Seattle, playing a top team in the league at home, responded by dominating the match, and the score should have been much more lopsided than the 2-1 final. The Sounders controlled the play, had a ton of great chances, and were a bit unlucky to not score a few more while limiting the opponents from getting very many shots on target themselves. It was nice to see the beautiful movement and intricate passing similar to earlier in the season, as well as the numerous big chances they created.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.8
Against a strong team like Atlanta with one of the best strikers in MLS history in Josef Martínez, the defense and Frei conceded but two shots on target. One of those two, however, scored, and there were a few letdowns in the back that kept the match closer than it needed to be.
One thing I liked: The tempo that Frei played against Atlanta, getting the ball off his feet or out of his hands very quickly, forcing Seattle forward with urgency, was clearly a tactical decision he handled well.
One thing I didn’t like: A couple of these quick plays put teammates in sketchy spots, including a 51st minute pass to the middle that handcuffed Cristian Roldan. There were a few moments to get the defense organized and not force tempo that were missed.
Going forward: Seattle had a ton of great chances and Atlanta had few. Against a lesser team, the Sounders would have earned a shutout. There’s rarely anything Frei can do to stop the shots scored on him in nearly every match, but hopefully that will change as the defense coalesces.
Brad Smith – 7 | Community – 7.1
Smith was excellent in this match, hanging with dangerous Pity Martínez defensively, but perhaps more importantly, showing incredible cohesion attacking up the left wing in support of the offense. His runs were timed much, much better than the previous outings, and Smith was a huge part of unbalancing Atlanta though intricate movement up the wing.
One thing I liked: Brad had some great plays on offense, including two key passes, but it was a statement in the 2nd minute that really stood out. With Martínez attempting to cut onto his left foot, Brad aggressively jumped the move, shutting off the lane and forcing a turnover. He continued this all match. He clearly scouted this match, and unlike against SKC or LAFC, Seattle was ready for an inverted winger going to his strong foot.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith covered Julian Gressel all the way across the box in the 24th minute but then the Atlanta player completely juked him, nearly scoring. It was a shame to see such good defense turn bad so quickly, when Brad should have disallowed any cut back to the middle.
Going forward: This is the Brad Smith we need to see (should he stay) going forward. His dynamic movement was so much better than previously, and his clear chemistry with the teammates on the field was on display.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.8
Kim was strong against Atlanta, helping to limit their chances all match. He had numerous defensive stats including four clearances, but it was his recovery speed and positioning that helped keep the Martínezes off the scoresheet.
One thing I liked: Someday Kim is going to score one of the chances he gets on a corner. In this match he had a number of chances, with a 24th minute volley chance just missed. I love seeing him repeatedly get into good spots.
One thing I didn’t like: With all of Kim’s incompletions from long clearances, there wasn’t anything really bad about his play. I think a lot of the late game issues Seattle had were organizational, and Kim seemed to fade late.
Going forward: With multiple center backs showing well lately, Kim seems to be the constant in the back. It’s hard to see anyone else unseating him, as his combination of size, speed, and anticipation is exactly what Seattle needs in the back.
Román Torres – 7 | Community – 7.4
It was interesting to see Torres get the start here and he responded excellently, defending with vigor the entire afternoon. His defensive stat line was massive: two tackles, three interceptions, seven clearances, and four recoveries. Some of these were due to his positioning and errors, but he was excellent at fixing any hole in the Seattle defense immediately.
One thing I liked: Román got stronger and stronger and it was the last 10 minutes where he played the best. With Seattle turtling a bit tactically, suddenly Atlanta was on the front foot and found chances. Every single one was rebuffed, and many were due to slides and clearances from an energetic Torres. He refused to let Atlanta score, and it was wonderful.
One thing I didn’t like: Román isn’t a great passer, and his 70 percent was lowest of the starters. He continues to try to force passes and has been lucky that it hasn’t immediately made Seattle pay.
Going forward: Torres’ performance last Sunday definitely makes the Seattle center defensive pairing decision more difficult. We may see the rotation that some hoped for in the last few years.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 73‘ for Abdul-Salaam)
Leerdam looked better with the hardworking Jordan Morris in front of him, locking down his side for long stretches of the game while still pushing high in offensive support. He had 13 defensive actions to go with a few aerials won and a key pass, but lost Josef Martínez for Atlanta’s only goal.
One thing I liked: Similar to Smith, Leerdam’s attacking timing was on point. He burst into the Atlanta third with regularity, coming in to offer an outlet or overwhelm with numbers. Kelvin also makes the best entry passes to Raúl Ruidíaz from deep areas, and his pass in the 6th minute was a beaut that nearly earned an assist.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam faded badly in the second half, struggling to get into the attack and was part of some terrible defense right after half that saw Atlanta surge with a number of shots and near-goals. These chances came after Seattle failed to get the ball cleared up the right side.
Going forward: Subbing Leerdam was the right call, but he also nearly scored twice in this match, again showing his nose for the goal is unparalled among MLS defenders. Maybe having a strong backup allows Kelvin the rest that seems to increase his level of play.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.0
All Svensson did was nearly everything right, thanklessly roaming the middle and along with Roldan creating a wasteland of Atlanta possession. Goose won five aerials, had multiple tackles and clearances, blocked two shots, and sprayed the ball around to teammates. Over and over, Seattle would find Svensson, and he would switch the field of play, changing the point of attack masterfully.
One thing I liked: With Atlanta pressing and playing better than Seattle in the 52nd minute, Svensson found a give-and-go with Nicolás Lodeiro and then put an absolutely perfect first time pass up the line to Morris, who was off to the races and in behind the defense. The Sounders didn’t score, but this completely changed the demeanor of the match, with Atlanta suddenly forced to sit back more for fear of counters, and Seattle wrested control of the game back.
One thing I didn’t like: Svensson had a forced pass to Roldan in the 15th that ended in a dangerous turnover, and he lost possession in the 88th.
Going forward: Svensson doesn’t get a lot of publicity, and people keep saying his is the spot to replace in the lineup, but it’s hard to ignore his tremendous form all year. He’s an everyday starter and you can try to replace him, but the things he does say the Goose isn’t ready for the bench.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.4
Roldan also did a little of everything, turning in a great all-around performance with five recoveries, four tackles won, and near-perfect positioning in combination with Goose defensively. Nearly as impressive was his 95 percent passing completion rate and two key passes to go with his shot on goal.
One thing I liked: There was so much to like about the combination in the middle of the field, but his 29th minute backside run from deep in the midfield was a bit of excellence. Although he ultimately shot directly at keeper Brad Guzan, the run was brilliant, ripping across the defensive shape of Atlanta and getting him in behind unmarked.
One thing I didn’t like: When presented with the ball and time to pick his head up in the 27th minute, Cristian saw his buddy Morris three steps onside of his defender. Three steps aren’t enough cushion and Roldan realized that, looking over the top. His pass wasn’t good, though, and Guzan easily came out to retrieve. With that kind of time, Roldan has to make that pass.
Going forward: Roldan looks somehow better than when he left, barely putting a foot wrong all match. His pairing with Svensson looked strong, and I hope to see him continue to pick his spots to influence the offensive side of the action more.
Harry Shipp – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 77’ for Nouhou)
Shipp played well with all those guys missing and he didn’t skip a beat when they returned. He once again showed how incredibly intelligently he plays, intermixing flawlessly with Nico, Raúl, and Brad up his wing to continually get in good spots. Shipp had a massive six shots and completed 88 percent of his passes, intricately creating and moving all match.
One thing I liked: Even after struggling to finish, as soon as Morris made a play on the ball in the 71st minute Harry sprinted back post. If he so much as hesitates a second, the angle of the pass is off and Jordan may have to force it near to Raúl or into a crowd for Nico. After getting there, Shipp finished perfectly.
One thing I didn’t like: Let’s face it, Harry had two shanked shots and a through ball that he should have done much better with. The shots were not a big deal, but his excellent run in the 32nd minute should have been a goal, not a slow shot attempt that got blocked by a defender he had beaten.
Going forward: Shipp is a guy who seems to make the right pass every time, and when he’s surrounded by better players making better runs, those passes get more and more dangerous. Getting into those great spots time and again shows a player at a very high level of tactical awareness right now, and Shipp has made his claim for a starting spot.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.7
Nico was everywhere. He had 110 touches, which is 34 more than the next most in the match (Roldan). With those touches he wove in and out of the Atlanta defense, confuddling and annoying them while managing a jaw-dropping seven key passes. For how vertical and attack-minded he played, Nico still completed nearly 80 percent of his attempts.
One thing I liked: Sure, he created chance after chance for Seattle with his passing (looking at you Harry, Cristian) but Lodeiro had eleven recoveries for the Sounders. That is amazing for a primarily attacking player, and half of those were in the Sounders’ attacking half of the field. His ability to press and counter-press was essential to Seattle’s success.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 28th minute he had a great pass toward his own goal directly to Pity Martínez. Luckily Kim was there to help.
Going forward: This was an artistic outing for a guy who did everything for the team. Interestingly, he didn’t have a single shot, but the pure facilitator role suited him (and Seattle).
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 7.0 (off 87’ for Delem)
Morris was back in Seattle and his good form with the Nats came with him. Jordan was a force throughout, both with incisive runs and excellent wide passing. Defensively he showed up big, helping Leerdam with a half dozen recoveries down the right wing and jumping in passing lanes while punishing Michael Parkhurst all afternoon. He won four aerial battles and had four key passes.
One thing I liked: Morris did his best Henry Wingo impression and dove directly at goal all night. It was perfect, as he continually forced the opponent off balance with his runs. His defensive work rate on the right created a turnover in the 71st minute, and again he drove directly at the goal. The angle he took after Lodeiro put him through was very smart, making him goal-dangerous instead of fading to the end line. When the defense came to him, he calmly picked out Shipp for the game winning goal.
One thing I didn’t like: A number of times it seemed the turf got the better of him, and his touch ranged from excellent to quite poor (sometimes within a few seconds of each other). This led to a sub-70 percent completion rate and a few missed opportunities.
Going forward: The diagonal runs Jordan made in the 27th and 43rd minutes forced defenses to completely change how they work, opening space for Nico and friends to work. Morris looks comfortable, healthy, and ready to dominate left backs for the remainder of the season.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM)
This was a fantastic performance, goal aside. Ruidíaz did every single thing you want from a forward in this match. He had six shots, three of which forced saves. He had a key pass and completed 89 percent of his passes. Perhaps more impressive was his holdup play, which was incredible. He constantly came back to find the ball, and his control gave Nico the ball with a full head of steam running at goal over and over, allowing Lodeiro to pick out runners constantly. Ruidíaz’ pressing and angle defense forced Atlanta on their heels for over 90 minutes.
One thing I liked: That goal was so incredible I almost didn’t want to mention it because I can’t do it justice. The defensive tracking to force a turnover, immediately peeling back to attack the goal — the control into full stride — the fearless header completely ignoring a boot aimed at his face while pushing the ball into the area — sensing a defender and sombrero’ing him — somehow teleporting his feet to go the opposite direction and not only re-centering his body but tracking the ball the whole way — finishing cleanly off the bounce with his usual power even though his momentum is going about five different directions. This was absolutely unbelievable.
One thing I didn’t like: He had a few chances near post where he missed finding the top corner.
Going forward: Seattle has a good, deep team, but if they’re going to win trophies, it’s incumbent upon the guys who can truly, individually, change matches. Raúl is one of those guys and if this game is any indication, he’s ready to do just that.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 6.4 (on 73’ for Leerdam)
Abdul-Salaam came in for a tiring Leerdam and helped solidify the right side, stepping perfectly as Atlanta tried to victimize the right.
One thing I liked: Saad didn’t do a ton, but it was what he didn’t do that helped. He didn’t keep Atlanta onside and he didn’t give away anything toward the middle in his own half, and he didn’t let anyone from Atlanta get by him without a bump and a smile.
One thing I didn’t like: Brought in to clean up the right, he only had a 56 percent completion rate. A number of these were kickaways, but he could have been cleaner.
Going forward: Kelvin was struggling some in the second half and it’s great that the staff has the faith in Saad to bring him in. He responded and has been an excellent bench option.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 77’ for Shipp)
Nouhou did what he does, come in and lock down his side and allow Smith to rest a little as a winger.
One thing I liked: He didn’t play long, but Nouhou had four clearances, second on the team to Torres and tied with Kim. That’s exactly what he was brought in for.
One thing I didn’t like: Oh, come on, don’t tell me you didn’t want him to shoot late.
Going forward: With Smith playing well, it’s not likely Nouhou gets a ton of starts, but he can continue to solidify his role as the defensive wall while also working on his offensive nuances.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 87’ for Morris)
Delem came into the middle and helped lock things down at the end.
One thing I liked: One recovery, one clearance, and one interception in limited time.
One thing I didn’t like: Jordy only completed two of his four pass attempts.
Going forward: I’m not sure the goal in bringing Delem in, but he remains an excellent option paired with either Svensson or Roldan should you need to rest or flex their positions.
Robert Sibiga – 7 | Community – 6.1
Overall this was a well refereed match, which was a bit surprising. Sibiga did a good job of controlling the game, offering cards that made sense but only needing to call 16 combined fouls. I thought the players responded to his style by playing a fairly clean match and there wasn’t much to be upset about.
One thing I liked: It took a while, but in the 40th minute when Parkhurst held Leerdam, Sibiga saw it. The ref allowed play to continue for advantage, then issued the yellow. This is a great call, and it’s nice to see a ref not just abandon a yellow because of advantage play.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few shoulder to shoulder things that could have been let go and I’d like to know whether VAR looked at the dangerous play from Franco Escobar, but otherwise there wasn’t much to complain about.
Going forward: This was another well refereed game, and the AR’s quickly and definitively called offsides, etc. Well done, crew.
Atlanta United MOTM
Goalscorer Josef Martínez won Man of the Match for Atlanta United. He cooly dispatched a free header in the box on a corner routine, and troubled the Sounders defense on several other occasions.
After Dortmund midweek, Seattle takes on the clear second best team in the league at home this weekend.