Seattle went to Columbus last weekend for what I considered a must-win match. They came away with all three points, winning 2-1 over the Crew, thanks to some stoppage time heroics. The Sounders started a bit flat and were tactically inefficient for much of a first half that saw Columbus take an early lead via PK and control much of the ball. Seattle made a few essential adjustments at halftime and grew into the match throughout the second half.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.7
Seattle limited the Crew to nine shots, and Frei was only asked to make a single save. For all of the pressure that Columbus created, the Sounders’ bend-but-don’t-break backline did a good enough job to prevent Stef from having to do much.
One thing I liked: Although he wasn’t making huge saves, Frei had a great impact on the game by organizing the back and making smart, clean short passes to teammates. He had two incompletions, a 5th minute long clear and a 90th minute clear out of bounds. In between these, he went 32 of 32 on passing, keeping possession masterfully.
One thing I didn’t like: The group in the back not only struggled to get on the same page in the first half, they were visibly frustrated and arguing with each other. As a vice-captain, Seattle’s keeper could have applied some leadership back there.
Going forward: This was a clean-sheet-worthy outing, marred only by an unfortunate penalty against. Frei forces other teams to beat him, keeping his concentration and effort consistently high.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 6.0
Smith had a disappointing outing and seemed a little out of sorts for the entire match. He led Seattle with 91 touches but rarely were they constructive, and Brad was unable to convert them into anything on the offensive end. Defensively, he had a quiet night with one tackle, two interceptions, and one clearance.
One thing I liked: In the 49th minute we saw a vintage Smith run up the wing facilitated by a Nicolás Lodeiro give-and-go. Brad’s cross was excellent, but there were no Sounders able to get on the end of his near-perfect service.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith struggled immensely to combine with teammates. In the first half he was a non-factor getting forward, and in the second when he did get into the attack, his passing was awful. He didn’t complete a single pass towards the Crew area all night, and continually committed turnovers once he passed midfield.
Going forward: A good performance could have slammed the door shut on any debate over the permanent starter at left back, but this wasn’t that. I still think Smith is the best option for now, but he needs to be much improved moving ahead in the season.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.7
Arreaga finally got to celebrate a win with his team, and he can take a lot of the credit for the result. Xavier was great, showing range, tenacious defending, and plenty of highlights from the back. His 88 percent passing complemented his one tackle, three interceptions, four clearances, and six recoveries.
One thing I liked: Arreaga showed off impressive ability to read plays and range from side to side in support of teammates. Time and again he came across the box in support of fellow Sounders and any time a mistake was made (such as Saad Abdul Salaam’s in the 78th), Xavier used his excellent speed to deny Columbus any chance to pounce.
One thing I didn’t like: There wasn’t a lot to dislike from this outing, but it was disappointing to see Arreaga and Kelvin Leerdam yelling at each other in the first half.
Going forward: Seattle finally wins with Arreaga and he showed exactly why they brought him in. His size, speed, and instincts look tremendous, and if he continues to play like that, he will be an every day starter.
Román Torres – 5 | Community – 5.8
Román stepped into the starting lineup after being away on international duty and he struggled. Although he ended with a respectable 80 percent passing clip, almost nothing going forward was completed. Defensively, he had four clearances in a quiet night, and he needed a lot of support from Arreaga.
One thing I liked: Torres is hugely goal dangerous at least once a game. In this match it came in the 75th as a nifty Lodeiro set piece just missed being touched home by Román, who continues to get into good spots on dead balls.
One thing I didn’t like: Román’s passing forward wasn’t just rough in that passes weren’t completed to teammates, it was a complete nightmare in the first half as he continually turned the ball over in bad spots. Columbus smartly forced him into lots of touches, and he responded by gifting them many of their best chances.
Going forward: Seattle finally adjusted by dropping Svensson back to help with distribution, which limited Román from turnovers in the second half. If you have to support him this much, the question may soon be raised: why not just start Goose back there?
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.5
Leerdam had a fairly quiet evening, with a few defensive actions supplemented by a number of nice runs forward before being pushed into a midfield role. There were a number of plays that could have been much worse (or better) but Leerdam was just pretty average against Columbus.
One thing I liked: Kelvin continues to get looks at the right wing and has shown great versatility while looking comfortable there. He made a great far post run and shot in the 78th before hitting the crossbar with a filthy set piece in the 94th, nearly scoring a game-winner.
One thing I didn’t like: If ex-Sounder Waylon Francis falls down in the 37th minute after a careless Leerdam tackle, the Crew would have rightfully been awarded another penalty kick. Seattle likely dodged a 0-2 hole at halftime.
Going forward: Leerdam has very polarizing outings, often with huge highs and devastating lows. Currently the highs include game-winning goals, so the ups and downs are something to note but not be too worried about.
Daniel Leyva – 6 | Community – 6.1
Leyva starting is old hat these days, and he was up to the task without being overly impressive. His 11 defensive actions were good, but his distribution was a mess and he struggled to find the space he was afforded in earlier outings.
One thing I liked: Danny again showed great anticipation to cut out passes from the Crew all night, but it was his defense in the 77th that was notable. On the play he followed his runner all the way into the area, eventually clearing what would have been a huge chance from the six-yard box. Seeing a defensive midfielder follow vertical runners is beautiful.
One thing I didn’t like: 77 percent passing isn’t bad, but it was the types of incompletions that stood out. Leyva repeatedly forced passes and these turnovers resulted in some very dangerous chances for Columbus who took advantage of his mistakes.
Going forward: Leyva gave up a harsh penalty, and instead of debating whether it should have been called, I hope he figures out that at this level, you can’t make that play.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.4
Svensson doesn’t get a lot of credit on performances like this, but he was essential in the win. His stats were somewhat mundane — seven defensive actions, two aerials won, three of five on long balls — but his positioning was excellent and he continually made saving tackles when others erred in midfield.
One thing I liked: When Seattle needed someone to drop into the back and solidify possession and distribution, Goose stepped in perfectly, responding with a 92 percent completion rate. This directly changed the game, allowing Seattle to control the ball and get forward into the attack.
One thing I didn’t like: It was Svensson’s job to mark Alex Crognale through the box in the 99th minute, and his lax coverage allowed the Crew defender a golden chance to tie it late.
Going forward: Goose continues to provide excellent, workmanlike efforts and is just what the Sounders need in the center of the park. He doesn’t put up flashy numbers or make gaudy plays, but his steady presence allows the teammates around him to excel.
Víctor Rodríguez – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 86’ for Dhillon)
Víctor returned to the starting lineup against Columbus and looked dangerous nearly every time he touched the ball. Unfortunately, he had a low 42 touches (less than half Smith’s) and Seattle struggled to get him involved. He had 81 percent passing including two key passes and a shot on goal. Defensively, he chipped in with seven actions in support of the left.
One thing I liked: His 65th minute creation and execution on a curling shot toward the upper 90 was excellent, forcing a tremendous save from Crew keeper Joe Bendik. Also notable was his 10th minute central pressure and wherewithal to direct the ball into the path of Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, who was free on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Víctor is one of the best creators on the team, and Seattle seemed unwilling to try to get him the ball. If he’s on the field, the Sounders need to find him.
Going forward: Asked to play big minutes coming off an injury, he may have re-injured his hamstring late versus Columbus. Hopefully it was a precautionary removal at the first sign of an issue, but geez.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.2 (MOTM)
Oddly enough, Lodeiro didn’t lead the Sounders in touches, with only the 5th most (13 behind Torres!) for Seattle. He made the most of those though, with four shots, two key passes, and countless dangerous looks to teammates.
One thing I liked: Every time it looked like this one was completely slipping away, Lodeiro created a chance. His free kicks were dangerous, he is still perfect from the spot, and late in stoppage time he calmly nodded home a game winner. Not a bad return.
One thing I didn’t like: The first half wasn’t great, with Nico on multiple occasions forcing the hard pass (and turning it over) instead of taking the simple one; it seemed like he was pressing.
Going forward: Nico showed exactly what Seattle missed while he was gone, dominating the middle and ultimately making his mark on the scoreboard. He will need to continue to roam the center and find teammates, especially forward.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.2 (off 68’ for Shipp)
Alex was given another start, and he improved a bit over his midweek appearance. Hugging the line, Seattle had few attacks up his wing in the first half, with Columbus dominating the play. Roldan was credited with a single tackle and single clearance.
One thing I liked: Roldan had two great plays. The first in the 5th minute was a perfectly weighted curling pass from the width to AOC after a great steal. The second was a 55th minute pullback pass from the end line that found Nico in the box and forced Columbus to give up a penalty kick.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he had a sparkling 93 percent passing rate, Roldan continually put others in bad spots with his positioning and passes that led them into danger. He kept forcing passes to teammates under duress and offered little positionally.
Going forward: We learned midweek that Alex isn’t a great central player, and the wing position somewhat limited his mistakes. He offers very little in the way of dynamic movement or positioning, but his ability to defend and support wide is a plus.
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 73’ for Abdul-Salaam)
The young striker got his first start of his career and had a very up and down outing. Running the point, Fonz managed a shot on goal, two key passes, and 86 percent passing.
One thing I liked: Ocampo-Chavez got into some good spots, including a nice run in the 5th minute to receive a pass from Roldan and another run up the middle five minutes later to take advantage of a V-Rod-created turnover. On the first, he fumbled the chance, but the second saw him rightly take a strong left footed shot, forcing a save.
One thing I didn’t like: AOC needs to work a lot on his movement, and he had a hard time getting the ball. Only managing 12 touches, there were a number of moments where he missed getting to where he needed to be, including a 49th minute cross from Smith that was begging for a near-post run.
Going forward: It was nice to see what he could do, but AOC clearly needs to work on a number of things. The exciting thing is that he started an MLS match and had two good chances in the first ten minutes, definitely something to build upon.
Harry Shipp – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 68’ for A. Roldan)
Shipp got on the field and immediately changed Seattle’s shape for the better. His ability to read the tactical movement of Nico and Víctor created mismatches through the midfield for the Sounders, and Harry looked comfortable gliding around centrally into the gaps Lodeiro created.
One thing I liked: Shipp connected near perfectly with teammates, missing only two passes in his 30-minute shift. His tight control and quick movement made Seattle dangerous almost immediately upon entry.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he had 90 percent passing, much of Harry’s attempts were horizontal, and he was rarely able to pick out vertical runs, either due to his inability or teammates not stretching the field.
Going forward: Shipp continues to show that he can be an asset to nearly any formation or tactic, moving in unison with teammates and able to support everyone around him.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 6.3 (on 73’ for Ocampo-Chavez)
Abdul-Salaam came on at outside back, allowing the dangerous Kelvin Leerdam to move into an advanced position.
One thing I liked: His 96th minute throw-in was magical. Even better than Leerdam’s, SAS’s throws are at a difficult angle of trajectory, immediately goal dangerous. This one was in a great spot, forcing the defense to react and freezing the keeper on his line.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 78th minute Saad tried a back pass ostensibly to Frei but it had no chance of making it there. Seattle was very fortunate that Arreaga was both alert and fast enough to scamper over and clear it.
Going forward: Abdul-Salaam has proven to be a smart pickup for the Sounders, and his positional flexibility is likely to provide him with a consistent spot in the 18.
Justin Dhillon – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 86’ for Rodríguez)
Dhillon was great. His entrance gave Seattle a big, positionally sound body who could hold up the ball and Justin did exactly that, consistently gaining the ball and dropping it off to teammates. This brought the Sounders into the attack with much more frequency.
One thing I liked: In the 96th minute it was Dhillon challenging for the SAS throw-in, forcing the Crew into a mistake and creating the goalscoring play.
One thing I didn’t like: With a chance to kill the game off in the 98th minute, Justin was slow to react to a Lodeiro pass to the width; the Crew stole it and created a last-minute shot.
Going forward: There is a Bruin-sized hole at the forward position and Dhillon appears to be filling it well.
Chris Penso – 8 | Community – 5.4
I thought this was an excellent outing from Penso and his officiating crew. The game seemed to flow well and players were given appropriate cards when applicable. Advantage was given smartly, players were contained from dangerous play, and most calls were deserved, although a few guys got in an extra foul or two before being carded.
One thing I liked: This group was the only one all week to get VAR right. During the 85th minute dustup, Penso correctly refused to give out a red card, instead choosing to dole out a few yellows and move on with the match.
One thing I didn’t like: This was a good match, but maybe another look at the Leyva PK was warranted, as there didn’t look to be a lot in it, although I understand after making that call it’s hard to overturn.
Going forward: Penso has been a good ref for Seattle this year and continues to put up steady, measured performances.
Columbus Crew SC MOTM
Pedro Santos drew the penalty on Leyva, then dispatched it cooly sending Frei the wrong way. For this, he is the deserved Man of the Match.
On this upcoming weekend, a big test comes into town in the form of Atlanta FC. Fortuitously for Seattle, the opponents have to travel across country after a midweek Open Cup match, which bodes well for the Sounders continuing to remain unbeaten at home.