Nouhou did okay. He had 22 touches and 77 percent passing completion rate to go along with five defensive actions.

One thing I liked: Nouhou brought some stability to the defensive left side, allowing Smith to continue playing as high as he had been, except this time with someone behind him.

One thing I didn’t like: On the third SKC goal Nouhou was dropped fairly far off Russell and I am not sure if he thought Smith was going to give more effort to shut down the middle or what. I do know that after sitting for two-thirds of the match he should have known to press Russell’s left foot and not allow him an open shot.

Going forward: Nouhou was okay, and that was a lot better than Smith, so perhaps he will benefit going forward.

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 78’ for Delem)

Bruin came on and touched the ball six times, completed 50 percent of his passes and earned another offsides call.

One thing I liked: He did manage a shot, and his volley looked to be well struck and goal-bound before being blocked by an opponent.

One thing I didn’t like: His 86th minute attempted header showcased his struggles in the air.

Going forward: Bruin didn’t complete a single pass forward. He’ll need to show something in these next few weeks as there will be opportunities to come on and make stuff happen.

Referee

Chris Penso – 6 | Community – 5.4

The referee was okay in this match, which quickly devolved into the usual SKC slog. Whenever a Vermes team plays a technical team they just physically crush them, and the 17 fouls committed by a team dominating possession and leading on the scoreboard is no surprise. Penso did a pretty good job of adjudicating this mess.

One thing I liked: Most of the calls made sense. Román had a high elbow that earned yellow in the 13th and Benny Feilhaber, Yohan Croizet, and Nico deserved their cards. I especially liked the play-on in the 44th minute before pulling the ball back for a free kick after Leerdam had been fouled and there was no advantage to be found.

One thing I didn’t like: There was a blatant yellow unshown on a tactical foul from Botond Barath in the 54th on Bwana who had dribbled past him. I also think Feilhaber deserved a second yellow moments later for a cynical ankle stomping from behind, but I realize few MLS referees send someone off there.

Going forward: Penso has been surprisingly good this year, and any time you have to play that team with that coach, it’s important to have a referee willing to blow the whistle.

Sporting Kansas City MOTM

Well, I did not see that one coming. The guy with the hat trick won MOTM. Huh.


I was okay with dropping a few points on ties when we could have won, but we can’t start losing to teams we should get points from, even on the road. We know Dallas has weapons, and I hope we come out more prepared next weekend to earn some needed momentum away from Seattle.